Walking through LA’s busy streets is Daniel Blumberg, curly haired front man of buzzed London four piece, Yuck. He apologises for the cars. “It’s a very car oriented city here.” The phone conversation is a little stilted; interspersed with long pauses that are indicative of both the traffic and of Blumberg trying to find the words to express himself properly. As one of the two founding members of Yuck, Blumberg is often found sighing his way through interviews. It doesn’t seem to be out of exasperation though, so maybe it’s just the way he breathes as he talks; punctuating the middle of sentences - and even words - with deep breaths.
And deep breaths are what you need listening to Yuck. Sometimes dreamy, often aching, infectious and stirring guitar-driven (and yes, late 80s and early 90s influenced) indie-pop. Inhale the surprisingly interchangeable feelings associated with youth and nostalgia. Exhale: forget the comparison game. Whether you’re 19 and relating, or 39 and remembering, any bet is that either listener will feel something very similar. Yuck’s lo-fi sensibilities fizz over the top of radiant vocals and emotionally captivating melodies, giving the whole lot the kind of glow that can only come with those inseparable themes - and realities - of youth and nostalgia.
Born out of the ashes of the XL signed Cajun Dance Party, Danny and Max Bloom decided to make music with a completely different name and musical identity. The story goes that Danny met drummer Jonny in the desert at a kibbutz, bonding over similar interests, and later dropped his university degree and headed to the UK where the boys had already recruited the Japan born Mariko for bass duties via general call-out. Occasionally, Danny’s little sister Ilana chips in when she’s not at school. Ilana is responsible for the lovely female vocals you'll hear on the record.
In the last year and a half of their lifespan, Yuck have been on tour constantly (including some current dates with Tame Impala), both on their own as well as supporting some of the very bands that they are so often compared to (like Dinosaur Jr and Built To Spill). They’ve garnered praise from the all the usual (and most credible) suspects in the US and the UK, culminating with the release of their self titled debut album, which was also met with critical acclaim.
This has all been taken in stride; with a quiet, rather mature air of surety. It’s not necessarily in their sound, their songwriting or their stage swagger, though they are excellent in all of these areas. It’s deeper than that. They have a confidence that making music is a matter of fact; simply what they do. And it's this very quality that separates the real musicians from those creating just to be in the limelight. Because for the true artists, it's simply about doing the damn thing, and whatever comes after will come, or it won't. And generally, what's deserved will eventually come around.
As for Yuck's emergence, whether they'll ultimately achieve legendary status, underground acclaim or dusty obscurity, life can still be as simple as wanting to buy one of your favourite artists' CDs when you get back home. That's what Danny told me anyways...
I read that you guys didn’t particularly think of Cajun Dance Party as serious, despite releasing stuff on what I consider to be a legendary record label, (XL) and touring etc etc. When did things ‘get serious’ for you? Do you feel they’ve even gotten there yet?
I dunno, that’s quite a good question actually. I guess because...at the moment we’re working on stuff constantly. I’m very serious about...those things. I mean there’s a lack of seriousness in the sense that, whatever, primarily, I make music. And there’s no sort of ‘need’ for that.
There’s great bands and there’s great people making music, so it’s not like, okay, you’ve got to do this...So there’s not like a seriousness in the sense that it’s something I must do, other than it's just what Max and I 'do'. It’s just putting it into a context that you’re comfortable with. Bascially, yeah. I really liked working in a bookshop before we started the band.
Do you still have dayjobs when you’re at home?
I’ve still got my job in the record shop where I live. But we’ve been touring since January so it’s a bit difficult. I mean, we were home for a week last time and during that week I did four shows on my own. Being on tour isn’t necessarily the most productive thing, the same way as being at home is. It’s a bit overwhelming because there’s so many things I wanna do. It’s just difficult to fit work in.
Did you always know you wanted to do music as a ‘life choice’ or are there other things you want to do?
Life choice? It’s not really a choice, more that’s just what I do. That and drawing. I want to make a book. And stuff. Visual Art and Making Music.
I also read somewhere once about you guys being careful not to damage your sister Ilana - has she finished highschool yet? - as you were ‘damaged very young’. In the immortal words of Winona Ryder in Heathers, ‘What is your damage?’
