Yuck: A taste of things to come

Formed by childhood friends with a shared love for guitars and fuzz and melody, Yuck are proof that lo-fi rock is in rude health

In a guitar-strewn flat in London's Shoreditch, the four-piece guitar band are discussing the widely reported extinction of four-piece guitar bands, and then the possibility that they might somehow save rock music, as posited on Radio 4. "That whole thing was so ridiculous," says frontman and guitarist Daniel Blumberg, with a shake of his unruly Jesus and Mary Chain hair. "I don't know which of those two premises was most absurd. There's been so many amazing guitar albums made in the last year alone." He cites Caitlin Rose, Teenage Fanclub, A Grave With No Name and Titus Andronicus. "I felt like listing all my favourite records, and saying 'Yeah, we're gonna save the world from all this shit.'"

Any idea of Yuck as "saviours" is further tempered by the fact that the sound they are making in 2011 is pretty much the sound a band of indie-loving kids who weren't interested in dance music would have made 20 years ago: a cocktail of Dinosaur Jr noise, Lemonheads melody and Teenage Fanclub's wistfulness. But, by getting excited about music that hasn't been fashionable for years – and matching that enthusiasm with some truly terrific songs – they are making a road-weary sound fresh and exciting.

"There's something incredible about discovering music that becomes your own," says guitarist Max Bloom, the reflective yin to songwriting partner Blumberg's wry, opinionated yang. Three years ago, the pair were swept away by albums made by another generation of musicians entirely: Dinosaur Jr's You're Living All Over Me (1987), Fanclub's Bandwagonesque (1991) and My Bloody Valentine's ambient noise-drenched Loveless (1991). "Those albums connected with me way more than anything I've ever heard," Bloom explains. "Some albums change your way of thinking about music, playing, writing – your whole attitude changes overnight."

For Blumberg, discovering this music led to a creative surge that produced almost 40 songs. "We'd get obsessed with stuff together. It was really exciting and liberating, getting into records then making music of our own."

Yuck's two guitarists have been co-conspirators since they were six, when they met in chader, the Jewish Sunday school, after being simultaneously upbraided for their naughtiness. Back then, they were more interested in the various Spice Girls than the minutiae of US indie, but their healthy ambivalence towards what Blumberg calls "the way people deal with music in Britain" perhaps dates back to their experiences in Cajun Dance Party, an exuberant indiepop band the pair played with when they were 15. The five-piece were a school band who, bizarrely, suddenly found themselves at the centre of a record company bidding war, and signed to a major label.

"That was so weird, because we were still at school, and suddenly we were in this situation that was totally foreign to us," Blumberg says. "None of it was planned. We just ended up getting signed." Because they were so young, CDP – who were briefly a hot tip in 2007 – hardly played live and didn't do promotional work or interviews, and Blumberg, who didn't write the songs, and seems uncomfortable talking about the band at all – may be ever so slightly scarred by the experience. He says he wasn't fully formed, that he liked music "but not in the way you do when you're older", and had no opinions about anything at all. "It felt like it wasn't us, like you were looking out of the window at something happening outside."

After some records "just slid out," Cajun Dance Party collapsed when they all left school, with Blumberg and Bloom vowing that if they made music again, they'd do it their way. For a year, they licked their wounds and lived at home: Bloom in the north London suburb of Finchley, Blumberg in nearby Muswell Hill. Bloom remembers a "totally fun period" of no pressure, recording at their parents' houses and experimenting with electronic drums bought from Argos.

Having met Hiroshima-born bassist Mariko Doi – "I think we fancied her, basically," admits Blumberg – they really needed a drummer. Fatefully, when Blumberg visited a kibbutz in Israel, he had a chance meeting with giant American drummer Jonny Rogoff, who recognised Blumberg's Titus Andronicus T-shirt and yelled "They're from 25 minutes up the road from me in New Jersey!"

"Daniel suddenly came home enthusing about this guy with a gigantic Afro, who has 'the best music taste, is totally on our wavelength, and everyone says is the most amazing drummer'," Bloom remembers. The pair watched a YouTube clip of Rogoff playing in struggling local band, Impossible Voyage and knew he was their man. The only problem was he lived thousands of miles away.

