Over the past few years, a series of remarkably fully-formed songwriters have emerged from the UK, inciting nothing less than hysteria. While Rex Orange County has been swanning off to the Mercurys with Skepta and on stage with Frank Ocean, George van den Broek has been creating a storm all of his own as Yellow Days. There must be something in the water in Haslemere, Surrey, the hometown the pair share.
With his debut EP ‘Harmless Melodies’ from last year, Yellow Days’ talent was immediately apparent, not least his gorgeously gravelly vocals that wormed their way around jazzy compositions. Track titles such as ‘Baked In The Sunshine’ painted a picture of an artist already completely at ease.
With new 13-song ‘project’ (whether it’s an album we’ll never know) ’Is Everything Ok In Your World?’, van den Broek casts his net significantly wider, taking on some of life’s biggest questions in a remarkably considered way.
“The cohesion of the piece comes in the answer to the question that the album title poses: how are you feeling at the moment?,” the young singer explains, soaking up some rare October rays outside Hackney venue Oslo, the site of his biggest headline show to date later in the evening.
“It’s all about people who feel a bit down and can’t quite get themselves together. Me and my friends are always pouring our hearts out and making sure each other are on a good path, and it’s about reaffirming that through the new record.”
“The cohesion of the piece comes in the answer to the question that the album title poses: how are you feeling at the moment?”
George van den Broek
There seems to be a never-ending compassion to the singer, checking in on his friends in both evenings at the pub and across ‘Is Everything Ok In Your World?’, a record that tackles trying to best work with his atheism, and, predictably, the challenges of growing up.
“It’s a big way I live my life,” George says, “checking in on everyone and making sure they’re happy, ‘cos that’s the key to everything.” Though the lazy, sun-baked melodies of ‘Is Everything Ok In Your World?’ could translate as contented apathy, dig a little deeper and it’s abundantly clear that there’s no end to Yellow Days’ ability to care.
There’s also seemingly no end to his ambitions: across the conversation, van den Broek is already talking about records years in the future, and what he’s yet to make, rather than what he’s already finished. Unbothered by ideas of a ‘debut album’ tag, ‘Is Everything Ok In Your World?’ is simply another step towards what George hopes is a long and fruitful career. He can hope, but to onlookers, there’s no doubt in at at all.
“I just want to keep creating and keep making albums. I have grand visions,” he continues. “I don’t think any of them will be small pieces either - after my debut EP, I can’t see myself releasing anything that’s less than ten songs. I think you need that length to make a more complete statement.”
Peppered with winding, magical mystery tour-like interludes, ‘Is Everything Ok In Your World?’ is as complete a statement as they come, and presents an artist with - what you’d expect - is almost a frightening level of ideas and creativity up his sleeve. He also never stops learning.
“The main change,” he begins, talking about his development as a musician, “is that I started learning piano this year. I self-teach myself all the instruments I can play, and I’d just wake up every morning, smoke a joint, and sit down at the piano and just play around until I worked out some chords that sounded good, and then wrote songs from there. It’s really changing the way I go about things, and is so exciting to me.”
Listening to the record, it’s clear that traditional genre boundaries mean little to van den Broek, and it makes the record a refreshing melting pot of jazz, indie, soul and beyond. “We need to start thinking up some new words,” he smirks, fed up with the pigeonholing that’s seemed necessary for so long. “How long is humanity going to last? You can re-hash all the old ideas into something new and put the same old labels on it, but we’re going to need some new words. There’s no boundaries.”
It’s clear that ‘Is Everything Ok In Your World?’ is just the beginning for Yellow Days, and if George’s word is anything to go by, 2018 will see release after release, in whatever form they may take. It’s also an incredibly conscious album, tackling battles amongst friends, strangers and himself with the upmost care. In a world increasingly anxious and disconnected, the compassion and care of Yellow Days is something to treasure.
Yellow Days’ new album ‘Is Everything Ok In Your World?’ is out now via Good Years.
Photos: Emma Swann / DIY