Last December I talked with Max Bloom, guitarist and recently appointed frontman of the London based indie rock group Yuck. Bloom was the band’s lead guitarist until April 2013, when previous singer and songwriter Daniel Blumberg departed the band to start a solo career. Their second record Glow & Behold was released in September, and they are currently on tour and playing at the Rock and Roll Hotel this Thursday! Tickets can be purchased here.
Max and I talked over Skype about their new album, getting back on the road, horns in rock music, and the mice problem in his flat. **Special thanks to Jordan Grobe for helping produce**.
Quinn Myers: Max, hey, thanks for talking with us. What have you been up to today?
Max Bloom: Today I’m just with Jonny (Yuck drummer) and we’re recording some drums and we’re kind of in the middle of just recording some new songs.
QM: Oh cool, any chance we’ll get to hear them in the next few months?
MB: Maybe! It depends if we learn to play them.
QM: Sounds good, I hope we do. So – you guys are from and based in London. How, if at all, does location factor in to your music or the writing process, especially on your most recent album?
MB: Um, it’s really hard to say. It’s an interesting question. I think it definitely does, even if it’s like, you know, you hate the place you live in and you want to get out, or whatever. I think it always, whether you like it or not, matters where you are when you’re writing the songs and plays a part in your songwriting which is exactly why bands from LA might have a certain sound or like bands from New York, or whatever. So I guess I think it does – I wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly how.
QM: Agreed – it’s definitely hard to define any sound, especially your own. So you guys have been on the road since you released a new album in September – is that correct?
MB: Yeah, more or less. We’ve done a few things but the main kind of bulk of touring will take place next year (2014).
QM: You’ve got a big North American tour coming up and then it’s back to Europe, I believe. But this is after a pretty big break from playing live – how does it feel to be playing these new songs after a year and a half, almost?
MB: It feels really good! Well it feels completely different, than how it used to obviously, in many ways it feels like a completely new kind of thing. The sound of what we’re doing now feels more energetic than it used to, and I feel like the general attitude of people is quite positive and I guess it feels quite new. But yeah, it’s really fun.
QM: Cool, cool. So my producer and I were at CMJ this year and we caught a quick part of your set – what kind of show atmosphere do you prefer? The smaller individual shows or the bigger festival types, which tend to attract a wider range of people?
MB: It depends, really. When I think back I think some of my favorite shows have been tiny little shows where everyone has been really excited and you don’t need to prove anything. But then again it’s always fucking amazing when you can kind of move around a bit on stage and you don’t have to worry about smacking someone in the face with your guitar (laughs)…playing on a bigger stage is fun and playing in front of lots of people is very exciting but… it really depends on whether they want to be there and are excited to see you and that kind of makes all the difference.
QM: Let’s get into your new record, Glow & Behold. It’s your first release after the departure of former frontman, Daniel Blumberg and is a really excellent expansion of your original sound. You start off the album with an instrumental – what was the thought process behind this decision?
MB: I mean, that was basically, I don’t know I’ve always kind of dreamed of making an album that starts with an instrumental, I wanted to kind of set a particular atmosphere before things properly began. I wanted to make the album feel like…like more of a start to finish experience and I guess opening with an instrumental kind of eases you into the album. And you know I like albums that start with a big song or whatever – but I just wanted to open up with something a little bit different.
QM: Yeah, I was surprised by it at first but it helped me settle in to the album really nicely. Something else that I think is kind of immediately noticeable about your new record actually are the horns. How did they get on the record? Did you record and write them, and are they going to present in your upcoming live shows?
MB: Well, basically the horns came about I’d say… well I’ve been playing trumpet for a long time, since I was about 16, and got really into jazz trumpet players, and I guess I started adding that into songs because I kind of felt that it added a new weird texture. I love the sound of the horns and I especially think in rock music it adds something kind of strange and quite a unique sound that you don’t normally here. I kind of really like the way people like Jim O’Rourke used horns in music – it’s quite unexpected. I think it’s really warm and nice sounding.
QM: That warmth is especially clear on the new record. So, recently I’ve been digging your cover of New Order’s Age of Consent. How did you decide to cover it and are you guys going to be playing it live?
MB: That kind of came about because we were like “let’s do a cover”, and I’ve felt like it’s always interesting to do them. So we were like “yeah! let’s do one”, so we were thinking about it and I wanted to do something electronic based, even though Age of Consent is a more rocky New Order song. But we kind of came to the conclusion with Age of Consent because it’s one of my favorite New Order songs, firstly, and I thought we could do an interesting version of it. And yeah, we’ve been playing it live recently and it’s been getting a pretty good response, so we’ll probably play it live when we come to D.C.
QM: I’m looking forward to it. So speaking of that – what does your setlist look like in terms of old vs. new, and is it going to change in your upcoming North American tour?
MB: At the moment it’s kind of a balance – about half and half, not too heavy in either direction. We play our favorite songs from both albums…I always find it annoying when you go and see a band and they play only songs from their new album, or whatever.
QM: Definitely in agreement there. So you guys will be in D.C. on February 13th at the Rock and Roll Hotel. Have you played in D.C. before?
MB: Yeah, we played there twice, both times at The Black Cat.
QM: Nice, Black Cat is a favorite of mine, as well as Rock and Roll Hotel. So you guys have opened up for a lot of different bands, including The Pixies and Dinosaur Jr., and now that you’ve made the transition to headliner, do you have any ideal opening bands or artists that you would love to be on a bill with?
MB: Well we’re kind of looking for a support band now, so if there’s anyone listening who wants to support us, please let me know! But uh, I’d love to be supported by one of my favorite artists doing an acoustic set or something, that’d be really cool. We recently did a gig in Cologne with the guitar from Husker Du, and he was doing an acoustic set. So it would be amazing if someone like that could support us. I don’t know if they’d be up for it [laughs].
QM: That would be really excellent. Ok, so we’re coming to the end of the interview so we’re going to do a sort of “lightning” round of kind of strange questions – short answers are fine. They do get a little weird but there are only a few.
MB: Okay, I’m ready.
QM: Okay so: If you could pick a fabric (denim, khaki, etc.) to represent Yuck, what would it be?
MB: Hmmm…velvet [laughs].
QM: I like it! Good answer. Okay, so if you were given 1,000 pounds of mayonnaise, what would you do with it?
MB: Uhhh. Mayonaisse. Hmmm. I would mix it with the same amount of mustard and honey and make honey mustard.
QM: Alright, alright, another good one. So…this is perhaps the cheesiest question ever: what’s the “yuckiest” thing you’ve encountered on your recent tour?
MB: Well I don’t really know about on tour but I currently have a mice problem in my flat and we’ve been catching mice so sometimes we catch dead ones, so that’s pretty yucky.
QM: I would have to agree that is indeed, yucky. Okay so I’m going to name a word, and just say the first thing that comes to mind.
MB: [Laughs] I feel like this is something I should be doing with a therapist or something.
QM: Yeah we love to get Freudian here at WRGW. So, here we go: Insane Clown Posse.
MB: Shoe polish.
QM: And finally: Fergalicious.
MB: Um. Uh. [Pause]. Make them boys go loco?
QM: Awesome. Wow, great answer. Alright, so that pretty wraps things up. Max, thanks for talking to us and we’re looking forward to seeing you guys on tour!
MB: Yeah, thanks!
Yuck is at the Rock and Roll Hotel on Thursday.