If there's one band that's managed to divide both the DiS community and its writers it's London four (occasionally five) piece Yuck. While their live shows have been generally well received, Billy Hamilton's review of their recently released self-titled debut album was less than favourable.
Having formed at the back end of 2009 from the remnants of Cajun Dance Party, songwriters Daniel Blumberg (guitars/vocals) and Max Bloom (guitars/vocalss) recruited Mariko Doi (bass) and Jonny Rogoff (drums) along with sometime member and guitarist Ilana Blumberg, younger sister of Daniel. Their first single 'Georgia' came out a few months later to almost universal praise, and since then they've toured relentlessly for the best part of a year culminating in their debut long player which came out last month on Fat Possum Records.
Currently on tour, DiS managed to catch up with Daniel Blumberg prior to their soundcheck at the Botanique in Brussels for a quick chat about all things Yuck...
DiS: How's the tour going so far?
Daniel: We left London earlier and we've just arrived in Brussels where we're playing this evening. It's the first of our European dates outside of the UK, so it should be a good one!
DiS: You seem to have spent most of your time touring ever since the band started.
Daniel: Definitely! Apart from when we were recording the album it's been a case of constantly playing live up and down the country.
DiS: Were you expecting such a fervent response to the band so quickly, particularly as Yuck has only really been in existence just over a year?
Daniel: I don't think I expected anything at all really. I guess when Jonny (Rogoff) came over from New Jersey to play with us it gave us the impetus to play gigs and record, otherwise it was just a case of me and Max (Bloom) making music for ourselves and our friends. I was very happy working at the book and record shops where I worked, and just enjoyed making music after work. I never honestly thought we'd get to the point of being a busy full-time band, which we most definitely are at the moment.
DiS: It's interesting you mention Jonny's arrival as being something of a catalyst for Yuck. Would you say he was also influential in shaping the band's musical direction as well?
Daniel: Not really. We're quite productive. Sometimes people ask about the old band me and Max were in (Cajun Dance Party) but what most people don't realise is that most of those songs were written when we were just fifteen. Also, Max never wrote in that band. Yuck was actually the first time me and him had ever written songs together. In between bands we'd already sketched a lot of ideas, mainly because we weren't touring or anything. Even we released the Cajun Dance Party album The Colourful Life it was literally years after we wrote it, and I've never stopped writing at any point, so for me it doesn't really feel like they're two separate bands if that makes sense? I guess that's where sometimes a release isn't necessarily a true reflection of where an artist's at. With the songs we've written so far there's never been any talk of direction or anything. We've been friends for fifteen years so it's not as if we need to be pushed in any particular way.
DiS: There does seem to be a scene developing among UK bands that share influences from a similar era. I'm thinking people like Dinosaur Pile-Up, Eagulls, Tribes and Pulled Apart By Horses for example as well as Yuck. Do you see yourselves having anything in common with any of those?
Daniel: To be honest I actually haven't heard any of those bands! None of those bands have ever been recommended to me either. I may have heard part of Dinosaur Pile-Up's set in passing at a festival where we were both playing but I've never sat down and listened to their music. Video Nasties were probably the most influential band for us. I really loved that band.
DiS: I noticed on your blog that their album On All Fours was a massive source of inspiration for Yuck. Does it ever worry you that your band may end up falling by the wayside in a similar way to them for one reason or another?
Daniel: I think the opposite in a way. I really loved their music but I think people had the wrong perception of them early on. Their first single was produced by Gareth Parton and it was nothing short of a disaster. It was almost as if no one really got them afterwards as a result, which is kind of frustrating. I remember saying to them just before they split up that they should carry on making music, but at the same time I can also understand why they didn't because they'd been trying for several years without really getting anywhere. I think they had a different experience to me, as I find it more frustrating if people get involved too quickly. I feel quite lucky that we've been able to release our album and also that people are coming to the live shows but there is a sense that it all could end in an instant. I keep using Video Nasties as an example but their songs are a major inspiration for this band, and I don't think many people know how prolific they were as songwriters either. By the time they got to release their album they already had several albums worth of material ready. I'd like to think that one day someone will come along and release a compilation of all their songs. I loved all their b-sides as well. I even designed the cover on their 'Albatross' EP too!
DiS: Going back to your album, how long did it take to write and record?
Daniel: 'Get Away', which is the first song on the record, was also the first song me and Max ever wrote together and I think we came up with it in about twenty minutes or something! Others we did in different ways. Songs like 'Rubber' and 'The Wall' had a lot more structure about them. What I did there was wrote the initial melodies on guitar and then took them to the band and gradually developed the songs over time. 'Georgia' as well I remember being quite a long process. I was really excited about how that turned out, and I think that was the song that made me appreciate Max as a songwriter more than any of the others on the record. I take great pleasure in listening to what he's doing, even if it's only an instrumental track, as the ideas for developing that into a song are endless. That's how 'Georgia' came about, which was basically me wanting to write a summery pop song. We had loads of songs even before we got signed, so by the time it came to recording the album it was more a case of re-recording a lot of material we'd already demoed.
DiS: It seems a more diverse record than some people have given it credit for. 'Suicide Policeman' has a hint of Daniel Johnston in its lyrical theme and vocal delivery, 'Holing' could be My Bloody Valentine's '(When You Wake) You're Still In A Dream' given a 2011 makeover, 'Georgia' does classic Yo La Tengo better than the band themselves do at present, while 'Rubber' has a sludgy Telescopes-cum-Spacemen 3 feel about it. What records were you listening to and which influenced the album?
