Interview Yuck: ‘There Was Some Weird Shit Going On’

Swaps and changes, ghosts and horror flicks, Yuck aren’t a band taking life too seriously.

What separates any old flash-in-the-pan band from a lasting one is an ability to evolve, even in less than ideal circumstances. Music can be bit like Pokémon, except fights in the wild grass usually end in less than amiable break-ups, and picking out new members isn’t quite as easy as popping along to see Professor Oak to pick up a new Charmander. Following the departure of former frontman Daniel Blumberg, Yuck have in a sense been forced to evolve after releasing just one album, their self-titled debut of 2011.

It would be natural to expect a few teething problems during this transition’It hasn’t been easy…’, with Max Bloom taking up microphone duties, and new guitarist Ed Hayes still finding his feet in the band. You’d think so, anyway. Yuck’s main problem in the process, though, has been a pesky case of haunting. Yes, really. Max swears blind that the latest record features a ghostly homunculus helping him out on vocals.

“It was a ghost taking the piss out of the way I sing!” exclaims Max, as his bandmates Mariko Doi and Jonny Rogoff howl with laughter. “Can I just say, I was listening back to ‘Rebirth’, and on the isolated drum track, there was some weird shit going on. A faint shouting, like a ghost impersonating my voice.”

Mariko is beside herself. “It was Jonny!” “Max,” asks Jonny incredulously, “have you not listened to drum tracks, isolated, before? Drummers make weird noises, it helps them count. They hum, or make noises.” Max almost looks disappointed. “We were recording in, like, the quintessential American horror movie set,” he proffers. “I swear they must bury people under the Church.”

“I thought I heard a ghost,” ponders Mariko quietly, once the initial hubbub has receded. “I was in the shower,” says Jonny, “and Riko came upstairs, and she’s like ‘There’s a guy outside, looking in the window!’ I came down naked, with just a towel on, and she pointed over there, like…” Mariko steps in with dramatic embellishment “It’s moving, it’s moving!” “Anyway,” continues Jonny, “It turned out to be a sign. A crossroad sign.”

Visitations from poltergeists aside, Yuck seem more relaxed and natural than ever before, and their new album ‘Glow & Behold’ is starry-eyed and expansive, at times spiralling to the heights of nirvana reserved for musicians who gaze upon their footwear whilst unraveling shimmering laces of guitar housed in an endless wall of reverb. It feels thoroughly self-assured, too. While Max is the first to admit that taking up the role of frontman wasn’t all plain sailing, there’s little focus on glancing backward. “It does feel like things are sort of back to normal, in the sense that we’re moving forwards. I can’t really put my finger on what’s changed, though, there’s nothing to compare it to. It feels very new.”

“It hasn’t been easy…” falters Max, before Mariko interjects. “I feel like I quickly got used to the new line-up,” she says firmly and supportively. Yuck seem to have a clear consensus that looks towards the future, and it’s evident that it’s this momentum and continuing excitement that has enabled them to write an album like ‘Glow & Behold’. The addition of long-standing friend Ed Hayes as the band’s new guitarist has only added to the general sense of ‘newness’ surrounding Yuck. “He really does have three arms he can play guitar with,” laughs Jonny, referring to the ‘Audition Video’ the band recently put out, supposedly documenting Ed’s recruitment. “And he can light a cigarette whilst he plays. That’s exactly how it happened. Verbatim!”

Jonny shakes his head and gives a sly grin, “I slapped Ed for hours [for that video]. We only used one slap.”

Talking to Mariko, Jonny and Max, they often move off on amusing, unpredictable tangents. It’s fitting really, given that their band has the same almost brazen approach to picking up various nostalgic sounds and influences before hulking them together into one great, well, Yucky mass. Max’s favourite expression seems to be “segue,” in fact – a word which he uses several times with great relish when the conversation turns to the IKEA horse meat scandal, the original Sugababes MKS, Buzzfeed (“I fucking love Buzzfeed,” he adds) and one of his bizarre film ideas.

“The film is set in the Avatar Studios, in New York,” he begins. “The engineer who did our record was talking about how when he was interning he’d lock up at, like, 4am, and he was the only person there and would experience paranormal things. That gave me my idea.” He pauses for dramatic effect, and his bandmates look on, trying not to smirk. “I want to do a stoner movie where this band are recording in the modern day, and they start experiencing weird static on the tapes, ghostly shit, and then they hold a séance in the library.”

The rest of the band are doubled over laughing, and a never-ending stream of sirens adds to the chaos, pealing by outside. “They’re looking for me!” says Jonny. Max admirably tries to calm things by fetching everyone a drink. As he hands Jonny his glass of water, Yuck’s drummer goes off on another blinding tangent, with the unassuming air of somebody making small talk and discussing the weather.

“I got slapped in the face by a rat the other day…”

Everybody is dumbfounded but Jonny. “I was cleaning out my clothes in this storage place, and I was pulling out my old jackets for the winter, and this huge rat comes flying out and smacks me on the face. I didn’t know how to react, so I just started yelling. The part I feel worst about of this whole ordeal is that I hope I didn’t make this company lose business. I’m glad I had this experience. I’ve been trained to be hit in the face with a rat.” Max giggles. “Now you can book a colonoscopy.”

Attempting to steer proceedings back to ‘Glow & Behold’ is straight-forward enough, by way of another massive segue involving peanut sushi and Max’s apparently food preferences –“I like my food to be homogenised, laid out in front of me. I don’t like to crack open limbs and scoop out the food.” Yuck’s music, after all, is anything but homogeneous.

“With this record particularly there were a few set bands [that influenced us] but I don’t want to pick out names,” says Max. “I sort of want people to listen without that comparison because of the guitar work,” agrees Max, “Kevin Shields is a big guitarist in my life and I really love his work. The fact people are discussing it is great, and they are comparing us to a great band. It could never annoy me.”

Yuck seem to have a healthy attitude towards the inevitable ‘I’ve been trained to be hit in the face with a rat.’speculation that will orbit the newly assembled band. “You can’t be completely oblivious to the fact that people will be listening to your album,” reasons Max, “but if you’re too aware, it’s quite detrimental. Recording this album, for me, was very introverted. I don’t really consider that there will be people stood in front of me when I’m in the studio. This time we had the time and space to consider every step, and recording in a studio, with a producer, meant we could discuss things without worrying about the recording side, go in there, experiment.”

“It sometimes destroys me a bit, reading things people write online,” admits Max, “because there you’re in a cage, you don’t need to take responsibility for what you say. But,” he adds with a grin, “the devil on my shoulder can’t resist, I feel drawn to it. It’s a bit masochistic in a way, but there’s always that curiosity.”

He needn’t worry. With a hugely in-demand three day residency at The Macbeth in London – where new guitarist Ed works (“they’re threatening to close it down, and I guess we don’t want Ed to be unemployed”) fast-approaching next week – and a fine second album waiting up Max’s splendid purple-paisley shirt sleeves for deployment, the future for a newly rejuvenated Yuck looks far from unsavoury.

Yuck’s new album ‘Glow And Behold’ is out now via Pharmacy / Fat Possum.

Taken from the October 2013 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.

Tags: Yuck, Features

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