- 21 May 20
Following the success of the first two episodes of his live-streamed The Yungblud Show, the Doncaster artist tells us about life in lockdown, overcoming his struggles, and his new single, ‘Weird!’
The last time I sat down with Yungblud, it was not over Zoom – we were backstage at Vicar Street in Dublin, ahead of another gloriously raucous live show on the 22-year-old’s skyrocketing trajectory to megastardom. Six months later, we find ourselves in a very different world – with the illusion of certainty an increasingly distant memory in the midst of Covid-19. But even as the world continues to fall apart around us, the passionate energy, optimism and confidence that Yungblud exuded during our previous interview has gone nowhere.
“That was a mad show!” he says of his last visit to these shores. “I drank far too much Guinness – but fuck it. I was on the Guinness because we were in Dublin, but if we were a bit more south I would have definitely found a Murphy’s.”
With gigs like that sadly a thing of the past for now, Yungblud admits to feeling the strain of isolation during lockdown.
“It’s weird,” he nods. “I just don’t understand it. I feel like I’m falling through the air, and I’m trying to catch smoke. I can see what I want to grab hold of, but I can’t get it. Being between four walls all of the time is mental.”
As an artist who’s famously devoted to his fanbase, largely made up of young misfits who have dubbed themselves the Black Heart Club, the live element was a crucial aspect of Yungblud’s identity.
“You know what my connection to my fanbase is like,” he says. “If I’m not with them, I’ll literally shrivel up and die. I just love performing and being on stage – connecting to my people in any way that I possibly can. I can’t sit around and just be. I need to be doing something.”
“So I just said, ‘I’m not going to let my connection with my fanbase be blocked by what’s going on. We’re going to do a livestream, and we’re going to be one of the first ones out with it. Let’s Go’. 72 hours later, I’m in a TV studio with five cameramen in hazmat suits and three celebrity guests – and The Yungblud Show is happening. It’s mental.”
As one of the first notable live-streamed events of lockdown, The Yungblud Show was indeed a runaway success, becoming the number one trending topic worldwide on Twitter. The first two episodes, featuring special guests like Machine Gun Kelly, Kelly Osbourne and Travis Barker, have clocked up nearly 900,000 combined views on YouTube – and he reveals plans are already underway for a third episode.
Of course, the absence of a live audience took some time to get used to.
“It’s an interesting experience,” he admits. “You’re like, ‘Everybody make some noise!’ And... tumbleweed. I actually had a projector behind the cameras, so I could see people commenting live. So just because I couldn’t hear them, didn’t mean I couldn’t feel the fucking noise – the comments on the projector were going so fast I couldn’t even see for an hour-and-a-half.
“Over the course of the show, about 300,000 tuned it, which is crazy,” he continues. “We were like, ‘Fuck me – we just played three stadiums’. It was the biggest show we ever played.”
The lockdown has also triggered his creativity in different ways. The music video for his new single ‘Weird!’, for instance, was filmed with the friends he was quarantining with, on a lofty budget of $100.
“It’s a time for thinking outside of the box,” Yungblud says. “There’s a lot of love in the air. A lot of people feel isolated, and a lot of people feel really fucking strange. People feel like they have no direction, and they have nobody. Music is the thing that can be there when everyone else can’t. It’s more vital than ever to make sure we stay together and stay connected.
“Without sounding too much like a fucking hippie, I think this is a bit of a slap on the head from Mother Earth,” he continues. “For so long, we, as humans, have neglected humanity and have neglected the world. We haven’t loved each other, and we haven’t respected the planet enough – so the world’s going, ‘Oi, you little bastards!” Slapping us on the back of the ear: ‘Sort your shit out!’”
Despite embracing a dazzlingly joyous pop sound on ‘Weird!’, the lyrics delve into decidedly dark areas.
“I want to make people feel warm, like they’ve got a friend,” he explains. “No matter what bullshit is going on, I want them to feel like they can dance around in the kitchen.
“The song is about a time in my life where I couldn’t breathe – even though everything was good,” he continues. “I didn’t understand why. The song talks about depression and self-harm, and parents nearly dying. It’s a coming of age story – and me realising that no matter what dark, twisted, mental, unfathomable shit that happens, I’m going to look back on this time, and it’s just going to be a weird, weird time in my life.”
After struggling through this darkness for eight months last year, Yungblud’s salvation came in an unexpected form: Brixton Academy.
“Me and my drummer and my guitar player used to live in a two-bedroom flat,” he recalls. “It was the three of us in a fucking shoebox – Adam [Warrington] literally had his bed in the living room. We would watch videos of Radiohead, Kasabian and the Foo Fighters playing Brixton Academy. And we said, ‘If we get there, by some fucking miracle, everything’s going to be alright’. And we got there, and we did it. That was all we ever wanted. Now, obviously, our perceptions of what we want have changed. But for every second I was on that stage, I grew up a bit more, spiritually. I felt that, in my fucking water. It made me realise that this has just been a weird, dark time in my life – and it’s all going to be alright.”
While the future is far from certain, Yungblud remains refreshingly hopeful as he looks forward.
“I’ve got a whole album ready to go,” he reveals. “It’s an album about life, uncensored, from an optimistic place. It’s like series one of Skins in an album. It talks about things that people would usually skim over, or romanticise. It talks about the liberation of sexual activity, the liberation of sex in terms of identity, drugs, heartbreak, love, depression, suicide, death, life – so much shit. I wanted to create an album that wasn’t that fucking hard to explain, so it’s literally an album about one word: life.”