“There’s so much shit that we’ve had to deal with”
In 2010, Yuck found themselves at the pinnacle of hype, touted as one of Britain’s best and brightest new bands. Five years and three albums later, it hasn’t always been a smooth ride.
Words: Jessica Goodman.
We knew coming in that it wasn’t going to be an easy ride,” Max Bloom sighs. “I’m quite a perfectionist, and the band’s career has been far from perfect.” Indeed, Yuck’s history is a turbulent one. Putting out a celebrated debut album only to part ways with their then-frontman shortly after, the group went on to release ‘Behold & Glow’, a record that they begrudgingly admit wasn’t what really they set out to create.
“There’s so much shit that we’ve had to deal with,” Max considers. “Recording the second album was a really difficult experience for me. I was not in a very good place mentally, so it was a little difficult to handle.” Stepping up as vocalist was a daunting challenge to face, but two and a half years on and any shadow of self-doubt is removed far from sight. “You kind of need distance to see the funny side,” Max chuckles. “Being in a band is something people make jokes about constantly. Musicians tend to take themselves really seriously, but actually it’s all a big joke.”
Out of this revitalised confidence comes ‘Stranger Things’. The band’s third record sees them return to the simple structures that served them so well on their debut. Written and recorded over eighteen months in the Bloom family home, the record is a definitive fingerprint of who Yuck are, and have always strived to be.
“A lot has changed,” Max recalls. “I recorded the first album myself, but I can’t even begin to explain how unbelievably amateur the process was.” That inexperience was a defining aspect of the sound Yuck created. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but that kind of gave the album its vibe. It was really fun.” The group have come a long way since their early days of piecing tracks together on GarageBand, but that raw drive remains prevalent in the music they put out to this day. From scuzzy punk hits through spaced-out dream pop anthems and beyond, ‘Stranger Things’ is a striking display of the quartet’s capability. “I feel like we’ve made something that is completely on our own terms, and I am so, so happy with how it turned out,” Max states. “It feels quite emotional.”
Emotions are certainly in no short supply on the record. “Some songs are about relationships. Some songs are about my battle with depression and anxiety, which I’ve been working with over the past couple of years.” Putting such personal issues to melody can seem like hard work, but in providing a release for listeners as well as themselves, the record presents Yuck at their openhearted best. “It’s hard for me to talk about,” the frontman hesitates. “It’s much more cathartic to sing about it all and to make it into lyrics.”
Shifting away from past uncertainties and into the positive, the band are in an unmistakably brighter place than they were two years ago. “I’m quite a worrier,” Max ponders, “but if you’re making art then you’ve just got to do what you do, be quite bold about it, and don’t be afraid to take steps in whatever direction – whether it’s right or wrong.”
Yuck’s worry-free approach on the run up to the release of ‘Stranger Things’ is indicator in itself of how far they have come. “When we were waiting for the reviews to come in on the second album I was so nervous,” Max admits, “because I knew it wasn’t really the album I had set out to make.” In comparison, the band’s latest efforts undoubtedly fall in line with the high standards they set for themselves. “For this album, I’m not scared at all. I feel like I’ve made something I’m really happy with. If people don’t like it then they just don’t like my music taste, or don’t really like the band. I’m comfortable with that. “
Lead single ‘Hearts In Motion’ is a dazzling indicator of what’s to come. With a hand-on-chest, chant-along chorus, the track serves as a fitting introduction that combines intimate lyrics with an anthemic aesthetic. “What I wanted to do with this record was to make an album’s worth of songs that were really fun to play live,” the frontman explains. “On the second record, and even in some ways on the first, it was really easy to get carried away in the studio and start pushing your music to a different place. That can be a really good thing, creatively, but when it comes down to playing it live, it kind of sucks all the fun out of it.”
Stepping away from the studio recording format that saw the creation of album two, and withdrawing to the homestead of their frontman’s parents, Yuck have put an air of fun back into their function. “‘Glow & Behold’ was recorded in a studio, but I don’t think it was the most enjoyable experience when I look back on it.” Which isn’t to say that the band regret it – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. There were some great moments and I would never change it. It was a really valuable learning experience,” Max assesses. “I think it helped to put things in perspective. It made us realise what the best way to record and make music is as a band.”
Sticking to the “bare elements”, Yuck have crafted a sound that’s more immediate than ever. ‘There’s very little in the way of overdubs and stuff like that. If you’ve got, say, ten guitar parts on a track, when you’re reproducing these songs live you still only have two arms. So it’s just two guitars, bass, drums, and vocals, which is just going to make things really fun and easy to play live.”
Stripping back to basics while retaining dynamism and distinction could’ve proved a tough act to balance, but the four-piece make it work seemingly effortlessly. “I like listening to a Wire album or something like that where you know what you’re going to get the whole way through. But we’ve never been a band to make an album all in one style. There are so many different influences on this record, and we just try on touch on all of those. That’s just the way we do things, really.”
Geared towards the band’s own enjoyment and appreciation, the confidence surrounding ‘Stranger Things’ is an effortless sell. “I wanted to make this record in a really comfortable place, which would be my parents’ house, and make it where there’s no time limit. It was just really fun and relaxed. There were no expectations of how the record would sound, but it came into itself a little bit.”
With the album about to drop, the group are itching to take their new material on stage. “I’m really looking forward to playing the new album live. I’m looking forward to playing in general, just having fun with it. Hopefully we’ll play some really fun shows in hot, sweaty venues. I’m really looking forward to that.” With London dates and an extensive US tour already in the works, Yuck are ready to take 2016 by storm. As for how successfully they think they’ll fare, stranger things have happened, right?