Tom Pallant

The Trippy, Beautiful, Killer World of Yungblud

It has been three years since we last spoke with the Brit-rock sweetheart that is Yungblud. What we learned on this conversational go-around is that he is still keeping us on our toes, still knee deep in appreciation for his fans, and still the master of uniqueness.

With the star-studded live action film releasing in theaters later this month, ‘Barbie’ is more relevant than ever. There are splashes of Barbie’s notable shade of pink in even the darkest of corners. Her message of empowerment, creativity, and expansive identity is stronger than it has ever been. If you really think about it, that ability to be comfortable in your own skin (whether real or plastic) and take charge of your own life (on-screen, in a Dreamhouse, or otherwise) is pretty damn punk rock. Barbie can be anything – an astronaut, a lawyer, a rockstar.

Dominic Harrison, better known as the heartfelt, individualistic musician Yungblud, has been sharing the same sentiments with the world for years. He is all about putting your truest self forward instead of trying to fit into what the world wants you to be. As a fierce activist and fiery singer-songwriter, the universe surrounding Yungblud is in line with the best Barbie ideals: you can do everything, you can be anything, and you can love anyone.

Yungblud references David Bowie frequently as a point of inspiration and the pinnacle of artistic shapeshifting. While we don’t disagree and subsequently adore the Thin White Duke, this community that the 25-year-old built has been in real time as he grows up alongside his audience – akin to that of Mattel’s worldly female protagonist. Bowie’s generation-spanning evolution has made him the influential rock and roll hero that we know him to be. It has accumulated over time. Yungblud came out of the gate testing his audience, exploring both sonically and stylistically with relentless passion and overarching success. Similar to Bowie and just like Barbie, the modern rocker does it all, from hip-hop collaborations and hand-drawn tattoos to Ozzy Osbourne cameos and stripped down ragers. It’s impressive, ever-changing, and all-encompassing of what he can do as an artist and as a human.

This is all without mentioning that his growth has been monumental as of late, as well. Sure, there wasn’t a worldwide shortage of pink paint like a certain forthcoming movie caused, but starting mosh pits at Coachella? Yungblud did that. Covering Shania Twain in an episode of Carpool Karaoke with Avril Lavigne? He did that, too. Sampling The Cure? Go ahead and check that off. Standing up for fans and concert enthusiasts alike while simultaneously taking on the biggest U.S. tour of his career? Check, check, and double check. (He headlines the Rooftop at Pier 17 in NYC on July 14 and the Stone Pony Summerstage in Asbury Park on July 15.) We might only be able to visit BarbieWorld in the movie theater, but we can live in YungbludWorld right here and right now.

First and foremost, we can’t wait to have you back in New York and New Jersey. You just played in Philadelphia, though, which is right next door. How was that and how has this tour been? Because from what we have all seen online, it seems to be out of this world in many ways.

To be honest, it’s definitely been the most crazy tour across America we’ve ever done. It’s like… whoa – I’ve really been having a good time on this tour, you know what I mean? It’s also been the loudest. We broke decibel limits on like six venues on the tour! It’s been going like 130 db, which keeps getting us fined ’cause people are screaming so loud.

Oh my gosh. Can you tell when you’re up there? With in-ears and everything?

Not really…? They monitor it for me, but my sound man is like, “You know, you went to 130 tonight and it’s never been that loud.” And the people at the venues are like, “Holy shit,” so yeah, it’s cool.

That’s just a testament to the size of the crowd and how many more people are coming out, discovering you, and joining this loud, but thrilling community that you’ve built with your music.

Yeah, and it’s amazing, man. Someone even said, “I feel like I’m in a cult, but in a good way.” That’s fair! I like that!

You and I have talked about this before, and you’ve talked about many times, as well, in terms of creating this bubble. This is a true family. It’s not just the artist, you, and the fans. It’s kind of like we are all Yungblud.

Completely. I think that was it from the start. It’s such a trip – 21st Century Liability, my first album, is five years old. I remember starting the album just because I felt lost and I felt misunderstood and I felt estranged from the world. All I wanted to do was write something that would allow me to find others and I can’t believe I did. I can’t believe it got this big. I can’t believe that it got this passionate. I can’t believe that it’s this size all over the world. It’s brilliant. 

