Yuck the trend
Ailbhe Malone gets the normally shy group Yuck laughing about crazy days on their tour bus and their plans for the future
Yuck aren't known for being chatty. In keeping with their 90s fuzz-pop and Jesus and Mary Chain haircuts, they are an exceptionally shy group. Mumbling about influences is normally the pinnacle of interaction, but, magically, they're currently laughing down the phone line, and waxing lyrical about, erm, badminton.
Guitarist Max Bloom is speaking from backstage at a festival in Austria. The group are due onstage in under an hour, and he's explaining how the band have recently discovered racket games. "One of the things we've started doing this tour is playing badminton! We keep badminton rackets and shuttlecocks in the van, we just get out and play it when we stop. It's so much fun! We don't have a net or anything -- it's freeform badminton."
Touring has taken its toll on the group. Since the release of their titular debut album Yuck in February, the quartet have been continuously on the road. How to tour well has been the biggest lesson Bloom's learnt this year, by a long shot, he muses.
"It's weird, because you are with these people for 24 hours a day -- it's not a normal relationship. You're in an unnatural environment, because even when you hang out with a group of best friends, you're not together the whole time in an enclosed space. But that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy their company -- I do. Our band is a great group of people, in the sense that there's someone who suits every mood. It's quite a good dynamic. Everyone has a different personality -- it's not one group of loud party animals.
"I think every band has a learning curve in order to keep a good mental attitude on tour. It's hard sometimes, because you have to decide... being on tour is like being in a bubble. You don't have any responsibility, everything is organised for you. You don't have to think at all. It can be strange when you get home and you don't have everything laid out for you. You can go crazy and go out partying, but, then again, you might be away for two weeks, and it feels like five months! You get back and you feel like 'what's just happened?' I feel like I've learnt about being away, and how to make it seem like it's normal. It's not a normal thing to do."
The touring facilities have stepped up incrementally however, he reminisces. "We toured America three times. On the first and second time, we were doing it on a budget and we had this small transit van. And the second time we had more gear and we had boxes in between us on the seats, and it was really uncomfortable. So for the most recent tour, we made an upgrade and we got a bigger van. It was SO cool.
"It had a TV and individual leather seats. It was a big treat! And Johnny would play FIFA pretty much constantly, and sometimes they'd play Lego Batman. Sometimes we get films too -- we watched the Creation Records film last night. But not really, we just listen to music. Our tour manager really likes punk and hardcore, so he had 100pc control over the music in the van. So all the time, it's just shouting and really fast drumming. When I get control of the iPod, I just make a classic rock or 60s playlist for a change. I like a themed playlist."
It's a far shot from his first experience of being in a band. For most, the zenith of their nascent teenage groups is playing a slot at a school talent show. For Bloom, along with fellow band-mate Daniel Blumberg, their teenage group Cajun Dance Party signed a deal with XL Recordings and recorded their debut album with Bernard Butler.
Bloom is often asked to reflect on his time with Cajun Dance Party, but he was brought in on bass just before the group spiralled into the big time. It must be, I query, a bit like being asked about the girlfriend you had when you were 14 -- you know, it was a one-week relationship, but it's six years on now and you're seeing someone new?
There's a pause at the end of the phone line, then a response. "Yes, I suppose so. That's quite perceptive. It just feels like a very distant memory. It was a really big blur, and I was quite young at the time. It was hard to take it all in. I doubt there was as much emotion attached as there would have been had I had a girlfriend."
"It was just, for me, it was never the band that I was going to be writing the songs for. At the end of the day, it wasn't the group of musicians that I chose. I didn't start the band, I played the role of bass player and didn't really expand beyond that. I knew that I wanted to not necessarily have control of the band, but I wanted to play with people I could work with creatively -- and also be playing guitar. I don't feel like I have control or whatever -- but Yuck feels more natural. I didn't really know what was happening in Cajun, it really was a big blur."
Enough of the past, though. To the future. Once this tour is over (including an appearance at Electric Picnic), there are plans afoot, Bloom shares. "Daniel's actually starting a label called Boiled Egg. He's releasing tapes and stuff. I don't think I could do that -- I'm not a very good business man.
"As far as new-new songs, we haven't been at home for a while. It's most likely that when I get home I'll start. I think there are 10 songs, five of which I'd consider putting in an album. Right now it's important to focus on touring, and we have to decide what we want to do. EP or album or whatever. Once the songs are in front of us, we can consider what we want to do with them. Some bands can sit down with an acoustic guitar and just write songs, but I need to be in calm environment with all my recording equipment in my own space. If you don't feel comfortable, then the song isn't gong to work."
Yuck are performing at Electric Picnic on September 2
Day & Night