Well, you just say stuff sometimes. Yeah. So. My sister is recorded on the album. I don’t know what context I said that in. It’s not something I can understand just now. But I’m sure it made sense to me at the time. I mean, Ilana’s in school, she’s going to come on tour when she’s finished. She sings vocals on one song. She was incredibly influenced by the album. But touring is like, she’s got so many things she wants to do...and...she’s in school!
How did you feel about SXSW? How did that crowd receive you, how do Americans receive you as opposed to say, British people?
Probably similarly. What do you mean?
I feel like the kind of sound you guys have is not something that lots of people are doing, in London right now, at least. It’s not a particularly trendy thing to be doing.
Well, America’s so massive. And they’ve got quite a separation between ‘mainstream’ and maybe, our type of music. And every place you go, there’ll be a bunch of people who will listen to all kinds of music. There’ll be people in line at a gig where you can totally have a conversation about records. I think in London - or the UK - it’s a smaller community, and obviously it’s a smaller country. I mean like, there’s ATP, who are amazing. They are amazing.
America, it seems like there’s lots of great channels for our music. But...I don’t even know. I’ve watched some American TV shows of some bands I really like. Then in England I feel like, I wish I could watch some bands I really like on TV. Then I thought, actually, I don’t really want to watch bands on TV. I don’t really want to watch TV!
Who in music do you admire right now?
I really got into the Bill Callahan, who's got a new record out. David Berman (Silver Jews) whose lyrics are stellar, even though I’m not a massive lyrics person. Neil Young.
Do you feel you’re more of an artist in a broader sense, rather than just a musician?
Well, yeah. I’m an artist. Because I make art. Like anybody who makes art. Like anyone who picks up a pencil and draws something is an artist. There’s no point when someone is an artist or not really. So I guess, maybe it’s easier...if you make art, then you’re an artist. But sometimes I find music quite a weird art form. Sometimes I separate it from film and like, visual art, to something...a bit lower. [laughs]
Is it true that some (or all?) of you live in Stokey in London, and if it is, do you think the scene there influences you in any way? When you have the chance/are home/not touring, do you watch other bands or go out?
I mean, I went to Deerhunter last time I was in London. There was a time as well that I got to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor. As long as there’s something ATP on, I’ll go to them. I guess because we’re going out the whole time on tour. I’m not really an ‘out-y’ type of person. Touring is a funny thing for me, cos I’m out with my friends the whole time, which is great. And you’re basically going out every night and doing a gig every night. Which is completely the opposite of what I’m used to in London, where I’m on my own and I don’t really like, party very hard.
Well, that’s cool.
Not really. [laughs]
But I know how it gets in London, especially in music, there’s often pressure to go out and be seen/scene and involved and stuff, and that’s not often the most fun thing.
That’s stupid though. I feel very detached from that.
How have you managed that though? London’s a machine.
London’s where I was born, that’s why I live there. Not because I decided to go live there. I’ve moved away from my family home. I wasn’t exactly like, ok, I’m gonna move out, bye, speak to you soon, and you know like, go to Chicago or Italy or Barcelona or London. It was just. London.
What has driven you to do your solo project, Oupa?
Well with Yuck, me and Max write for Yuck. And Oupa is all piano stuff. It’s not like a solo project. I mean, what I do in my life is make music and draw. That’s generally all I do. So I made some music and put it on an EP last year, and then that came out. And then I finished an album just before we started touring in January, so I’m going to put that out. And I changed the name to Oupa because it suited it. I just wanna do that stuff. Make music. And then put it out. Cos then you can’t change it.
The band has done some great things in your relatively short lifespan as such; are there any other big goals or dreams you’d like to achieve?
I mean, I guess to keep making music. I want to sort out the books that I make; I guess sort out a quicker process for making them. And...um yeah, make some more albums. I want to buy the new Bill Callahan album on CD when I get back to London. And I wanna get the boxset, the Tchaikovsky boxset, because it’s coming out and apparently, one of my friends is getting it for me for my birthday which is pretty exciting.
Oh Feb the 20th, but it’s a late birthday present. There's a film on it which costs like 90 pounds before they released the boxset, so I haven’t been able to watch it, but now I’m going to be able to watch it.