YUNGBLUD's rise to global stardom has been meteoric to say the least, but that's his MO. YUNGBLUD is a force – mayhem follows him wherever he goes, and that's just the way he wants it. His spirit is one of anarchy and upheaval, but it's also one of deep love and respect for everyone around him. YUNGBLUD, by his own words, never fit in, and he turned that resentment against the world into his first album, 21st Century Liability.
Once that first album dropped, reaching millions across the globe, YUNGBLUD realised that he wasn't alone in his exile – millions of others felt the exact same way. His second album, Weird!, is a tribute to the outcast. It's a searing onslaught of punk rock, with deep and precious tender moments glistening in between.
MTV Australia caught up with YUNGBLUD earlier this week to talk about his new album, how his recent heartbreak inspired his work, and his upcoming reunion with Aussie fans.
MTV Australia: Let's go back a few weeks, where you performed at the MTV EMAs and took it to literally new heights. What was that experience like?
YUNGBLUD: It was so exciting doing that, because, obviously being European, I've watched the EMAs my whole life. But, they kept giving me what I wanted [for the performance] and I was almost unreasonable. I was like, "I want to fly on a fucking wire with angel wings on, and I want to drop down and smash a red spike ball, and I want a camera following me the whole time." I went fucking crazy, but it was cool, and I loved it. And to get an intro like that from Dave Grohl, that's crazy.
Is he a musical hero of yours?
He's literally one of the reasons I picked up guitar.
Is there a reason for that or is it just that you love Foo Fighters?
It's everything, man. He was in Nirvana. It was him, Jack Black and Oasis.
What a supergroup. At the EMAs, you performed a medley of "Cotton Candy" and "Strawberry Lipstick", which feel like very different songs. And listening to Weird!, all the songs are so contrasting. You've got "superdeadfriends", which is loud and fuzzy and in your face, and that's followed by "Love Song", which is muted and vulnerable. How do you balance the want to experiment with your sound with the need for coherence in a single project?
It's so interesting, man. It's kind of the easiest thing for me – to not place barriers on my head, and to let it make truthful good shit. That's my favourite thing. Making a second album, there's a lot of cooks in the kitchen saying, "We want it to be more commercial, we want it to be more digestible." But I think I went the other way.
Your first album feels more digestible in that way.
I have such a community and a culture where we rely on each other for telling each other the fucking truth. When people ask, "Why are you and your fanbase so tight?" I say it's because we tell each other the truth. I wanted to write an album about the weirdest years of our lives. I wanted it to be truthful, and real. Music can have such an agenda right now, and I don't want to write music for a motive. I want to write music for a reason. And this album, I wrote for a reason.
Obviously, 2020 has been so fucked up. Everything is so unpredictable and crazy. In a way, this album is kind of the same. There's so many elements that blindside you because you weren't expecting it. On the flipside, the theme feels similar to that of 21st Century Liability: you're giving a voice to those who don't have one. But your situation has changed – you're much more visible now, less of a traditional 'outsider' than you were before. Do you think that change in publicity changed how you wrote the album?
I think so, yeah. The first album was so fucking angry and so full of contradictions. I felt so unheard my whole life. I would go crazy throwing shit at the wall, going, "Is there anyone out there like me?" Turns out, there's a lot of people out there like me. This album, I figured out I had somewhere to belong. Once you figure out that you have somewhere to belong, it's like you've been given lungs for the first time.
It was like, "Holy fuck! I have a family and a community that aren't leaving anytime soon". That was the only thing I thought about while writing this record. I got to put away the anger and the shields, and actually talk about how I feel.
It's interesting you say that because that's something we picked up on while listening to the album. There's such a level of honesty and vulnerability there. How do you share so much without feeling emotionally drained or exhausted? Is it hard?
It's not anymore because the fans provided me with the courage to do so. I've met every kid from every continent, every colour, every shape, every size, every sexuality, every point of view, every fucking way of life. We have this understanding that if we put our hearts on a silver platter and someone stabs it, someone else is going to patch it up.
With the recent single, "Mars", that song comes from an experience you had meeting one of your fans in particular. Do you see yourself writing more songs based on fan stories in the future?
