We’re ecstatic to be able to give you a Q&A with Max Bloom from Yuck.
Let’s get to it.
TSOFDs: Thanks for conversing with us. It’s been a little while now since your last album (Stranger Things, 2016) so, first of all, any news regarding a new release?
MB: No problem! To be honest we’re not really thinking about making new music right now, we’ve been touring and releasing records for a long time so we’re taking a little break from that. We’re all still making music though.
TSOFDs: When I saw you were playing dates in China I began re-listening to your 2011 debut (Yuck, 2011). They were hazy days but I obviously played that record a lot when it first came out as it immediately felt really familiar to me. A lot has happened to me since that album was released. How have things changed for your band since you first broke through and what has stayed the same?
MB: It’s hard to say what’s changed because I don’t really remember much about that time, but I think when any band writes their debut record it’s a very different experience to writing their second or third. When you’re doing your first record, you’re not thinking about things like labels, releases or your audience, you’re just thinking about the music itself. So in a way, the first record is the most ‘pure’ version you’ll ever hear of a band. Our second and third records are more self-aware in a way, but sometimes that’s interesting to hear within the context of a band’s career.
TSOFDs: Do you still remember that material and those earlier times fondly and will we hear any of the older material when you play in China?
MB: We always play a few of the older songs, just because I think it would be a shame not to. I always hate seeing a band when they only play their new stuff. I remember a lot about those early days, some things negative and some things positive, all of it incredible.
TSOFDs: I was originally drawn to your band because you seemed to dig exactly the same kind of music I was into in my teens and still revisit regularly. Perhaps some people reading this, particularly those based in China, might not make the same connections because they won’t have grown up listening to the same bands necessarily. Can you tell our readers some of your key influences and which albums by those bands they should check out?
MB: When we made the first album, I was in the process of discovering a few bands that changed my life. One of the bands that sticks out is Sleater-Kinney. I remember watching a show on MTV2 called 120 minutes (it’s not on air anymore) where they used to play all the videos that were too old or unpopular to play during the day. A song called ‘Get Up’ came on, and I was blown away. After that I bought The Hot Rock, and I still listen to that record today. Another of those bands was Sonic Youth, and then there was also Dinosaur Jr., Superchunk, Built To Spill, Wilco, Grandaddy, Super Furry Animals, Flaming Lips, Yo La Tengo… etc.
TSOFDs: What has made you decide to tour China at this precise moment in time? Have you played in China before and if so, how was it? What do you know about Hangzhou?
MB: We’ve been lucky enough to play in China a few times. We weren’t exactly looking to book any shows – I was recording a Japanese band called Luby Sparks at the end of last year, and they said they had a promoter friend in China who wanted to talk to us about playing there, and then one thing lead to another and here we are. But China has always been very accepting of our music so we would never refuse an opportunity to play there. We’ve never played in Hangzhou before so I’m looking forward to it.
TSOFDs: I have read that you have often recorded at home rather than going the traditional studio route. What are the reasons for that?
MB: There are a few reasons, mainly time and money. When you’re recording in a studio, it’s quite difficult to be creative knowing that your time is limited, and also that you’re paying for every second you’re there. We’ve always recorded our demos at home and we’ve always preferred how they sounded compared to a studio recording, so it doesn’t really make much sense for us to go into a studio.
TSOFDs: How does a Yuck song normally start life? Is it a case of sitting strumming a guitar and a melody suddenly appears and then the words come or are lyrics the starting point? Perhaps you prefer to jam musical ideas collectively to begin with?
MB: Usually a song starts with me, I’ll record a demo version and then send it to everyone and we’ll try it out in a rehearsal. There isn’t a set way of how a song comes to life. Sometimes I’ll be walking and I’ll start singing a vocal melody with lyrics, and then I’ll write chords to that; sometimes I’ll come up with some chords and make a vocal melody over that; sometimes I’ll make a drum beat and write everything to that. It’s different every time. I think it’s better to not be restricted in how you write music.
TSOFDs: What kind of music are you all currently listening to? Is Yuck’s music a fair indication of what still dominates your own record collections or are there some artists in there that might surprise us?
MB: I always like to try to expand my musical horizon, but I always come back to the same records. Right now I’m really enjoying Car Seat Headrest’s new record, and there is an incredible new band in London right now called Heavy Heart, they sound a lot like Cocteau Twins, Jeff Buckley, Beach House, stuff like that. I’m also listening to a lot of Outkast at the moment.
TSOFDs: Your band originated in London. What’s life like in the UK’s capital presently for musicians? I gather it’s getting pretty hard for new bands to survive what with the cost of living and I’ve heard stories of musicians being resigned to spending their nights sleeping on friends’ couches. If musicians can’t even afford a place to live what does that say about a city? What are the positives and negatives of being a musician in London?
MB: London isn’t the easiest place to be if you’re doing anything creative. Not only is the rent and cost of living incredibly high, but people’s attitude towards someone doing anything creative isn’t great. However the music scene in London is always thriving, because people’s creativity and will power to rise above the cards they’ve been dealt will always outweigh any negativity or adversity they face.
TSOFDs: These are challenging times for the UK in general, with an unpopular government and a nation divided over leaving the EU. What’s it like on the ground? Do you get the sense there’s a new generation of bands that are becoming more politicized? Are you hopeful for the future?
MB: I haven’t really noticed many bands making political music as such, but I’ve just noticed bands getting more creative in how they get noticed. One of the best bands in London right now is called Milk Disco – they curate their own parties every month and have amazing new bands play, it’s turned into a really amazing establishment and a great way to discover new artists. London will always be the cultural epicenter of Europe – no matter how hard the government or anyone tries, you can’t eradicate decades of musical history. Music and art in general is ingrained into the city – it’s easy to take that for granted, but it will always be there.
TSOFDs: Thanks for your time – very much looking forward to seeing you live in Hangzhou on April 15th.