Photography by Perou
Styling by Oliver Volquardsen,
assisted by Julia Veitch
You don’t really sit down with Yungblud. He’s constantly on the move. On a hot day in London, we managed to keep him in a photo studio long enough to talk Black Hearts, funeral songs, broken teeth, and love.
How do you fall asleep Dom? You’ve got Flubber energy.
Dude, if you’ve got the answer to that, please let me know because I haven’t slept in about five years. I kind of just pray I’m going to fall asleep and then I do. And then I wake up. Most of the time it’s just me looking at the ceiling. I kind of have this thing where I get anxious about an hour before I go to sleep because I know that I’ve got to fall asleep and I have a million ideas a minute, or it’s 4am and I’m lying there going, “why am I thinking about carrots?” Or something crazy, what does it even mean? I’ll be wondering why is there like a little root on the end of a carrot? Where does that even come from? You haven’t even had carrots today. It’s boundless stupid shit. I think being permanently tired kind of keeps me energetic. I know it’s a contradiction, but I give less of a fuck when I’m tired and then sleep just happens.
Watching your interviews, you have an uncanny way of genuinely convincing people of whatever it is you’ve been talking about. You have this earnestness.
I think that’s it. I’ll always tell the truth. Even if it gets me in trouble. That’s what I’m here for. I genuinely know what I want to say, and I know what you want to fight for. I think it gets hard when you get more successful or bigger, whatever that means, because a lot of people try and twist it. And a lot of people try and convince you what you are, and what box you’re in and you kind of lose yourself a little bit. You play by someone else’s rules but as long as you know what your intention is and as long as you’re telling the truth — something I tell myself is as long as I know still that I’m in here, then that’s what matters.
You can almost see the people’s preconceptions melting away.
I’m always going to find that people think that this is all some kind of act or whatever, but for better or worse, richer or poorer, I’m always going to say what I think and just tell the truth. Because I’ve experienced so much pain and suppression for being who I was growing up, I ain’t gonna to take that shit anymore. From anybody. Even if they’re my family or fans or my best mate, or fucking Boris Johnson. I ain’t gonna take that because I’m going to say what I think. And I’m going to encourage people to say what they think. That was my only mission, from the beginning, I don’t want anyone to feel like I feel. I want to try and build a universe where people can exist and just tell the truth and belong somewhere.
There’s a whole newer generation of acts who seem to be more empathic with their fans — it’s something you’ve said you don’t want to lose, and you have this enthusiasm for making sure that people have a sense they belong. Who, or what has influenced you in such a positive way?
Yeah man — I think empathy is the sole source of my being, and I think I learn that from my mum. My mum has always given her heart to everything. I think everybody has the right to be heard, everybody has the right to feel loved and love in return. That’s just what being fucking human, and what being alive, is all about. I remember Bowie and Gaga taught me a lot because they believed, in their hearts, everything they said. Even if they were wrong and later contradicted themselves, in that specific moment they believed it. That’s how I want to live my life. Believe what you’re saying in that moment. If you’re wrong and someone brings you up on it, go “fuck, yeah.” That’s what growing up and living is all about. It’s fucked when you realize that.
It’s hopeful to see people with a platform express empathy, love and just looking out for others.
That’s it man. The world is so crazy right now. We need more love than ever — everyone needs it because everyone’s been so alone. We’re feeling love through a mobile phone. Even if you’re trapped in a house with the love of your life, you need to breathe, and the world has gone absolutely topsy-turvy this year. A lot of people are angry and there is a lot of shit online with people dragging people down and doing crazy shit but we need anger. We need frustration, we need conversation, we need this. When people talk about the world, as much as we need love, we need hate. We always need something to kick against. Love will prevail and only be alive if hate is too. Part of love is telling hate to fuck off. That’s 20% of what love is — telling that dark part, that scary thing, that evil, malicious twisted word and way of life to fucking go away.
“It’s a conversation decorated by an emotion”
What would you change about the world most though?
If I had a magic wand, I would legitimately just end any sort of inequality on a mass scale. I would try and manipulate mass oppression and make the scale of the battle where oppression is still there because we need to fight it but it’s just small and quiet. Where it’s almost laughable, a moment in a history book. I think that’s what I’d do. I’d eradicate it to a point where people could still remember it and fight, but it was so small we’d just laugh at it.
Moving onto your fans, the Black Hearts Club. You fam-ously put your music out to find a community and they found you. How much do they steer you onto issues you might not be aware of?
Dude, absolutely, it’s like, fuck me man, it’s every day. I want it to be a conversation. I always do and it’s hard, it’s so hard sometimes because it can like, “OK, yeah I was wrong” or “I was right” and that’s just what’s important — it’s about being a community and that’s all I ever wanted was to belong in a community. It does get hard sometimes because as things get bigger, people come into the community who don’t quite understand it. There has been some bullying and some fighting within my fan base, and we’ve had to tell each other to fucking stop. If we do that to each other, then we are exactly like them. We are exactly like the people from the outside who would fucking come and tear us down for the way we were. We need to tell each other to not do that. And that’s what keeps us strong as fuck and keeps it real. If you’re not disliked, then I think you’re not saying something of value.
