Why Creating Culture and Community Matter: A Conversation with YUNGBLUD [Watch & Listen + Q&A]

Quite possibly the most authentic person in music today, chatting with Yungblud is as effortless as talking to your best friend. Even on a Monday morning during a global pandemic his smile lights up a Zoom call (almost as much as his fire-red hair does). His humility is intact, he has enough charisma to last three lifetimes, and he uses all of the eccentricities and idiosyncrasies that make up who he is to his full advantage. Who he is, exactly, is everything he ever dreamed of being: a multi-faceted artist with one hand submerged in passion projects and one hand holding on tightly to those who support him. 

Born Dominic Harrison, the über-talented, UK-born punk rocker is not even 23 years old and yet he knows exactly what he wants out of his life, his career, and himself. Dominic is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to turning dreams into a reality. While being a musician is his livelihood, he has not pushed anything else he was interested in becoming to the back burner, but instead created a brand around his music that allowed him to incorporate every side of him into what he does. 

Yungblud, as an entity, is intimate, personal, and all encompassing. It’s music filled with passion, stories about real people, and connection between not just fans and the music, but fans and the person behind the music. To his fans, Yungblud is simply “Dom,” someone who is just as much of a confidant and friend as he is an artist and a public figure. And that is exactly how he wants it to be. Yungblud – Dom – is consistently working to build a community, create a culture, and strike the perfect balance between rebellious rockstar, strong-willed activist, and faithful best friend.

I have to start off by saying that I don’t think any artist is doing as much for their fans and with their fans as you are. From responding to comments to reposting covers to truly taking what they are saying into consideration when it comes to you and your brand.  That’s so commendable, but how important to you is creating that bond and maintaining that bond with them?

It’s kind of the beginning, the middle, and the end of the story. For me, I think this got so much bigger than I ever expected, and it almost feels like we’re just getting started now, which is fucking odd, because all I wanted to do was to get into music. I looked at bands like The Clash and the Sex Pistols who never got in bigger rooms than a thousand people, do you know what I mean? And it was just that I wanted a culture, because the world didn’t want to know who I was. In the real world, the people didn’t want to fucking know me. Speaking to fans, getting to know them, is the most important thing to me. That’s it. It’s just like listening to them and making sure that they are heard, because this world is ours. This world we’ve built is ours; where you can be yourself, you can do whatever you want, you can look however you want, you can express yourself however you want. That’s all I wanted to do. And even as it gets bigger, it’s been fun for me to kind of make it still feel like a small community, even though there’s a lot of people in it now. Even now, after every show, I’m always outside of the venue. And even when it’s in an arena next year, I’ll be outside of it.

Artwork for “Strawberry Lipstick”

You want to create that intimacy, which will always help your music resonate. And it’ll help you, as an artist, get your own message across to fans who need to hear it.

Absolutely. That’s legitimately it. I am so lucky to have them. This ain’t me standing on stage saying, “I’m singing, you listen!” This is a conversation and that is what it is always going to be, and this is a journey that we’re going to be on together. I want to grow up with them. I want to grow old with them. I want to treat them like my family.

Right, they build you up just as much as you build them up.

Completely! And the thing about it is, it’s so funny when people say like, “You do so much more than other artists,” but I’m like, “I don’t really look.” Because I kind of don’t even understand why we’re here. This is our lane, this is our world. I don’t really look too much outside it and it’s so important to me to do that, you know what I mean?

Absolutely. I think as a fan myself that comes across very, very obviously. Fans really appreciate having an artist who wants that for them and doesn’t just do it for show.

Always. Even just my merch company. They have just been not great and so this merch drop that I’m going to do today I’ve worked so hard on to make sure that everything runs smoothly, because I hear them – and they will always hear me, because at the end of the day, without them, we can fuck all of it. That’s what I was saying. It isn’t me who made Yungblud big. It’s them, and the millions of people singing the songs back at me.

Should they have to come to your shows so you can actually have this.

Yeah. I’m sick of artists kind of playing a show and getting into their fucking Mercedes van and fucking off back to their hotel.

Even making the time to talk to fans before or after a show, or just interacting with them onstage, is so important! 


You create that community while you’re on the stage and maintain that throughout. I’ve been to concerts where it’s just the music, which is great. I appreciate that. But you want the fans to feel like they’re there for a reason. If they truly wanted to listen to your music and nothing more, they could put headphones on and feel close to the same thing.

That’s what I’m saying. I want it to be an experience. I want it to change your fucking life, because every night I go on stage and it changes my life. A little bit every night, still. People ask if I get bored night after night and I’m like “No.”

And you’re doing that so well. I’m so excited for everyone to see you live again. I know we can’t be touring right now, but I think your new song, “Strawberry Lipstick,” is such a banger. I know that it will be like the highlight of every live show.

That’s why I released it. As an artist, I always need something to kick against. I need something to kick fucking back against. Everyone was pushing me to go commercial. Everyone was pushing me to become a pop star. And I was like, “Here’s your fucking pop star!” I mean, I almost believed them for awhile, and this song saved my life almost more than any other. It’s not emotional at all. It’s fucking heavy. 