Daniel: I agree. I mean, I don't really read reviews but I get a sense of what people are saying. I think the way you've mentioned those four songs makes more sense than if I were to try and describe the record. It was certainly a period where we were discovering lots of music. Personally I haven't listened to My Bloody Valentine that much. Max is quite a big fan. During the time we were writing 'Suicide Policeman' I was listening to a lot of Lambchop. I've been a fan for quite a while now but that was the one time where I thought to myself "Shit! Maybe this song sounds a little too similar for comfort?!?" I even tried to get Kurt Wagner to sing it at one point, but he was doing another record at the time. When me and Max started writing as a unit it meant we spent so much time together, so we were both discovering the same music together as well. Before it was a little more separate because we'd been through school together, and if you write songs I've found you tend not to hang out that much with other people. At the moment I'm listening to a lot of Mount Eerie. The drummer from Video Nasties recommended The Microphones to me ages ago and I sort of ignored him! For some reason I picked up a copy of Mount Eerie's Wind's Poem a few weeks back and it's the only album I've been listening to ever since.
DiS: Will there be any new songs released in the foreseeable future, either as singles, b-sides or EP tracks?
Daniel: There's lots of new stuff. From the start we've been quite instinctive when deciding on singles or songs to release as downloads via the website so I'd imagine it will be very last minute when something does appear! There's lots of ways to put songs online now. Perhaps not as a complete album, but we'll definitely be releasing more demos and live tracks online. B-sides are quite funny now as well. We've loads of songs knocking around that we didn't want to put on the album, like 'Coconut Bible' that we're putting on the 'Holing' single. That was one of the earliest songs me and Max wrote together, and I think by the time we got round to recording the album it kind of felt...old!
DiS: Will there be any more stripped down Yu(c)k projects like the Weakend EP?
Daniel: I've got some more of those songs. I'm just trying to work out what to do with them. I'm definitely going to change the name from Yu(c)k because it was really confusing. It became awkward at times when we'd get to a gig and the promoter had used the logo with the "c" in brackets on the poster so people had turned up expecting a stripped down acoustic performance rather than full-on band set. Hopefully, when I've decided on what to call it there'll be another EP released fairly soon after.
DiS: Any ideas on what the name might be?
Daniel: I've got some ideas. I'm 98% sure on what it's going to be, but I don't want to say it in an interview as if I then decide to change my mind later after this has gone to print I guess we'd be stuck with it!
DiS: You were recently nominated as part of the BBC's "Sound Of 2011" critics poll. Do you see that as being helpful or a hindrance to the band in the long term?
Daniel: I don't know. It's weird because you do feel bad about moaning that your band has been nominated for something that's meant to be prestigious like this. I've got a problem with stuff like this in that I wouldn't personally go to the BBC Sound of 2011 website to decide what record I'm going to listen to. It's strange having people congratulate us when in all honesty we've not actually achieved anything as a band yet.
DiS: I guess it also carries an extra burden of expectation as well, particularly as you were one of only two predominantly guitar based acts nominated this year.
Daniel: I try not to think about it. I mean, I've lived in this country for the whole of my life so I kind of know how these things tend to work. I see things in my mind about other places and how they treat music compared to here in the UK. It's nothing new to me the way guitar music seems to be fawned upon in certain sections of the media here, but I think that people who buy our records will see through all that and buy it for our music rather than as some wider statement about guitar music in this country. Those things are ridiculous to be honest, almost to the point of embarrassing.
DiS: I think it's worrying that bands aren't given the chance to develop and grow at their own pace any more, almost for fear of failure at an early stage in their career.
Daniel: That's something we hold really dear to us. Some of it I blame on the industry and surrounding factors like the media, others I think can depend on the attitude of the band and what stance they want to take from the outset. It is difficult. We didn't have any plans to grab people's attention. We just wanted to put our music out there and if people heard us and liked it then great. We weren't trying to do anything zeitgeist changing. That whole idea that guitar music is dead irritates me anyway. I've heard so many great guitar records over the past year or so that were created in the UK that I can't possibly fathom how anyone can make such a statement.
DiS: The album was self-produced. Is this something you see yourselves becoming more involved in as far as working in the studio is concerned, and will this continue onto the second record?
Daniel: I'd love to work with certain people but it just made sense to do the first record ourselves. The last thing I'd want to do is just go to a studio and work with some random producer. I think you should only work with someone if you're 100% sure you want them to be involved with the record. Hopefully we will get more opportunities to work with people we like in the future. At the same time doing our own recordings was an amazing learning process. I think it's an important part of being a musician to be able to know your way around the production side, plus it helps with the songwriting too.
DiS: Do you see yourselves producing other bands?
Daniel: Max is producing a band called Fanzine at the moment, and from what I've heard it should be an amazing album. They've been on tour with us on the UK leg and they're a great live band too.
DiS: Finally, what are your plans for the summer in terms of festival appearances?
Daniel: I know we're doing the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago. We're also playing the ATP Stage at Primavera in May, which I'm really excited about. I'm not sure what other festivals we've been confirmed to play yet. I think we may be doing Glastonbury?
For more information on Yuck visit their excellent Blog.