When a band mate decides to go their own way, typically the remaining members make a sad announcement on their website that regrets their departure, says how they respect their decision, and wishes them luck in future ventures. There’s a pretty standard formula. But when Daniel Blumberg, lead singer and principal songwriter for Yuck, quit the band early last year, there was no such solemn statement from the rest of the group. They seemed almost happy, in fact.
“What’s up! Lots of new things have been happening in Yuck world,” read the memo. “We’re getting ready to go to New York this week to record our 2nd album! Unfortunately, Daniel won’t be joining us as he’s decided to focus on other things. However, new music, new tour dates, and bigger afros will be coming very soon. So get ready. GET. READY.”
It seemed a casual dismissal of someone who was assumed to be the lifeblood of the London-based band. And one, after all, who was principally responsible for Yuck’s wonderful self-titled 2011 debut, that paid tribute to the sound of Nineties slacker indie rock acts such as Dinosaur Jr and Pavement.
Since then, their guitarist Max Bloom, 23, has stepped up to fill Blumberg’s grubby Converse. A new guitarist, Ed Hayes, was also recruited to join drummer Jonny Rogoff and bassist Mariko Doi. The foursome then wrote, recorded and released their second record, Glow & Behold, which follows on nicely from the fuzzy guitar and lo-fi sound of their debut. Meeting the band in a west London venue before a show, they are jubilant and excited. Blumberg’s departure has clearly not derailed the band as it could so easily have.
“Daniel leaving wasn’t really a surprise as such because it was kind of a long time coming throughout the year that we were touring,” Bloom recalls. “I could tell that he didn’t really want to be there and his heart wasn’t really in it. He was devoting a lot more time and energy to his solo stuff. Then it came to a point where we just went our separate ways. It kind of felt like it was always going to happen.”
Following the departure, there might have been more obvious routes to take: a name change or dissolution of the band altogether. Neither was ever considered. “I’d already written a lot of material and I really believed in the music,” says Bloom. “I didn’t want the band just to end and to throw it all away. I thought that would be a real shame. And it didn’t feel right to change the name. I feel like the sound of Yuck is not something that belonged to Daniel. I feel like it’s not something that he necessarily deserves to take away with him. The sound of the band is contributed to by each member.”
Fans too seem unfazed by the change in line-up. “They have been so lovely and great,” nods Bloom enthusiastically. “When we put out the first song I was freaking out but everyone was really, really supportive. I couldn’t really have asked for more than that. We had the odd person being like, “Daniel” with a sad face afterwards but apart from that people have been very positive.”
The band recorded the latest album in an old church in upstate New York. Their producer, Chris Coady, suggested it (he had recorded Beach House’s Teen Dream there.) It was the perfect place to re-bond as a group. “It really appealed to me as it was completely isolated and there were no distractions,” recalls Bloom. “It was pretty intense. We lived and worked there for three weeks, doing 14 hour days. It was something quite unique for us.”
The first single from Glow & Behold to be released was “Rebirth”, which wasn’t quite the statement it looks like. “I thought it would be cool to put that out first, then the day before its release our manager suggested we change the song title,” says Bloom. “I asked why, and he said it was a bit cheesy, like we’re reborn as a band or something. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that is really cheesy.’ But it was too late by then. It’s pretty stupid we didn’t realise that glaringly obvious point.”
Many reviews of the new record, released at the end of September, have commented on the fact that it sounds much more structured, and less rough around the edges than the first. Was this intentional?
“I can see why people have said that,” agrees Bloom. “The first album was recorded in my parent’s house on GarageBand with one microphone. It cost nothing to make so it was definitely more lo-fi than this album. But I didn’t want to do that with this album. I wanted to be in a position where I could experiment and maybe not necessarily know what to expect. Get out of my comfort zone.”
The live shows are different now too, they all say. More fun this time around. “It’s been really good, like a whole new experience,” says Rogoff. “The energy is at a whole other level now.”
Bloom has taken to his new role with great ease. It’s clear he is now the leader of the pack. During our time together, while everyone else is cheery and polite, it is Bloom who does almost all of the talking. He’s relishing his new position, and is evidently taking it very seriously.
“I was in bed at a reasonable hour last night and I’ve been drinking a lot of tea and doing vocal exercises,” laughs Bloom. “Going on tour the last time I could do anything I wanted but now I feel like I have the experience of having partied a lot and now there’s a lot of responsibility. If I went out until six in the morning and had a croaky voice the next day, I’d be like, ‘Why did I do that?’ I’ve done that a million times. Responsibility. I think I’m turning into an adult.”
Yuck play London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 19 February