It’s insane.

It’s mental, right? It did save my life in a respect in the fact that that’s what I am in this moment. Who I am right now is the same as my first video. A few people my fans have got the comparison.

“Strawberry Lipstick” to “King Charles,” I saw that!

“King Charles” to “Lippy,” that was the idea. This was starting all over again, but now we are better. I can be the artist I want to be because I have the fans, I have the support, I have the budget. I can afford to make the videos I want to make. That video for “Lippy” was the video I always wanted to make as a kid. All guitars, union jacks, Marshall amplifiers, rock and roll, and danger.

It’s so authentically you. It’s not full circle just production wise, it’s full circle with who you are, as well.

This wasn’t going to come out like this, right now. I said to my team “This video and this song needs to come out first, because it lets every fan of mine know that I am still the same person.” I know I’ve been to Hollywood, but I have learned that it’s a load of bollocks. Hollywood is a load of fucking bollocks, but I’m still here. And even so we’re growing every day, it’s crazy. Our following is going up like 10,000 a day, which is mental. It’s like an arena of people a day.

It’s with songs like “Strawberry Lipstick” and “Weird!” and with videos that are just so memorable that people are going to want to tune into more of who you are. Not just the sound, not just music, but you.

That’s what it’s about. It’s about the community every single day. I couldn’t give a fuck if I’ve got a Billboard Hot 100 hit. I couldn’t give a fuck. I want to play stadiums. I want to bring people together that make me go, “Fuck me. We’re playing massive shows all over the world.” I couldn’t give a shit about how many streams I’ve got, because that’s just numbers. 

You’re doing it for you and your people. That’s what matters.

I’m caring about people and faces and culture, because that’s what blows my mind. I look at my Instagram every day and the engagement of it all is fucking crazy. You know what I mean? I know we’re still small right now, relatively in terms of the world, but we’re getting bigger. It’s just so tight knit. I always want it to be that way– no matter how big we get. I will always try my hardest to make sure we stay that way.

That is so amazing to hear because you do see artists who change over time, not just their sound, but the way that they’re perceived. And I love the authenticity of it all. And the fact that you can come full circle, but still be yourself.

Absolutely, and the thing about it is that I nearly went that way. That’s what scared me. I was working in Los Angeles for six months and I nearly went to the fucking commercial pop route. You know what? That’s not a bad thing. People do that amazingly, but I just figured out it’s not for me.

You knew that and  recognized that, though, which is almost more important, because you wouldn’t have wanted to start something and then have to go back and be like, “I actually don’t like this, this isn’t me.”

That’s exactly it. I always ask myself two questions: Am I telling the truth? And could anybody else sing it? Nobody else could sing it and I’m telling the truth, so then I’ll put it out.

It’s working clearly. I mean, you have these fans that are growing and people who are tuning in and people who are just genuinely appreciating what you’re doing, not just saying this is a good song, but saying the whole message. The entire brand is what I need

This whole thing is about saving lives. It’s not about “Cool, I got seven plaques and I’m driving around in a Ferrari.” It’s not about that. It’s about that mutual thing between each one of us in The Black Hearts Club – that’s everyone in my fan base – that when we can look each other in the eyes and go “You understand me wholeheartedly. I have some in common with you.” That is more than just, “This is a great song!”

That’s very true. I feel like your socialization with fans and the personal level you are on with them is a big part of who you are. With the world being the way that it is right now, is the way that you’re approaching interacting with fans, or even just making music, different now because it’s on a much smaller level?

Yeah, dude, that’s what it is all about. As I was saying, I just want to make noise – even now, because I want everyone to see that finish line next year when we got back on tour. That’s what I am working on where I can. It’s going to be fucking mental, too.

“Strawberry Lipstick” is going to be massive live, I know it. Maybe even an encore song with some sick production.

Well just wait until you hear the rest of the album. I’ve gone mad. I’ve been listening to Queen, I have a song like their “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It’s got like five different parts. It’s five different songs all in one. There’s a song at the end of the album called “A Freak Show” that is like fucking [Green Day’s] “Jesus of Suburbia” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” where it has like five different parts to it.

All these epic stories being told at once.

Epic stories, exactly. I had an opportunity to make a pop album or an album that’s going to fucking last forever. When the world fucking blows up and someone comes to find that all the art in the world, I wanted that album to be like a timeless story. I just want to touch people’s hearts and touch people’s souls. That’s it. That’s all I give a fuck about.

Tom Pallant

Please keep doing that, we need that now more than ever. You want what you do to be cohesive with who you are and create things that resonate.

That’s what I’m saying. There’s a big song coming out a bit later, which I can’t wait to release. That is slightly more kind of like… I don’t know, it’s a bit more laid back, but it’s heavily about sex. This album is going to be about life and what comes with it: sex, sexual individuality, sexuality, drugs, depression, overcoming depression, trans rights. It is legitimately just a story about life. I wanted it to be like a series of Skins in one episode in an album.

