By Michael Lello
The second album comes with its own inherent pressures. When you are coming off a critically buzzed-about debut record and the departure of your frontman, you’re dealing with even more potential obstacles.
But Yuck, the young indie-rock outfit from London, seemed oblivious to perceived expectations when guitarist Max Bloom slid into departed frontman Daniel Blumberg’s vacated position and led the band into “Glow & Behold,” its 2013 second album – an effort just as good, if not better, than the self-titled 2011 debut, with some shoegaze-y textures adding to the band’s guitar squall.
“I didn’t really feel like pressure,” Bloom told Highway 81 Revisited during a recent Skype interview in advance of Yuck’s winter U.S. tour, which begins Tuesday, Jan. 14 at Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia. “Obviously, I knew it was our second album but that really excited me. I didn’t feel any negativity towards that fact. This album was always something that was going to be important to me and I wanted to make something that I would be proud of. I had been making this album for a really long time. I put a lot of time and effort into these songs. We made the album that we wanted to make, so I guess in terms of pressure, I guess I didn’t really feel like I needed to impress anyone.”
The guitarist/vocalist Bloom – who is joined in Yuck by original members Jonny Rogoff (drums), bassist Mariko Doi (bass) and newest member Ed Hayes (guitar) – talked to us about adapting to his new role in the band, opening for The Pixies and a memorable show in Philadelphia a few years ago.
H81R: Tell me a bit about the making of “Glow and Behold.” To me it seems like a more cohesive effort than the first album and also has some different feels, sonically. What was the intention and how do you feel about the results?
MB: It’s difficult to say. It kind of feels quite long ago at this point. I guess we wanted to make something that you could listen to from start to finish in one kind of go, and we were thinking more about the album rather than the individual songs.
H81R: Why did you decide to work with producer Chris Coady (The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio, Beach House)? What type of influence did he have on making the album?
MB: I felt like these songs, I wanted them to be recorded in a studio and I wanted to see what it was like working with someone else. It was just like a collaborative thing. You compare the results and I didn’t particularly want to do the same thing as I did last time, like kind of go into my parents’ house and record and come out with something that, you know, was good, but I wanted to try something a little bit different and push ourselves.
H81R: Were there any particular albums that he produced that made you want to work with him?
MB: I became aware of him through the Smith Westerns, but there wasn’t any one album in particular, I just kind of liked his sounds and the way that he made things sound. So I just kind of I’d have a go with my gut and try it.
H81R: Was there an adjustment period to becoming the frontman for the band?
MB: Yeah, like, it was really difficult at times. It didn’t take long. The first three shows, it was like getting used to it, and it kind of sucks that I had to get used to it being on stage in that way in front of a lot of people, but at this point it’s like, we’ve done a lot of gigs now and it didn’t take very long for us to relax and have fun and kind of enjoy how weird and fucked up is to be on stage and have people looking at you. Something that I’ve grown to really enjoy. I really enjoy making the gigs as fun as possible, and it’s something that I guess has come as a result of there being a different energy now, because obviously the lineup has changed. It feels very different. I guess it’s just a lot different, it’s a lot more fun.
H81R: Do you feel like you will be reintroducing your band to audiences on this tour?
MB: It’s difficult to say really. We still kind of play old songs but obviously they sound different and stuff. I guess it’s like (the) majority (of the setlist is) new stuff. But yeah, like, I don’t know. I don’t really think about it, but in a way I guess maybe we have to sort of prove ourselves a little bit. But I don’t care about that because the band has never sounded so good, and I feel like the way we’re sounding now live is kind of a really huge accomplishment, and I’ve never been prouder to step up on stage. I think we’ve worked hard.
In some ways I guess we’re reintroducing ourselves, but I think it’s yes and no. We’re still the same people. It depends which way you look at it.
H81R: You recently toured with The Pixies. What was that like?
MB: It was really great. Really nice people. They’re a huge influence on this band, so it kind of felt huge and really scary. I guess I was quite absorbed with the fact that I was playing with The Pixies and didn’t really consider the fact that these were actually the biggest shows we had ever played, even thought it was (as) a support act, it was still several thousand people every night and we had never played in front of a crowd that large; maybe like once. So I didn’t really realize how big the crowds would be until I actually stepped up and said, ‘Oh shit, this is a big fucking deal,’ and what’s more, they weren’t even there to see us, so it was like working twice as hard to try and make people pay attention. They were there to see The Pixies.
I think people really enjoyed it. It was actually really fun, really relaxing and no stress, no pressure.
MB: It’s hard to pinpoint a few people, but I’ve always really liked Wilco and Jeff Tweedy. And I guess like maybe like on the last album I was quite influenced by Grandaddy and Neil Young.
H81R: Do you consider yourself a music fan? Do you seek out and listen to new stuff?
MB: I find it difficult to listen to new music, just because there’s so much out there and it’s kind of overwhelming. I just kind of listen to music based on recommendations and related artists on All Music and stuff like that.
H81R: What’s next for the band? Are you working on new material?
MB: There will be stuff before the end of the year and we’re recording right now, so there should be new music.
H81R: Will it be a full-length album?
MB: I haven’t decided yet. We’ll see.
H81R: Do you have any particular memories of playing in Philadelphia previously?
MB: Yeah, I do. I remember supporting Tame Impala there, and it was like the basement of a church (Editor’s note: First Unitarian Church). And there was a very strong scent of marijuana. Jonny’s brother was at university there at the time. But yeah, it was a fun show. I enjoyed it a lot.
H81R: Do you have any particular goals for the band right now, either short term or long term?
MB: I try to not think that much about the future because plans always change and you never kind of end up getting what you want. But now I want to make some music that I really like and I hope people like it as well I guess. I want to just make a lot of new stuff and maybe put out some more releases (this) year.
Yuck with Alvvays and Hurry, Johnny Brenda’s (1201 N. Frankford Ave., Philadelphia), Tuesday, Jan. 14, 8 p.m. doors, 9:15 show, tickets $15