The shoegaze tunes of Yuck’s debut album in 2011 was the soundtrack of my senior days at Rhinebeck High. Forever cemented into my memory, the album is now a time portal back to those yellow days where my driving was as unpredictable as a hormonal teenager in a Subaru so desperately overdue for an inspection.
That’s why I felt a bit nauseous climbing the blue-lighted staircase at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. This was backstage, a world I had never been invited to, and I couldn’t help but feel like I was breaking some rules. I was 17 again and any sense of professionalism was tossed with my half smoked cigarette.
He wore flannel and round tortoise-shell glasses. But, behind those frames were eyes marked by the understandable fatigue of Yuck’s extensive tour in North America. Since tomorrow was going to be his first day off, I asked the British frontman, Max Bloom, what he was going to do with his free time. “Minca Ramen... Oh and the Russian Bathhouse.” Apparently the former takes the prize for the best ramen and the latter… well, it’s great for the voice.
As the interview loosened, we began to goof around. Bloom noted that he is the one who drives the van. “It’s worse sitting still… so fucking boring.” And Yuck’s rules are that whoever drives assumes the right to DJ, so it was in this fashion that the band returned to SXSW a few weeks ago. Bloom described the experience as “the best time and the worst time at the same time”. Closed roads, running late, and carrying heavy equipment while battling the irreversible dehydration, SXSW is undoubtedly a test of the human endurance. In 2011 these obstacles were taken in stride, like those days fresh out of college where everyone was hungover at work but still had the energy to get their shit done. “I was younger” Bloom recounts, but “I care more now...don’t have time for all the bullshit”.
It is true that Yuck has evolved from their first album. It is the reality of most bands that music fluctuates, people leave and sounds change. But parallel to the way a teenager might remedy his own identity crisis, Yuck took “a jump in the dark” with their second album. According to Bloom, recording in a studio in NYC in 2013 was an “interesting experience." Bloom was aware of the risky nature of entrusting someone else with their music and while it was a progressive opportunity, Bloom missed doing things on his own. “It was great… but yeah, next album, I’ll be doing it on my own.”
And he did. Yuck’s third album “Stranger Things” is recorded in Bloom’s own house. Furthermore, Yuck released a homemade sketch featuring the dads of each bandmate promoting their new album. Returning to their original DIY style and embracing their quirky personality, Yuck appears to be coming around the bend from that awkward teenager phase of “who am I?” It was as if Yuck had shaved their heads freshman year of college, only to realize what a mistake that was, and are now in the process of growing back some luscious locks.
Bloom even collaborated with Mariko Doi (bassist) on the song “As I Walk Away”, a balanced melody of soft vocals and strong guitar, a tune that suddenly made me miss my Subaru. Doi and Bloom co-wrote the song, stealing her guitar and specifically designing it for Doi’s singing voice. Apparently this was another departure from Yuck tradition, considering that the band rarely writes together. “Individual combined solo projects” is how Bloom defined the creative process behind Yuck. And yet, when Johnny Rogoff (drummer) unexpectedly entered the “green room”, Bloom couldn’t contain his excitement.
L to R: Johnny, Max, and Ed
“Johnny!” Bloom leapt from the couch and embraced the drummer, both men simultaneously hugging and jumping. Bloom later explained that Johnny had to go home to confront 5 weeks of exams and Mariko’s boyfriend was filling in. It was a familial reunion and I was in the presence of strong brotherly love, the kind secured with years of mutual experiences. Bloom and Johnny were then joined by Ed Hayes (guitarist) and I suddenly found myself in a whirlwind of catch-up chatter.
“We are going to get Korean food.” stated Ed. Bloom asked if the interview was over so he could join them. “We didn’t invite you” joked Hayes and it was clear that the brothers were back together once again.
In the aftermath of the interview, I came to a striking conclusion. The Yuck of the future might very well not be the same band I am nostalgic for. But that is some damn good news. I certainly hope I did not peak in the teen daze of my high school days, and it is a bit bizarre of me to want to expect that Yuck did. Time will tell, but for now I’m closing the yearbook and turning up the volume on some new sounds.