I like how you said that this album is going to be all encompassing, because that is who you are. Fans want someone who says, “I’m hearing all of you and here’s what I am going to do about it.”

That’s exactly it.

You’re constantly using your voice to encourage and spark change. When fans ask you to speak up on something, you do. When people need advice, you’re giving it. When people are looking for resources, you have them. Dom, it doesn’t go unnoticed that you are using your platform for good, but how important is that to you? To be that person or that voice?

Oh, that’s just it! I’m going to say shit that other people aren’t. I don’t give a fuck. I will say everything. As long as I’m telling the truth and I believe, I’ll say it. I want to encourage people to do that  because every single person on this planet is so incredibly special and so incredibly unique that I need to celebrate that and let them know not to be frightened of embracing that.

You never know who you’re going to inspire or influence with just your words.

Yes! Absolutely.

You are a Jack of many trades. You’re not just a musician or an activist, you are a talk show host and a graphic novelist. You’re doing all of these things, but it’s still all you.

It’s not about the music. It’s about the community. It’s about building worlds that people can fall into, that people can relate to. People might relate to a comic book more so than a song, or a TV show more than a song. It’s about creating a space where everyone is just fucking living in harmony. It’s like fucking hippie punk. [Laughs]

It’s also safe and informative.

Exactly. And I get to live all my dreams. I wanted to be a radio host. I wanted to be a talk show host. I wanted to write comics. Because of the community, I get to do it all.

You know, I just read that The Twisted Tales of the Ritalin Club is getting a sequel. I know the first book kind of tackled a lot of things, from schooling to social constructs to human connection. Will the next one follow that storyline?

We’ve gone to college now. This new one talks about drugs and sex and identity from that college perspective. I’ve listened to my fan base. Everyone’s growing up.

Z2 Comics

Right alongside each other, too!

Yes! Everyone’s a year older and we’re all growing up and are together for the ride. It’s getting bigger quick, but we’re in it together.

I promise you, it’s well deserved. 

Thank you. It’s crazy. 

You know, much – if not all – of your career has been during the streaming era, which is all about playlists, algorithms, social media dances, and things like that. As a well versed musician and a creative, what are your thoughts on how people consume music these days? 

It’s weird, man. Streaming’s a weird one for me because we sell more physicals than streams, really, which is bizarre. I think my fan base wants to hold something. You know what I mean? I think I kind of have got those people here with me. I don’t know, I just cared about building a fan base. I don’t care about how many streams I got. I care more about how much my followers are going up on Spotify or something like that. I don’t care about the numbers. I just want to bring real people in. As I say, I use my social media. My social media is everything. My Instagram is everything, because that’s how I connect with them all. Every day I respond to comments, go on the DMs, everything every day. Just to make sure everyone’s happy and make sure everyone feels alive.

Social media for sure plays a really big part in connection. I think social media can be a bit draining, because there can be a negative side to being an artist and having that platform give you too much exposure.

There is a negative to it, too. I think it depends on what you’re comfortable with. I think there’s always a negative to everything someone does. My fanbase knows me wholeheartedly, though. That is just the artist I am. So I could just keep it private, but I’m just kind of me. Here is who I am, I am not going to hide it.

That’s how it’s working for you, because you’re honest about it. You don’t have to feel like, “Oh, is this the wrong thing to post?” because there’s no persona to keep up with.

You hit the nail on the head. If you’re honest and you’re real about it, then it’s not going to get draining because you just been yourself. It’s like, if you’re posting on your private. I’m just posting myself. Just being who I am.

Like everything you do, I think that is quite commendable. I know a lot of public figures have social media managers that maintain their online presence.

If someone comes to my house when we’re doing a merch drop or a single drop, I’m on my phone in the corner for 12 hour. People kind of get mind blown and go, “You do it all yourself?” I’m like, “Yeah, I don’t trust anyone because then it’s 80 percent me.” If I don’t do it myself, it’s not 100 percent me.

Fans like me can pick up on that, and would probably pick up if it wasn’t you, as well.

Oh, you can tell a million percent.

Speaking of Instagram, I was just pretty curious about all these collaborations you have done, like with Machine Gun Kelly, Dan Reynolds, and so many different people. How do they come about? Are they just your friends? Is it an Instagram message? Professional set up?

Every collaboration comes like an Instagram DM or a call.

Really? I love that.

MGK, Dan Reynolds, Marshmello. So many of them come from Instagram.

Just a friendly, “Hey, let’s do this.

Yeah, just, “What’s up? How are you?” And then “Let’s do this.”

It’s organic. I think that’s better than the professional saying, “Oh, I think you should do this with them.” Then it doesn’t work.

It can’t be that way. When people say that you should get a feature on your record, it’s like you have to have a personal relationship with them or it just ends up shit. You can tell if someone’s recorded a song and they have not met the person. I see music as a connection. I say it is the closest thing to having a kiss or a cuddle, you know what I mean? It’s not quite the same if you’re not all emotionally connected.

“Strawberry Lipstick” is out NOW on all streaming platforms! Preorder Weird Times At Quarry Bank University, out November 2020, here!