Though Yuck has been a band for less than a decade, the London-based garage-pop outfit has already managed to cram what feels like a lifetime of Behind The Music-worthy experiences into their backstory. Formed in 2009, when most of the band members were still in high school, the group quickly garnered attention for their early singles (2010’s “Georgia” being a standout) and in 2011—after having already toured with the likes of Tame Impala—they released a self-titled debut album (the gloriously fuzzed-out Yuck) to critical and commercial acclaim.
This early success was followed by the departure of founding member Daniel Blumberg in 2013 and the induction of new guitarist Edward Hayes. The band promptly got to work on a sophomore album (2013’s Glow & Behold) in upstate NYC whilst overcoming the anxiety of a lineup change and the realities of a bug-infested recording studio. As rock and roll stories go, theirs is not an uncommon one—or even an outrageously dramatic one—but for frontman Max Bloom, the path has felt almost comically arduous. “It’s so cheesy, the whole thing,” he says. “Being in a band really is like Spinal Tap. There’s so many situations in music rockumentaries that actually echo my life, it really is a giant cliché.”
Cliché or not, the path that Yuck has taken has seemingly all been leading up to the band’s excellent third album, Stranger Things, a record brimming with manic energy and pop hooks for days. Released online last summer, the record’s first song “Hold me Closer” is a visceral primer for what the rest of the record has in store. “I remember the first couple of songs that started the record off, I basically wrote one morning when I was very high on coffee,” says Bloom. “I guess it set the tone for everything that came after that.”
To that end, tracks like “Cannonball” come ripping out of the gate with the appropriately buzzed-out guitar sound that made previous Yuck tracks like “The Wall” such epic jams, while “Yr Face” could be a long-lost lover to an old Dinosaur Jr or Built to Spill record. Stranger Things is a remarkably gentle record as well, with tunes like “Swirling”, “Like a Moth”, and “I’m OK” addressing the fears and uncertainties that followed the band for the last few tumultuous years. “‘I’m Ok’ is a very personal song because it’s just about the anxiety I’ve been feeling over the last couple of years. It’s very cathartic to write about in a song, but definitely not easy to speak about,” says Bloom. “It felt important with this record to deal with a bunch of that stuff, clear out the past, and make a fresh go of things.”
Recorded in London over the course of several months at the band’s own pace, Stranger Things reflects the refreshingly un-fraught state of affairs within the group. “The band feels better now than it ever has,” says Bloom, “We recorded the drums in a rehearsal studio by our house, which we’ve rehearsed at for ages. Everything else was done at my parent’s house—in the same room we recorded the first record, which wasn’t an intentional thing. It’s just the only quiet space that we have access to in London! Mostly I wanted to make the in a space that I was comfortable in. I wanted no one else involved—just me and Ed and Mariko and Johnny—and to just do it in a way that suited us and not have other people there messing with our vision or whatever. I just wanted to get on with it and make something that was truly us and not affected by any outside influences. We basically spent no money on the record and it was a really relaxed way of doing things. I really, really like it. I’m more proud of it than anything we’ve ever done.”
“I think all records have stress because shit just happens—you lose files, guitar pedals break, stuff like that—and that’s normal. Still, there was a hell of a lot more stress on the second album than there should have been. This time, I wanted it to be fun. I wanted it to be really simple and really fun to play. If a record is not fun, if the songs are not fun for the band, it shortens the time that it takes for it to get stale. I didn’t want to stray too far at all from guitar, bass, drums, and vocals because that’s the format that I fell in love with as a music fan. All my favorite bands keep to those limitations and work within those guidelines. I think it’s what we’re best at.”
Stranger Things is the sound of a band firing on all cylinders, finally comfortable in their own skin and in control of their own vision. Having overcome the weird expectations that come with being a buzzed about new band and all the attenuating complications and growing pains that come with it. Having made exactly the record they want to make, the band—who have now sold well over 50,000 albums worldwide—are looking forward to getting back on the road and playing the songs that made them so happy to create.
“We’ll just see where it goes, really,” says Bloom, “It’s difficult to have any expectations because I’m quite a negative person (laughs) so I try not to. But this record is all us—it is everything that we owned and everything that we had. It was just a record that was made completely on our terms. I guess that’s why I’m comfortable with the idea of people liking it or even not liking it. If people don’t like it, then it means they just don’t like the band and I can’t force people to like the band. All we can do is make songs that we love…and we’ve done that.“