If every generation kicks against the one before, what does this one want?
Reality, they just want reality. I think that’s what’s so incredible with my generation. Everybody’s wanted to accept everyone for who they are, but I think our generation has social media and a platform to speak from. Anybody in any town can say what they want to and it can be amplified to the world. People want something to identify with and I think to be real now is what resonates. It’s all I wanted. I just wan-ted to be told the fucking truth. I wanted an answer, I wanted an experience that someone had gone through. Even if it wasn’t fucking right, I just wanted them to tell me the truth. Just say something.
“You’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham.” This Arctic Monkeys lyric must’ve resonated with you?
Of course, man, Alex Turner literally said what I was thinking, and I’d never even met him. “A Certain Romance” spoke to me. I was on a BMX at Campsall fish and chip shop in my Adidas jacket in the pissing down rain listening to the Arctic Monkeys thinking, “oh my god, they got out. I could.” Even then their music was about inclusion and reality. From The Ritz To The Rubble was legitimately about a night out in the north of England and they took it global. I think that’s it. If music stops talking about the world, then we’re fucked. If music stops saying things, we’re fucked. Why I love music so much is because it’s a conversation, decorated by an emotion — whatever that heartbreak might be. It might be anger or happiness. It just makes it so much more magical. When I wrote “Polygraph Eyes,” it was a poem first about drunk girls in the north being taken advantage of by boys on nights out. Every time I play that live, I always say to the crowd, “if you’ve ever felt in that position, then you leave that in this fucking room tonight. And that isn’t just for the girls, it’s for the boys as well. If you’ve ever fucking done that, this is to educate you on how harmful it can be.” Going back to the point where it decorates an emotion, I’ve written: she can’t even run/she can’t even walk/she slurs when she speaks/ but you hear what you want/when she can’t even talk/ and that’s the statement. But when I sing it, I scream it at the top of my lungs and I see the young person in the front row, connect with the story of the girl that I wrote the song about. And it makes me nearly fucking cry when I do that. That’s why I got into writing music, to make people feel like no matter what fucking shit you’ve gone through, no matter what shit you’re gonna go through down the line, because we’re all fucking coming to some shit in the road, whatever that may be. But if you’re here, then we’ve got your back. I’m sorry that you went through it and I’m sorry that it hurt you, I’m sorry that you may never be able to forget it but I just hope that we provide some kind of comfort and shelter, and presence and fill a fucking hole in your heart. Because, fuck me I had a massive one in mine and it’s been filled. As I say, to my family as well, it ain’t gonna be easy, we’re gonna fight, we’re going to get things wrong, but this is a journey and we’re gonna do it together.
“Everybody has the right to feel loved”
You’re getting bigger than big. Do you now feel accepted by the higher echelons of rock n roll? You’ve won NME Awards, you’ve sold out Brixton Academy easily — you’re an outsider but do you feel you’ve gone up a level?
It’s obviously got bigger than we ever expected. I remember the Brixton Academy show was one of the best nights of my life, because two years before, me and my guitar player Adam and drummer Mikey, the three of us were in a two-bedroom, tiny shoebox. And we’d watch Kasabian and Foo Fighters play Brixton, and we were just like “if we can get there, that’d be mad.” And then we got there. And it went from what was a finish line kind of felt like a starting line. The people at Brixton told us the fans had been camped outside for days, they’d been singing and so fucking polite and loving and just spreading love throughout Brixton for a couple of days. Just made me love them so much.
And it was an incredible show.
The thing is though, I hate that I can’t be there in the line with them. I was in Manchester the night before, and I wish I’d been in the line at Manchester, and in the line in Birmingham the day after London, and the line in fucking Utrecht a week later. It kind of sucks that I can’t be in the crowd with them. They tell me that, because I call the fans a lot, and they tell me that when they walk into that room, whether it’s 500 people, 10,000 people, a festival of 30,000 people, they have something in common. They see someone with a Black Hearts Club hat and know they can go speak to them. As well as people feel like they can be themselves here and anybody who doesn’t quite understand it can fuck off! I just nearly cried then, you fucker.
You famously gate-crashed a music industry party with your guitarist Adam before you were known and bowled straight into Noel Gallagher. Have you bumped into him since?
I’ve actually never met him. I’m good mates with his daughter Anaïs — she’s the best. She’s like our sister and always comes to our shows, but I’ve never met her dad. I don’t know what I’d say to him, to be honest. To either him or Liam. I just love them.
Do you have any kind of imposter syndrome when you’re backstage at festivals and you see all the artists you went and watched when you were younger, and now you’re performing on the same stage.
I just released “Obey,” a song with Bring Me The Horizon. When I used to get made fun of for wearing my goth boots and my skirts and my make up, I would put on Bring Me and that would get me through it and get my anger out. And then one day Oli Sykes [lead vocalist, BMTH], who I’ve loved my whole life and was from Sheffield and was exactly like me, rings me up and goes, “Do you want to be on a song?” I was like “I’m on my way to the studio, right now tonight.” Cut forward a couple of weeks later and we’re in the same house talking about music. People say don’t meet your heroes, but
I like my heroes. So far, they’ve been good.