All over the world and so much bigger than just yourself. You’ve navigated it very kindly and very naturally – this creating of a bond. It’s you at the front of this, not anyone behind the scenes. It is you and the music working together to connect people with each other. I think that’s really special.

This is something that I just… I could never explain it, really. I’ll probably be able to explain it later, but the way people took this and made it theirs and how it became very much not just me anymore was something else. You can’t force that. You know what I mean? It just happened. It’s trippy, and wow, it is beautiful.

It absolutely is. I’m honored to witness your impact’s growth from small venues and pushing for streams to now when I bet you could release something without promo and it would still find a way to take over. It would fill people’s souls like your new single is and they would want that tattooed on them. It’s a movement. You’re a movement.

It’s crazy. I think “Lowlife” has been such a mental moment because it’s a song that is all over people’s bodies already and it’s only been out a month. It’s crazy. It’s mad.

Something with “Lowlife” that furthers what you’ve always done is sort of reclaim these terms that are negative in nature. Songs like “Lowlife” and “fleabag,” even “Loner,” turned insults into something positive, upbeat, and fun.

It’s always about making things positive and it’s always about fun. It’s about taking a negative and making it a positive. That is kind of the ethos of Yungblud: taking anything you’ve ever been insulted by and using it as strength and using it as something powerful.

How is this song resonating in front of the crowd? Because it came out just in time for the tour.

Oh, fuck me – it’s so loud! What’s cool is that it got such a different bounce to it. I think the whole show is pretty energetic until you do a ballad, but this one’s got this like synths and vibes and it’s sick. Everyone starts getting on each other’s shoulders and it’s a bit more… something. it’s just as loud and just as crazy, but it’s got a different feeling. I think you need that sometimes, you know what I mean? It’s a different color and I like it.

Of course. When I first heard it I made a note that it had an ‘intimate nightclub vibe,’ which is hard to do as nightclubs are the opposite of intimate. You have boisterous tones and vulnerability all at once.

I love that. There was a song called “Nightclubbing” by Iggy Pop that kind of has got those same feelings. I just love that you said that. That’s cool.

I can’t wait to experience it live. We have all been thinking a lot about touring now that we’re fully in that world again and people like Taylor Swift are selling out shows, playing 45 songs on her Eras Tour. Now, you have quite the sizable catalog as of 2023, so would you ever do something like that you would span everything from 21st Century to “Teresa” and “The Funeral” and everything in between? Would you ever do something like that? Go across the entire world of Yungblud for a night?

I think so. To be honest, we kind of were doing that on the tour for a minute, especially in the UK when we were in the arenas. It’s very much what we would do there from era to era. The next part, though, of releasing music… it’s gonna be fun. I don’t really want to put another album out yet. I’ve got a load of songs, so I just want to start putting things out and see what people like, see what people enjoy, see what people want from me next. I think that has always been my biggest power as an artist: my fan base. It’s never been about anything other than them, so I kind of want to work with them on the next songs. I’ll write the songs, see what they think, put ’em out into the world, then see what resonates the most and make an album out of that.

I love that, kind of like a mixtape.

100% – that’s the vibe.

This idea also leaves room for each song to have its own life.

Yeah, and see what resonates the most with people and see how people feel, you know?

There are so many songs of yours that might be considered deep cuts in a way, but they are actually some of the biggest songs in terms of what the biggest of fans are loving.

It’s gonna be lit. I never want to be defined by a genre and I want to go crazier. I am young and hungry and energetic, but I’m not gonna be forever, you know? I mean, I love Bowie. I love David Bowie. I want to [have] a career like that. I want to change and I want to evolve and I want to explore and create art that isn’t predictable.

I’m so happy you brought up David Bowie because your cover of “Life on Mars?” is quite special. I’m so glad that it ended up getting its own release outside of the tribute special it was part of, because I believe that it is some of your best work outside of your originals.

That was such a trip. That was crazy.

Since I first heard it I have wanted to know this: how did it come about and did you pick this song? Of course it makes sense with your impressive, emotive vocals and your song “mars,” but it is truly otherworldly.

