Yungblud: the rock star from Doncaster, the punk in pink socks. Despite only having a single impassioned EP to his name, Yungblud aka Dominic Harrison has been dubbed one to watch for his relentless energy on stage and off. With an un-abashed attitude to songwriting that involves anger, meaning and a fuck load of screaming, and a voice that echoes the earnest South Yorkshire tones of the Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner, Yungblud invites you to stand up, listen and yell alongside him.
How would you define your sound?
My music always has to have a message, always has to be about something. Everything's got so stale and safe and boring. I need to talk about issues, what gets me angry, what inspires me. I like to mix loads of different genres together. Fundamentally, I've got a guitar in my hand, so it is rock’n’roll, but I think rock’n’roll has got so boring because it's not representing anything. I'm so much more inspired by urban music right now, because it's representing something. It's representing young people – that's why it's so big. Rock’n’roll right now is on life support, because all the bands that are trying to represent it are four dickheads in leather jackets singing about nothing. That's boring to me. I just try and mix everything – I love hip-hop, I love r’n’b, I love rock – why can't I just mix it all in one pot and talk about what I'm angry about?
We love your song Polygraph Eyes, which is about sexual consent. What inspired you to write it?
I'd wanted to tackle the subject for ages, but needed to do it justice. It was something I just grew up around. A lot. I've got two younger sisters and a very strongly opinionated Northern mother, so I've grown up around strong women. I remember going out in my early teens and I would see this [sort of thing] happen, but it didn't register that it was fundamentally wrong until I was older. Which was fucked up. I was brought up in a society where lad mentality is so hugely accepted. The movement of female empowerment going on at the minute is amazing. And I didn't want to remain silent. I wanted to talk about it from a male perspective. Just because a girl wears a short skirt, or smiles at you or is a bit drunk, does not give you the right to do something like that. I wanted the video to be seen in way that wasn't like, “Oh this guy is such a rapist”. But in a way that males would see and go, “Oh, fuck I've done that.” Because it's not black and white. It's not “I'm just going to have sex with a girl against her will.” It's an obligation thing. It's a misconception that we've been brought up around, that it's acceptable. And it's not; it's just wrong. If we talk about this issue and it's brought to the forefront – that's when we can stamp it out.
What’s your song I Love You, Will You Marry Me about?
It's a story that's close to home. One of my best friends lives near this [housing] estate in Sheffield called Park Hill. Back in the 60s, when it was built, it was really nice. But by the 90s it had become derelict. I needed to tell this story of two young people who got completely screwed over by corporate companies. And I wanted to trick people, because I think when you listen to it first, you don't know what it's about. But I wanted to dial into this story that actually tells this tragedy where corporate companies took advantage of something as precious as love. Which is a universal issue. So I wanted to bring something of a story that was so close to home and tackle an issue that's so universal and is happening everywhere. I never want to preach to people. If I get preached to I just switch my ears off; fuck off, stop preaching to me. I just think the world is such a mental place, right now, and politics and stuff is so relevant, I just couldn't believe it was not being talked about in pop music. I needed to tackle it in a way that's tongue in cheek but also tackling issues that I'm mad about.
Is there a reason why you wear pinks socks all the time?
Have you heard of the Northern Soul movement? In the 60s and 70s, after the Second World War, when American soldiers were still based in England, they brought all these crazy soul records over. And all these records found their way to the North of England. The North was really grim at the time, industrial and rainy. But in all these Working Men's Clubs young people were finding these records, and it was the first time males started dancing on their own – it was kinda the start of rave culture. Before, young people would go to a dance hall, I'd walk across to you, and be like "Hello, Madame, can I have this dance?" and we'd fucking Waltz and not say anything to each other all night. But these young boys would wear these high-wasted trousers as they danced and show their heels and socks off. I just love the way they looked, so I wanted to do this in a modern way. All black with pink [socks]; I love the colour pink. It just pops.
So why “Yungblud”?
When I started writing music I thought Dominic Harrison just sounds a bit polite… “Dominic Harrison's just released a song about anti-establishment.” So I was like what can I call myself? My manager always used to call me young blood because I was the youngest person at my management roster. Oh shit, light bulb moment. Take the o's out, replace them with u's and, bang, it was born.
Do you have any tips for other young musicians?
Be fundamentally yourself. I got so lost at 16 because I allowed people to say what their opinion of me should be. The hardest thing for an artist to figure out is who you are and what makes you different. But we're all different. Every single one of us. If all you've ever known in your life is heartbreak, then write about heartbreak. Write about what is true to you. Just be yourself and work hard. You gotta work hard.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned since you've been in the industry?
Keep your blinkers on. I think it's so easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing. “Ah, man, they're getting bigger quicker than me”. Or "Oh my gosh, she's writing something similar to my sound, they're going to take my thunder." Just don't. Be yourself. Keep your blinkers on. Talk about what is real to you.
What’s your dream venue?
Headlining Glastonbury – I think that's the pinnacle for any British artist. I remember watching the Arctic Monkeys headline in 2013, and [Alex Turner’s] mum was at the side of the stage and they all sang happy birthday to her. I'd just die. I [also] remember them doing an acoustic version of Mardy Bum and thinking to have that many people singing your music and relating to you on that level... it would just kill me dead.
Any artists you'd love to collaborate with?
Yeah, man. I wanna do shit that people won't expect. I never wanna be genre-defying, because I like what I like. Being genre-defying is an old-school way of thinking. Why would I want my old record to sound like my last record? I'd love to work with someone out of the box like Kanye West – like why the fuck not? Or Posty. Or Trippy Red. Or Jessie Reyes. Or Charlotte Lawrence. I just want people to be like "Yungblud did what? He just dropped a piano ballad, that's not like him, fuck. But it's good."
So much, I'm getting tired just looking at my travel schedule. I'm on tour in the States, Australia, Europe, Asia, South America… it's crazy. The craziest thing for me has been receiving DMs on Instagram and meeting people at shows, and [them] saying “you understand me”. That’s what I do it for. Fuck all the hype. But what's next? So much more. More music and more touring.
Interview: Devyn Molina
Photography: Dani Riot
Art Director: Rebekah Roy
Groomer: Samantha Coles using MAC Cosmetics
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