Bobby Townsend has a chat with Daniel Blumberg from Yuck about making music and living up to expectations:
“I have no idea what to expect.”
Despite taking a trip there to visit family when he was young, Daniel Blumberg has few memories of Australia and little in the way of preconceptions of his band’s upcoming debut performances there. He is looking forward to it though. “We toured with Tame Impala and they said it was really great. I’ve heard [Laneway is] a really good festival too.”
Yuck are a four piece – sometimes a five piece – made up of London-based vocalist/guitarist Daniel and guitarist Max, bassist Mariko from Hiroshima, New Jersey’s Jonny on drums and part-time fifth member Ilana, who joins brother Daniel for the harmonies on the album and occasionally live. Their record, self-produced and recorded in the homes of Max and Daniel, has received so much acclaim and attention that it has led to the band being on tour pretty much solidly since its release early last year. In May, they sold out headline shows at New York’s Bowery Ballroom and the Scala in London, as well as making their debut TV appearance on Later with Jools Holland. Such a hectic schedule means they haven’t had much opportunity to look forward to – or even think about – their turn at Laneway. “I need to check the line-up,” Daniel laughs as we discuss who he is looking forward to seeing. “We haven’t really had time to prepare. I know that it’s coming, but we’re on a three-month tour so I haven’t been thinking that far ahead. When we come back from a tour, we’re back for about a day or two and in that time we record a song or paint tour posters. Straight away from the airport I’d be setting up my paints for the poster for the next tour, or we’d go straight to the studio to record a song.”
All of which means that, while they put out their own singles, there hasn’t been a lot of time to think about a new album just yet. Considering the DIY ethic involved in the first recording, one wonders whether, now that they have a raised profile, they will do things differently next time round? Will they take themselves to a swanky studio in LA, or will it be back to Max’s bedroom for a makeshift set-up? “It depends on the songs. Now, more people know our music so maybe there are more possibilities in terms of producers. I guess when we finish writing we will talk about it. But it won’t be the same as the last album, because that was all we had equipment-wise.”
The band’s first record offers many reference points – all the while without sounding derivative in the slightest. For instance, Get Away bursts from the speakers with Pixies basslines, Sonic Youth guitars and Malkmus vocals, the outstanding Shook Down is Teenage Fanclub at their most romantic and Georgia is My Bloody Valentine mixed with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. It was clearly pieced together with a love of these kind of bands but, joyfully, still sounds fresh and exciting. However, Daniel admits that his interest in the music that influenced Yuck’s sound came about relatively late-on. “When I was younger I listened to a lot of Blink 182. I’m not from a family that had lots of records lying about except for things like Joseph and His Technicolour Dreamcoat and Elton John. I did find a Neil Young CD once, which was very rare. I discovered Harvest when I was about 17, and that was when I really started listening to music.”
Stumbling upon Neil Young led the singer on all manner of musical paths. “First it took me to Will Oldham, Smog and Lambchop. I remember being blown away by those bands. Then it was Silver Jews into Pavement and then someone recommended Dinosaur Jr. Once you get into those bands, you start noticing the record labels that are putting things out.” He starts listing other groups. “Neutral Milk Hotel, Sparklehorse, Royal Trux. There’s a band called Video Nasties that changed a lot for me.”
And so, influenced by these great sounds, Daniel and his chums crafted an album which has caused such a buzz that they arrive in Australia to a certain amount of expectation from attendees of St Jerome’s Laneway Festival. However, the band aren’t really feeling any particular weight on their shoulders. “I think I’m detached from those feelings of expectation. I just like the idea of putting on a good show,” Daniel shrugs. “The music has gone so much further than we thought, but we’re just doing what we’re doing. If people don’t like it, then we’re not going to change. That’s pointless.”
So honest and exciting is Yuck’s sound, it seems hard to imagine people not liking it.
Interview by Bobby Townsend. Find out more about St Jerome’s Laneway Festival here.