You kiss your guitarist Adam when you perform “King Charles” live, as an expression of freedom and equality. What would you do if one day he said he didn’t want you to do that anymore?
It’s always a bit feisty that — sometimes he’ll give me a tongue back.
Doing it in Russia was pretty ballsy.
Russia was mad. Russia was one of the craziest experiences of my life, ever. We’d never been there before and there had been some death threats online saying they were going to cut my head off if I turned up in a skirt. Cool! There were so many kids at the airport when we arrived, lined up outside, in the elevator. They were down corridor! It was mental and I loved it. There’s still a lot of oppression out there to the LGTBQ+ community. I had this image in my head of having a flag and a pride flag and running on stage. To see their faces was like, we’re going to beat this. Our generation’s going to get it. I didn’t get killed. I’ve still got my head. Metaphorically, no, but literally, yes.
One last question about Adam: is the story about Cal Jam where you two are watching Tenacious D, side of stage —
Oh, you’ve done your research, haven’t you? I love it. It was a such a bizarre experience. I remember watching and thinking: “Tenacious D are playing!” School of Rock got us both into playing guitar. We can quote the whole film. So, we were watching them, and they had a break in the middle of the set and Kyle and Jack came off to the side of the stage and started hugging Adam. I was just standing there thinking, “what the fuck?” When Kyle said they had to go back on stage, Adam rubs his belly and goes, “go get ’em, big boy!” We were just buzzing after that. We had to catch a red eye to the ACL Festival, and we were supposed to sleep but I was just like, “let me lick your hand.”
“If you are not disliked than you are not saying something of value”
Magazines have always been a big thing in subcultures, alternative music and music in general. When you were growing up in Doncaster, what did you read?
NME, always. If you can make the cover then that was mental. My dad read Q, which was cool, but because he read that, I wanted to read NME. I grew up in a guitar shop, so it was always there on the counter. My dad would be asking me to clean the guitars, but I’d be reading NME.
People just look at the pictures nowadays and don’t read the words. Do you reckon anyone’s even read this far?
I hope so, fucking hell. I hope they have. In bold letters, “Don’t stop fucking reading now, it’s getting to the good bit. You twat.”
Talking guitar shops, your song “Tin Pan Boy” is about the gentrification of Denmark Street in London. Originally developers wanted to turn that historic road into a kind of Piccadilly Circus.
That would have been so shit. I really didn’t want that street to just be a row of coffee shops. The Pistols lived downstairs in a squat there, The Beatles recorded all their demos before they went to Abbey Road in Tin Pan Alley — I’ve been in there. It’s a shit hole, it’s awesome. Most studios now are like fucking dental surgeries with neon lights. Give me a cigarette-stained couch and piss on the floor any day. You sit down and you’re like, “what fluid’s that? Heroin or semen?”
Your smile is almost a trademark, but you lost a tooth when you were 16 on your first lads’ holiday, which one was it?
It was this one, [points at front right tooth]. I recently had it redone because I kept fucking it on the microphone. I still have the same dentist in Doncaster. I went to LA and they were like “your teeth are fucked!” I asked my dentist to make sure he kept the chip in it, and he did. He’s a fucking artist.
Was that holiday your first taste of freedom?
I was 16 years old and went to Spain with my best friends. It was horrendous. I lost my tooth on the first night. Then my mates all chipped in because it cost £200 to get my tooth rebuilt in some shopping center in Spain. They all put in £50 each to get my tooth redone. And then we went out that night. They’re great friends. It’s so funny, every time someone kisses me, they think I’ve had Botox in my lip, but it’s just I’ve got so much scar tissue in it. I can’t remember if I put my tooth through my lip — there was a whole lost week there.
What would be your funeral song? I’ve always thought “Welcome to the Black Parade” because it would go on so uncomfortably long.
Probably that — it’s got so many transitions, you’d be like “cry now, now fucking mosh, now cry, now spit on each other, cry again.” So probably that. Or, I don’t know, I think I’d want people to be happy. Maybe “Friday I’m in Love” by The Cure. I know that’s a bit contradictory. I’d have to have my funeral on a Friday. Or “There She Goes” by the La’s. Or something basic and classic like “Heroes” by David Bowie.
Cesar Cruz, the Mexican poet famously said “art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
Wow. That’s fucking awesome, that’s exactly what I’m saying. It’s exactly something I’m facing for the first time. As you get bigger, more people start to stick their fucking nose in and question what you stand for. I called my friend’s in bed the other night and I was saying, “I came here to create conversation, why am I shitting myself when people aren’t liking what I’m saying? Or people don’t get what I’m saying, or I’m upsetting people? I know my intention, I know who I am, and I know who they are, so why?” You check yourself, you get too big for your boots and then some fucking fist comes and slaps you in the face and you can say “I’m still here.” Because no matter what they say to you, good, bad, friend, foe, as long as you know who you are and the people closest to you accept you for who you are, nothing else fucking matters. Love as much as you can, and you’ll be loved in return. That’s one thing I’ve learnt. You’ll be hated as well but the love will overshadow it. As long as you’re willing to accept it… I’m such a hippie.