Thank you. You know, they asked me to do it. Bowie’s piano man, Mike Garson was like, “Listen, Trent Reznor’s gonna do it. A lot of people are doing it. It’s a concert to commemorate [David Bowie].” He just went on and said to me, “Yo, will you do ‘Life on Mars?’” I said alright and he said, “Will you do it with Bowie’s band? One Bowie’s one of Bowie’s original players? We’re doing it with a load of Bowie’s band.” I was like, “Wow…” I had to do it remotely because I was in the UK and we were in the middle of the pandemic, so all there was for me was an earpiece to a band and a microphone in literally an all blacked-out room. We pulled it together and, yeah, it was pretty crazy.

It’s so mesmerizing to listen to and to watch, so thank you for sharing how it came together – pandemic-era lifestyle and all. I hope you’re supremely proud of it.

It had a vibe. It was a pretty crazy time. Thank you so much.

You’re so welcome. Here’s another question I have about the tour, because like I said, we are stoked for it. You’re exciting on the stage, you’re out in the audience, you are in the crowd as just one of the most charismatic people. Who are some artists that you’ve seen that you’ve taken bits and pieces from to create such grand moments on your own tour?

Oh, wow. Definitely [Mick] Jagger, Freddie Mercury, Bowie, Hayley Williams from Paramore, Robert Smith from The Cure, Gerard Way, Eminem, The Beastie Boys. The list is crazy. I think I’ve always had this adoration for classic rock and hip-hop at the same time.

So diverse, and like you said, you don’t want to be put in a box. To be listening and learning from such a range makes for even more ways to get into the world of Yungblud.

Completely! There’s a lot of that [diversity] showing on the next couple of songs that are coming out. They’re also real and personal, so I’m excited. I really am. There’s like one crazy ballad, but there’s also a lot of hip-hop that is really raw, as well. It’s going to be cool.

That makes me happy. You know, Dom, I think it’s imperative that we also talk about this amazing fan ticket initiative you started. Tickets being made just $20, all-in, including fees, across the tour. As someone who has been going to shows since I was a kid and was spending all of my hard-earned money from babysitting, it is obvious that the fans who are benefiting from this the most, right? They’re the people who are able to go to your shows, experience your music, and find that community affordably. I’m wondering, though, for you, what are you hoping that people who are more your peers – other musicians and other entertainers – take away from it?

Not one price fits all when it comes to an artist. I think when you get to a certain level you get beholden to corporate companies and the corporate system, especially when you play venues this big. That ain’t gonna fly with me. Since it’s always been about my fan base and it’s always been about the culture and the movement, charging $90 plus fees for a ticket for a Yungblud show is not the vibe. I am not ok with that. It’s not about the spectacle for me – the show is the people and the communication between us. You’re not gonna see me singing with a snake or riding on a dragon or anything. That’s cool, but I just don’t think that price is cool, and I’m trying everything I can to make a statement about it. This is what Yungblud is about. I want to be showing that you can be an artist and put on the same show no matter how big or how small. I’m not going to bite the fucking hand that feeds, you know what I mean? 

Absolutely. We are grateful for that. You’ve also always toured with many amazing supporting acts. When you did your virtual tour during the pandemic you had Royal and the Serpent. She’s from New Jersey, so maybe we’re biased, but she’s great, and so are The Regrettes who are on tour with you now and are also into putting the fans first. They’re all about being conscious, just like you. When it comes to creating a bill for a tour, how much say do you have in finding these friends and these artists to hit the road with? It’s always such an exciting, like-minded lineup.

I think it’s cool. It’s like building a menu, isn’t it? I go in and I think, “What’s going to be different? What’s gonna be exciting? What’s gonna be a good night out for everybody?” I think, “Who do I back? What messages do I like? Who was saying something cool? Who was saying something important? What songs do I like?” It’s very much about that kind of thing and I love it.

Yes, because you’re gonna be up there, too! You have to hear it, back it, hang out alongside it. You want to love it.

And I love it. It’s beautiful. It’s killer.

We love Yungblud’s world and everyone in it, so it makes me happy to hear you love it, too. We also can’t wait to have you back here. 

Oh, I’m buzzing. I’m buzzing for New Jersey and New York – they’re always my favorite. New Jersey goes crazy!