English alternative rock star YUNGBLUD, also known as Dominic Harrison, found the time to squeeze in a chat with Grok about his upcoming Australian tour, new music, and the importance of being yourself and using your voice as an artist.
You make such genre-bending protest songs about issues like commercialism, mental health, and sexual assault; the lyrical content seems to be very important in your music?
Yeah, a hundred per cent. Lyrics are the most important thing for me because lyrics are how I get my head onto a page, how I get my head into a song. They have become less and less and less important, and I think right now there’s a lot of diluted music out there that kind of means and stands for nothing, and I want to be different to that, you know? I want to write music that genuinely relates to people … and makes a difference.
My generation right now—we’re so smart, we’re so intelligent. We genuinely give a fuck about the world, we care about the future. We’re tapped in because we have access to so much information, and we see a future we want to be a part of; we see a world we want to live in. We have a confidence about that, but it’s almost been held back by a generation that doesn’t understand us, or by a cataract of old ideologies, that doesn’t want us to go to that place yet, because they’re not quite ready.
For me man, I needed to write music that would talk about that, because that’s how I’m feeling, and it’s crazy to think that we put the first record out a year ago… I wanted to put music out for me to express what I thought, to get my opinions out into the world, but it became less and less about me, and more and more about the connection I’m having with the people. I am fifty per cent of YUNGBLUD; the other fifty per cent is the fan base. We’ve formed such a connection together and formed such a family so quickly, it’s unparalleled man and I love it—I’m so lucky to have them all.
You manage to get these political and social messages across in your music without being preachy about them. Is that why you are so effective at connecting with our generation?
I never wanted to be an old seventy-year-old bloke in a Def Leopard t-shirt down at the pub singing songs about Margaret Thatcher, do you know what I mean? It was always about making it fun and making it think because it’s a Trojan horse to me, man. I’m so full of energy. If I go on stage I want to be bouncing, jumping—I want it to be chaos. In my head, they’re the shows that I loved and went to growing up. But as I say, it’s just got a message behind it, and I think the fire is reflected in the show. We’re having such a good time, but we’re meeting people [who are] intelligent, who give a fuck about the world.
Where do you get the boldness to sing about these issues, especially when so many musicians choose to steer clear from them?
I don’t know, man. I just think it kind of comes into my head. I’m always really opinionated; I was the kid that mums didn’t like at school. If I went to your house and didn’t like your mash potatoes, I’d tell you I didn’t like your mash potatoes, you know what I mean? I was always really opinionated and a lot of people misunderstood that because I think people don’t like being confronted, especially by someone that’s younger than them.
It kind of made me feel like it wasn’t alright to be myself. I’d recluse and I’d internalise it, and I’d look inside myself to be seen as not right, because people would tell me what I was saying wasn’t right, and how I was behaving wasn’t right, when what I was doing was just saying what I think.
That kind of built up, and I was like ‘Do you know what? I don’t give a fuck anymore, because I feel so depressed, and so lonely, and so afraid, that people aren’t going to accept me. It holds me back.’
I just kind of blew up one day and was like this is exactly what I’m going to do, and it’s been crazy as a period of self-discovery, as well as one for so many others also.
So, earlier this year you released your debut album, 21st Century Liability, which covers so many important topics, and I guess came from your period of self-discovery. What was the writing process like for that?
Amazing, man. As I say, it was just a tangent of fire. I was just like ‘Woah,’ it all just blew out. I’ve got another album ready to go really, because I’m just always writing. I’m going all over the world and meeting these incredible people at the shows, and they’re telling me their stories and telling me what they think about the world, and I just use it because it inspires me. I think all my life I’ve been shouting into a dark abyss of a room, you know what I mean? Now I’m finally having a conversation and it’s fucking special.
Is there any one track that’s your favourite?
Oh, it changes, man. I love Polygraph Eyes because of the subject it talks about. I love Psychotic Kids because it’s whacky, and I love Kill Somebody because it’s about a personal time in my life, and it was kind of scary for me to put that out there because it was so personal.
You played Splendour in the Grass soon after the album came out. How was that for you?
It was crazy, man! To come to Australia and to have that many people scream your lyrics back was mental. Adelaide was a spin-off festival with ten thousand people screaming every word— I was like, fuck me.
I was like ‘What?’ And then to play at the one o’clock slot on the Sunday, the graveyard hour when everyone’s still in bed from staying up all weekend raving, and I was like ‘Fuck man’. I was excited, but I was like ‘Fuck it. We’ll get twenty people,’ and then we broke the record and got nine thousand at one o’clock. Mark the booker really took a chance on me and he’s amazing, he’s from Secret Sounds.
My boyfriend saw you at Splendour and said you were amazing.
It was crazy. I love Australia. I fucking love you guys. You warmed up so early. You and the Netherlands were the first countries to really understand me, and I’ll never forget that. That’s why I want to come back so often, you know what I mean? That’s why I’m always like ‘Right. When can we get back?’.
So, you’re heading our way again in February. What are you most looking forward to about your upcoming Australia tour?
It’s all about the shows, man. I can’t wait to play the festivals and just keep doing exactly what I’m doing. I’ve got a new record coming out—a new song coming out in January that I can’t wait to spread the shit out of and shove it down all your throats, and just play. I’m buzzing! I can’t wait to see the kids, man. It’s going to be fucking lit.
What can we expect next from you? You mentioned a new song in January?
Yeah, new song in January and then just songs all year, collaborations. I’ve got loads of collaborations—I just can’t wait. It’s going to be fucking awesome. Loads of collaborations and loads of shows.
On a finishing note, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give to the young people listening to your music?
As I said, it’s okay to be yourself no matter what. Take it from someone who’s felt like it’s not okay to be themselves, but realised that if people don’t like you for who you are, for who you genuinely are, then they’re just not meant to be in your life. Say what you think because your voice is important, and you’ll be fucking stellar.
2019 Australian tour dates:
Feb 8: Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne
Feb 10: The Triffid, Brisbane
Feb 13: The Gov, Adelaide
Feb 14: Factory Theatre, Sydney
Feb 17: Amplifier, Perth