“I want to talk about real shit.”
Yungblud, AKA Dominic Harrison, explains what drove him, a Brit, to write a song called "Machine Gun (Fuck the NRA)." He's speaking to New Times by phone from Los Angeles in the most charming accent this side of Peppa Pig. “I want to write real music that connects, and talk about real things in a world that’s dilutin’ and avoidin’ the subject.”
Yungblud, 21, grew up in Northern England, where his dad was a guitar dealer and young Dominic was, he says, a “little idiot running around the dusty guitars on the counter, giving everybody my mouth. I was very gobby.” He’s been in bands since he was about 12 years old and was signed to Interscope two years ago. Musically, he moves from pop-punk anthems to ska-tinged rockers to stripped-down acoustic sets — and, yes, that’s him on the more mainstream “11 Minutes” with his apparent girlfriend Halsey. (Their talents, though, are better displayed on a heart-wrenching cover of Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” they performed for an Australian radio show.)
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Yungblud came onto the scene with “King Charles,” which juxtaposes an infectiously boppy beat with lyrics about a historical figure from the 1600s. (”You took the taxes to fund the evil.”) “He would take money from the poor people to fund unnecessary wars,” Yungblud says. “Well, 400 years later, we’re destroying the planet, dropping bombs on other countries.”
In “Tin Pan Boy,” Yungblud shouts at London developers who gentrified a neighborhood around Denmark Street, AKA Tin Pan Alley, where he learned to play guitar. “Everything got torn down and became super-corporate there. It had been all independent art and music shops. The true soul gets taken out of an area — for what? For another fucking coffee shop?”
The video for “Medication” is a biting reflection of American culture: Yungblud and his bandmates are wild-eyed, pill-chomping, A Clockwork Orange-looking kids who gleefully run up to an ice-cream truck, which doles out assault rifles instead of popsicles. On camera, he comes off as funny and rather adorable, even when dressed as a rabid Girl Scout munching on a bloody leg, or wearing a straitjacket while licking a brain.
Yungblud says he was profoundly affected by the Parkland shooting and would like to find a way to pay his respects when he hits Fort Lauderdale for a show at Culture Room this Saturday, May 4. Last year, he was on tour in a van when he learned of the incident; amazed at the power of the teenagers who had rallied millions of people, he later drove five hours to join a March for Our Lives protest in Atlanta. “It’s a worldwide issue,” he says of gun violence. “For the sake of the human race, this needs to stop.”
He also knows the answer to Brexit: a second referendum. “I completely support democracy; however, the first referendum was not a majority. The count was split, 52 to 48 percent, so the country was completely divided. If it had been 70 percent, I’d say OK, people felt it. People didn’t know what they were getting into. Sixteen-year-olds didn’t get to vote, and the majority of 85-and-over people that voted are deceased now. The government has no idea what it’s doing. If you can’t reach a compromise, you should go back to the people.” He’s dismayed that the drawn-out Brexit process is sucking attention from other urgent matters, such as climate change.
“I found myself very unfulfilled, misunderstood, quite lonely, to be honest, in my own head," he says of his younger self. "I wanted to create something that would connect to as many people as possible.” He imagined building a fan base that would double as a tight-knit community, like Lady Gaga’s or My Chemical Romance’s. That mission is fully underway: As evident on social media, fans from Australia to Mexico are slipping on their pink socks (a Yungblud signature fashion), copying the black heart tattoos on his fingers (he didn’t think of Joan Jett & the Blackhearts till after he got them), and bouncing up and down for two hours straight at his shows. Even without much press stateside, Yungblud’s U.S. tour sold out in minutes.
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“Dude, it’s mad!” he says. “I literally sat at home with me mum, watching it. These little boxes went green as [each venue] was sold out, going ding, ding, ding!” Yungblud clawed back some tickets that had been snagged by scalpers and re-offered them to fans, and he hinted even more tour dates might be added to a schedule that already has him booked for much of the year. Last month, he released a live album from a show in Atlanta, and a new song is likely to drop any day now.
“We’re such a global generation. Young people, no matter what country we’re from, we’re all thinking the same shit,” he says. “I have so much faith in my generation. We see a future we want to be a part of. We believe in this equal, fair world. Some people say that’s naive, but I think it’s around the corner.”
As for his career: “I know exactly what I want to do. I’m ready to go, man. I’m grateful for everything that’s happened so far, but Yungblud is just getting started.”
Yungblud. With Saint Phnx. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 4, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; 954-564-1074; cultureroom.net. Tickets are sold out.