Yellow Days dives into his immersive new concept album 'HOTEL HEAVEN'

Interview Yellow Days: “To loosen the reality around the ideas meant the album could be anything I wanted”

We dive into the immersive world of Yellow Days’ new concept album, ‘HOTEL HEAVEN’.

Since emerging in the mid ’10s as part of a thriving cohort of jazz-influenced young singer songwriters taking their cues from a post-King Krule musical landscape, Yellow Days - aka Surrey’s George van den Broek - has pushed his songwriting down avenues of blues, funk and more. Now, he returns with ‘HOTEL HEAVEN’ - a concept album set in a futuristic, dystopian abode presided over by a concierge named God. Safe to say, Van den Broek is dreaming big for LP3.

With ‘HOTEL HEAVEN”s doors now open for all to hear, Yellow Days lets us into the surreal new setting of his latest work.

Last time we heard from you, you’d combined your pandemic-inspired trio of EPs into one longer project, ‘Inner Peace’. What’s the common thread that ties this new collection of songs together?

Drinking copious amounts of red wine; [around the pandemic] I was scared like everyone else, so I just buried my head in the sand and practiced all day.

What sort of headspace were you in when diving into such a conceptual project? Did you have it all mapped out beforehand, with a very clear vision of where you were going to take it?

Not a very good one - it was what felt like a real low point to me. I was sort of all over the place mentally and doing a lot of things that weren’t so good for me. I wrote the record over a month and had a lot of trouble from industry people over it - managers etc. telling me what I should or shouldn’t do with it - so I had to put together a whole new team after writing it. If people are willing to stand in your way, then they are clearly not the right people to work with.

We're sorry to hear that things were tough; with the gift of hindsight, do you think having to go through that challenging time was a necessity to get to where you find yourself today? Do you think that that fed into the conceptual nature of the record at all?

It fed into the album massively - there’s a theme where it sort of starts with this manic positivity, but underneath there’s this through-line of a cloud that hums in the background, which grows over the record until it’s too much to bear. On ‘CRYING FOR HELP’ it all comes spilling out, and I’m just begging the significant other for help. The weight of addiction, pressure, and a feeling of failure sort of looms over you and whittles you down over time.

Once you were knee-deep in the writing and recording process, was there ever a point at which the concept felt creatively constraining?

Not at all, it was really freeing to use story lines, characters etc. As all my music to date had always been so biographical and diary-like, to loosen the reality around the ideas meant it could be anything I wanted.

Could you tell us about any specific songs or moments during the making of the record that best personify this sense of freedom?

I think ‘YOU’RE SO COOL’ really shows that [freedom] with the squeals and squeaks I’m doing. Being able to lean into my character - who’s literally stuck in the furniture of Hotel Heaven - I could find a cartoonish sound [that is] kind of fist-clenchingly desperate.

Tell us more about the destination of Hotel Heaven. Paint us a picture of the clientele who frequent its rooms, and the staff who stalk its corridors.

Hotel Heaven is set in a post-apocalyptic world. Well, in a dystopian future, on a space cloud far from a scorched earth where the rich and greedy who made it there are free to indulge and laze around. The matriarch of the hotel is a concierge character named ‘God’ who oversees their insatiable wants and needs, unwillingly fulfilling their requests. George (myself) is quite literally stuck in the furniture attempting to escape.

“If people are willing to stand in your way, then they are clearly not the right people to work with.”

The album artwork is giving ‘accidental Wes Anderson’ sort of vibes - can you talk us through the inspirations behind the album’s visuals?

Well, I was working to a picture of these pink lift doors, which were a big muse for me whilst making the record. They symbolised drugs, greed, and a sort of ‘all that glitters isn’t gold’ metaphor - like this honey trap that wants to lure you in.

Where did you first find the picture of the lift doors? What drew you to it in the first place?

Weirdly, I was picturing these pink doors the whole time, but I couldn’t say where the image came from - I googled it, and it was the first thing that came up. I love to work from images now; it really helps me narrow the concept to a consistent sound.

You recorded this LP in your own flat, and played every instrument on the record. How did you find the experience of creating in such an independent way, in comparison to your previous collaborative efforts?

It couldn’t have been more different from 'A Day In A Yellow Beat', where I played with a huge amount of top session players in the great studios of LA etc. This time, it was just me on my own, chain-smoking, talking to myself, and drinking white wine. My neighbours didn’t seem to mind - one actually told me that he thought it was great, but I guess Brick Lane is a sort of unusual place like that.

What sort of routine did you end up finding yourself in, working in your own home? Did you try to be a bit more regimented, or was it more a case of working whenever you were inspired?

I don’t really believe in regimented work routines around art, but anybody who knows me knows that I work day and night at what I do. I never work by a clock or anything like that, but I have a sort of obsessive personality and can’t let things go. I just won’t let an idea rest until I’m done with it; there’s an intensity around the way I think about things, like a rattling enthusiasm that someone else who’s worked around me would be better at describing. I’ve worked on about seven EPs for other artists in the last year, and they all see how odd I get about it - I fall in love with the music and then I hold it very close until I give it away.

You’re heading out on a whole string of tour dates this Spring - what can fans expect from the ‘HOTEL HEAVEN’ live setup?

We’re bringing Concierge and Hannah Chinn on the road with us across the UK and Europe, so if you’re there, expect a bizarre, theatrical rock show. I have a couple of new members in the band too: guitarists Lex Fransche and Peter Wilsonoth, who are both great musicians. I’ll also be bringing my friends and collaborators Ric Wilson and Laura Quinn on tour, who are people I write for. So it’s set to be a glittery, rocky, OTT good time of an evening - definitely expect a gig you haven’t seen before!

'HOTEL HEAVEN' is out now via Sugar Loaf Records.

Tags: Yellow Days, Features, Interviews

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