"My parents were horrified by the idea of me flying off to England," Rogoff says. "They set up a sort of family court, with all their friends – and none of mine – telling me what was good for me. It was like the OJ Simpson trial." However, the leap of faith paid off: "As soon as we played together, it sounded really great," Bloom says. "And because Jonny had come so far, it felt like a responsibility. It was an incentive to play gigs and to do things properly."

Bloom says their previous experience of the music industry makes it "easier to shut it out", and the band do sometimes seem as if they are in their own happy bubble. Doi barely says anything; Rogoff, between backcombing his hair, seems excited if overwhelmed by it all and is prone to sudden, unprompted pronouncements such as, "We should have our own TV show!" Bloom and Blumberg, meanwhile, seem to have created a parallel idyll, where the indie ethic is still king, where a much-discussed new band can burn songs on to CDs and give them out to friends, record their debut on an eight-track recorder, haul the singer's 15-year old sister in to sing their first single (the sublime Georgia), and where bands such as Silver Jews and Lambchop still rule the roost.

In reality, Yuck are signed to the major indie label Fat Possum (home of Band of Horses) in the US; their UK one is a subsidiary of Universal. That means they may face pressure they have never seen before. However, Blumberg seems adept at deflating expectations, and confident that they can weather the storm. "We don't think in terms of commerce," he insists, "and whatever people say about us, we laugh about it for two seconds and then get on with making music."

He is particularly unimpressed with suggestions that Yuck are a revival of grunge, the American movement that mixed metal with a punk aesthetic and sold in Michael Jacksonesque quantities, which the record companies are no doubt praying for again. "All I know about grunge is that it's tied to Nirvana," he says. "One of our songs is acoustic, with trumpets. It would be really cool if that gets labelled grunge."

The single Holing Out is released on 7 February on Pharmacy. Yuck's self-titled debut album follows on 21 February.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Yuck: Yuck – review
Yuck are shamelessly unoriginal, which doesn't stop Michael Hann adoring their debut

Michael Hann

17, Feb, 2011 @11:59 PM

Article image
First sight: Yuck/Yu(c)k
Yuck have made a splash on the live circuit with a guitar-driven mix of 90s shoegazing and grunge. Yu(c)k make beautiful, fragile music without guitars – like Bon Iver crossed with Galaxie 500. By Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

19, Aug, 2010 @9:20 PM

Article image
Yuck | Pop review

Hope, Brighton
Yuck have been advanced as part of a grunge revival but when they shamble into life on stage it becomes clear that's not quite the case, writes Alexis Petridis

Alexis Petridis

08, Oct, 2010 @8:46 PM

Article image
Yuck: Glow and Behold – review
Guitarist Max Bloom takes the vocal reins for the slacker-rock revivalist's pretty but forgettable second album, writes Charlotte Richardson Andrews

Charlotte Richardson Andrews

26, Sep, 2013 @10:00 PM

Article image
Will Yuck and Midlake be able to 'do a Pink Floyd'?

Losing a singer doesn't have to mean the end of a band, as numerous prog and metal acts have proved

James Medd

27, Sep, 2013 @12:00 PM

Article image
The people who control the music you hear, like and buy

So you think you decide what goes into your music collection? Wrong. Alexis Petridis speaks to the people who control what you hear, like and buy

Alexis Petridis

29, Sep, 2005 @11:03 PM

Keith Cameron explores the history of the Australian punk scene

You thought punks in the UK had things to be angry about? Over in Australia, bands had a real fight on their hands, says Keith Cameron.

Keith Cameron

20, Jul, 2007 @9:33 AM

Arcade Fire discuss the bitter taste of success

They've crashed into the mainstream and Hollywood adores them, but Arcade Fire aren't happy. Alexis Petridis meets a band trying to make sense of their ascent to stardom.

Alexis Petridis

26, Oct, 2007 @8:40 AM

Article image
Paul Lester investigates new young women artists

The music business has a whole army of new young women artists lined up, Paul Lester investigates

Paul Lester

21, May, 2009 @11:01 PM

Article image
CD: Fujiya & Miyagi, Transparent Things


Dorian Lynskey

12, May, 2006 @1:09 AM