Best Of 2011: Q&A With Yuck

All the hype that’s enveloped Yuck’s self-titled debut can mean one of two things: that the relative youngsters in this multinational, coed quintet have a long and fruitful career ahead of them, or that they’re destined to collapse in a sorry heap of deflated expectations. In naming Yuck 2011’s best album, MAGNET’s critics are banking on the former. The band’s London-born co-leaders, singer/guitarists Daniel Blumberg and Max Bloom, display an affable self-confidence (as opposed to unwarranted arrogance), and their white-knuckle grasp of spine-tingling volume and dynamics belies their 20-odd years. They’ve chewed up and spit out all that’s wasteful and tired about the shoegaze and Fort Apache bands they so obviously cherish, saving the rest for Yuck, a prodigious hunk of fuzzed-out, pedal-happy guitar bliss that’s catchy as hell and hardly feels like a definitive statement. Which is a good thing.

MAGNET caught up with Blumberg during the group’s recent European tour.

“Georgia” (download):

“Rubber” (download):

So, how does it feel to be picked as MAGNET’s number-one album of 2011?
It’s very nice, unexpected and strange. We put a lot of energy and love into making it, but there’ve been a lot of good albums released this year: Bill Callahan’s Apocalypse, Pure X’s Pleasure, Unknown Mortal Orchestra [self-titled], Grouper’s Dream Loss and Alien Observer, Kurt Vile’s Smoke Ring For My Halo.

The accolades have come fast and furious for you guys. How do you not let it get to your heads?
For me, it feels like we just started, and I’m in awe of a lot of other artists around at the moment, so I don’t really get too emotionally involved with all the accolades.

My guess is that if you hear one more My Bloody Valentine or Dinosaur Jr comparison, it’ll be one too many. Does all the name-dropping ever get old?
You can’t really control what people will say about your music, but a lot of the bands that we’re compared to we really like, so it’s fine. It’s difficult to describe music, so it makes sense that people reference other bands.

Are there influences on Yuck that critics and fans have totally missed?
A band called Video Nasties was very influential for me. They were a band in London that no one really cared for, but they’re one of my favorites—especially around the time we formed Yuck. Nobody really mentions Lambchop, either.

Yuck has a rather unique international makeup. How did that come about?
(Bassist) Mariko (Doi) is from Japan, but Max and I met her in London. (Drummer) Jonny (Rogoff) is from New Jersey; I met him in Israel on a kibbutz a few months before we started the band. We talked for about an hour. A few months later, when Max and I had recorded some songs, we sent them to him and asked him to live with us and make music. He dropped out of university and came to London.

Does the band have a legitimate home base at this point?
We’ve been touring the whole year, so we haven’t been back much, but London is where we’re based.

What’s your take on how the music on the album translates to the stage?
It’s different. We have a soundman, Lewis Lovely, who makes the drums sound nice. There’s much more space, and it’s just generally bigger and more powerful. We recorded Yuck on a very basic digital eight-track. On some of the songs, Max was playing these very cheap electric drum pads, so there was a lot of potential for opening up the sound. Also, my sister Ilana doesn’t tour with us, and she sings on a lot of the songs on the album.

Given the remarkable reception Yuck has received, are you feeling any pressure to come back with something even better?
If we write a “good” record, then people will like it. If we write a “bad” record, then people will listen to something else. I don’t really feel pressure. We’ll just do something that we like.

Or perhaps the idea is to come up with something completely different.
We kept the first album pretty loose and natural when we were writing, so I don’t really know. We’ll see. Maybe … maybe.

So, who’s the resident guitar god—you or Max?
A thousand percent Max. Have you heard him shred?

—Hobart Rowland