Photo + interview by Ava Butera
The young – or perhaps I should say yung – and up and coming artist, YUNGBLUD brings a kick and flare to alterative music that no musicians are currently doing. Formally known as Dominic Harrison, YUNGBLUD, fuses ska, rock, alternative, and metal genres into one cohesive element, making it truly unique and insanely cool. He freely writes about topics crucial to today’s society and discusses issues in his music that many artists are too afraid to touch upon. I had the chance to chat with one of the most intriguing artists in the music industry before his Lollapalooza After show set, opening for Catfish and the Bottlemen. Check it out below and be sure to keep an eye out for YUNGBLUD, as I have a feeling he will be going places in the near future.
How was Warped Tour, being that you just completed your dates on it?
It was mental! I think of growing up and looking at the Warped Tour and kind of seeing the legacy of it. I’m from the UK so it was always so alien to me and I was always like “I’ll never be able to get on that.” It felt so far away, but to be on the last one [Warped Tour] was amazing. The sense of community – it feels like rock and roll summer camp and to be able to jump on stage with bands like Good Charlotte, Simple Plan, and Waterparks was just really dope. It was sick!
Which do you prefer, now that you’ve done all three? Warped, festivals, or your own shows?
I think I like my own shows the best. Wait, that’s actually hard though because Warped was so good. There were like 600 kids in every city turning up at my set, and I’ve never even been to those cities. So it was crazy to meet the new guys and kind of talk to them and hear their opinions. But I just love my own shows. I think it’s starting to grow and take off. There’s nothing like it. Everyone’s singing every single word back to you, it’s so crazy.
What is the inspiration behind your music videos? They tend to be gruesome, yet artistic.
I love watching Marilyn Manson, Lady Gaga, David Bowie, Green Day, and Eminem videos. I always loved music videos. Their videos get stuck in your mind and it actually represented the song and the artist instead of it just being singing under a neon light or me throwing money on a car, because everyone else is doing that. I knew I needed to do something that would shock people. All my music is about commenting on society and shocking people and making people be like “What did I just watch?” and it kind of represents my mental head. I just want you to step into what’s going on inside.
So do you have a lot of creative input? Do you partaking in directing them?
I try to do everything. I just released “Medication” and “Psychotic Kids” and I had full creative control, which is the best. I met Adam Powell who does a lot of The 1975 and Pale Waves music videos. He just got me. The thing about me is that I’m so 100 miles an hour. I would be like “I want this this, this, and this” and what’s great is that he can make it happen. He can say to me like “no you can’t have seven pink unicorns running across the room because that’s not feasible” you know what I mean? He was just able to take a sandwich of my brain and digest it and he made it gold.
Are you looking to start directing your own videos in the future?
I’d love that. I want to do it all! I want to act, I want to direct. There’s no limit to expressionism. I think that if you’re a singer, you’re just going to fucking sing songs. But if you’re an artist, you’ll create art.
You touched on it before about “Medication” but is there a story behind it? I read that you struggle with ADHD. How does that affect your everyday life as a musician?
It’s honestly the best. I can never switch off and I tend to just jump around. But a lot of people misunderstood that when I was growing up. They misunderstood my energy and being very opinionated. People are afraid of something they don’t understand and someone with ADHD is something outside of the box of normal. I think that’s kind of what my music’s about. People also don’t like being confronted by other opinions especially by someone that’s younger than them. It’s kind of it. “Medication” also talks about growing up in a heavily medicated society where mental health is dealt with by just putting someone on pills because that’s the easy thing to do.
I read that you grew up in a rather musical family, which is kind of a gift since a lot of musicians don’t necessarily come from a creative background. So do you think that growing up on artists your family introduced you to have impacted how your sound ultimately ended up?
100%! I kind of had rock music shoved down my throat, which was amazing. I had bands like T. Rex, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Clash, The Stone Roses, Oasis put on my plate. But what was so sick was that I found hip-hop music myself. When you find something, you suddenly take ownership of it, you know what I mean? It was so familiar to me. To me, an Eminem song or Busta Rhymes song felt exactly the same as “London Calling” by The Clash. It felt the same because they gave me a fire in my belly and made me want to jump around. Then I discovered Rage Against the Machine and my head just blew up.
So did they [Rage Against the Machine] have a big role in how your music contains political undertones?
100%. I found out that people could talk about real shit in pop music and they did it in a way that wasn’t preaching to me. It was making me feel empowered and energized and it was the first time that I said to myself, “I can do that. That’s how I can get my voice heard.”
Do you have any advice to young musicians who want to pursue a career and start out young like you?
Totally. Be yourself, do not try to be a carbon copy of someone else because that just won’t work. Talent is only how hard your work. I was literally just talking to my manager about this 20 minutes ago. Talent is 2% of the formula. 98% is working, working, working and redeveloping and growing and tirelessly chipping away.
So, how old were you when you started making music that is most like what you’re doing now?
Weird, man! I moved out to London at 16 and got very lost and I was that young musician. It’s very easy to get distracted. When you come down from a rainy town in Northern England to London, a lot of people can sit back and give you their opinion of what you should be. And at 16, you say “oh my god I’ll just do whatever. As long as it gets me played on Radio 1.” That just became vapid to me. Then I met a management team that gave a shit and wanted to change the way music and artists would be developed. I remember them speaking to me and saying “well this doesn’t reflect the music you’ve been listening to your whole life. Is this reflective of your personality?” about the music I was writing at the time. I was like you’re right. I would talk about my opinions on the world and whatever because, again, I always had so much energy and was so opinionated. Then I just locked myself away, figured out who YUNGBLUD was probably at the end of 2016, so not that long ago. At that time, I felt like nobody has been straight up enough for me right now. No one is representing a generation that is vastly growing. Our generation are not idiots. We’re not just bratty kids rebelling against the system, that’s a naïve way of looking at us. We’re so tapped into the modern world today. We see a future we want to be a part of. We see a liberal world we want to move towards. But it’s been held back by a generation that don’t understand us or aren’t quite ready for the world to go to that place yet and I needed my music to represent that because that part of young people has not been catered for in music. I was just writing that because that was what I thought that this is what I think. I don’t want to tell people what to think, I don’t want to do that I’m not Jesus. I’m just a young person talking about what I want to talk about. I want to empower people to say what they think. I want my record to be an outlet for young people who feel like they can’t be heard or feel like they’re misunderstood. Or feel like they can’t ay what they think because someone’s told them it’s not important, but it is.
Why did you choose to perform under the name YUNGBLUD as opposed to your normal name?
Dominic Harrison is a bit polite. You know like, Dominic Harrison with a song about anti-establishment is a little bit polite, don’t you think? My management used to call me that [YUNGBLUD] because I was the youngest person on the roster. They’d be like “alright youngblood.” And one day I was like okay what can I call myself? Then I saw youngblood spelled on paper and I though that was way too polite too, take to O’s out, double the U, double the flavor and there you go.
What’s the creative process like for you?
It’s always lyrics and concepts first. The concepts come out of the air and then I just walk into the studio and spend six hours shouting at the producer, and then we have a song.
I’ve never seen you live before. So what should I, or someone else new to your live show, expect?
A lot of energy, happiness, solidarity, and pink socks. I just want my shows to be an outlet for people to come and go nuts. I want people to be themselves no matter what. As long as you’re expressing yourself, fuck it! I want people to leave exhausted!
What should we expect from you in the future?
Lots of music, a lot of genre-defining collaborations.
I mean like for the rest of the year!
Yeah, just that! More music, collabs! Oh yeah, I don’t want to drop a record and then spend a year touring it. I’m constantly writing and meeting with artists and just trying to change the game.