100%. That's how this culture and this community will get cemented in history. These are songs about people. These aren't songs about made-up situations. These songs aren't about materialistic bollocks. It's about life and change and people and living and existing, proudly. That's something that won't go away.
Do you feel a sense of duty telling those stories?
Totally. I've been trying to crack "Mars" for nearly 18 months. It's my responsibility to that young woman that I met, you know?
Because it's her experience and not your own?
That's it, and to release it when I'm proud of it. That's what I always say. When I go to put a song out, I ask myself, "Could anyone else sing it? Am I telling the truth, and do I fucking mean it?" If I answer all those questions correctly, then the song will come out.
There's a clear nod to David Bowie on "Mars". Are there any other musical heroes that inspired this album?
Bowie, Gaga, Manson, Lily Allen, Blur, Oasis, Gaga again, Paramore, My Chemical Romance, Panic! At The Disco, Eminem. So, so many. They all had a culture around them.
One of our favourites on the album is "It's Quiet In Beverly Hills". That song really struck us in its intimacy. Do you have a standout favourite on the album, this close to release date?
"Mars" or "The Freak Show". "The Freak Show" with that ending is just massive... "Times will change and you might break but I'll spend the rest of my life believing in you".
That's the whole message of the album, isn't it? But there are some other themes, too. You speak about sexual liberation on "Cotton Candy", why did you feel like this was a message you wanted to share? Do you feel responsible for breaking down walls and barriers, given your close relationship with your fans?
I feel like speaking to them has allowed my sexuality to evolve daily. When it comes to sexuality, once you learn more and your mind becomes more open, you understand yourself a lot more. You understand the energy of what you're attracted to. It doesn't necessarily have to be rules in a rulebook. I learn so much from [my fans], and they learn so much from me. My sexuality from even two years ago has evolved massively. It's evolving every single day and that's exciting as fuck. I wanted to radiate the idea that sexuality ain't a choice, it's a feeling.
With sexuality comes love, and with love comes heartbreak – both of which are themes explored in Weird! How did heartbreak impact your songwriting?
Firstly, no one can prepare you for that shit, for falling in love and then having your heart broken. "Love Song" was very interesting to me. There was a bit of violence in my house growing up, that made me question the idea of what love meant. I always felt very loved, but it made me look at love and think: "If that's what love is, I don't want a part of that. I'm going to be alone forever and that's it".
And then I fell in love, and that person redefined all my emotions, and redefined every single thing that I felt. That didn't work out so great, and it hurt like fuck, but I'll never take any of it back, because it taught me so much about myself and how awesome love can be. Just speaking about it makes me excited to fall in love again.
But the amount of love I feel every single day from my fanbase [is crazy]. I ain't here right now going, "Do I need something more?". I'm so fulfilled and I'm so happy with the incredible fanbase that I've got around me, I feel so lucky.
Speaking of your fanbase, Australia fucking loves YUNGBLUD and they've been loving your work…
From the very fucking beginning, and from then on.
There was an Australian tour just announced, you're coming back next year, all things permitting. Are you excited to come back?
I am absolutely counting down the minutes. The last shows were insane. The "Fuck ScoMo" chants, the riot of people outside the shows. The police had to be called in Sydney, because we shut down Enmore Road.
The "Fuck ScoMo" chant was a very direct and passionate political call-out. Even some of our biggest Australian artists shy away from doing stuff like that.
The thing is that YUNGBLUD's going to say what no one else wants to say even if it gets us in trouble. Kids were angry, kids were angry about the fires and the way it was dealt with, and the way he was treating young people. The kids deserve to be heard.
Do you see yourself as a spokesperson in that regard?
People always tell me that I've been called a voice of a generation. Fuck that, no. I'm a voice in a generation. My voice is just as loud as the person's next to me. My voice is just as loud as every single kid in the YUNGBLUD community. It's them, it's not me, it's us. It's always, and will always be, us.
YUNGBLUD's new album, Weird!, drops tomorrow.
Words and interview by Jackson Langford. The interview has been shortened for clarity and brevity.
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