Defiant, not divisive: Yungblud on genre-bending punk with a conscience

Originally written for Beat Magazine.

At just 19 years old, Yungblud is an exciting, chaotic figure at the peak of a fresh punk movement, boasting social consciousness and talent in spades.

Dominic Harrison, as he’s otherwise known, released his debut single ‘King Charles’ in April 2017. Then, through an instantly catchy chorus, his track ‘I Love You, Will You Marry Me’ caught the ears of listeners globally.

Now, the multi-instrumentalist from Doncaster in Northern England is touring that globe, hopping between Denmark, the Netherlands and the USA in the past week alone as he prepares to release his first full-length offering 21st Century Liability.

“I want it to be an outlet for people who feel like their voice isn’t important, for people who feel like they can’t fundamentally be themselves, because that was me all my life,” Harrison says.

The 12-track LP oozes high-energy protest anthems, tackling broad issues like gentrification and gun control while exploring personal battles like anxiety and insecurity. For Harrison, this raw mesh of ideas will “allow the audience to step into my head and see what I’m thinking, as an example of a young person today. This album was me coming to my fucking senses, figuring out who I was, and expressing that to the world.”

Sonically, Yungblud is known for blending hip hop, punk and ska – think M.I.A. meets early Arctic Monkeys meets The Specials – over which he spits and sings intermittently. There’s nothing stopping him from playing out a classic punk riff while rapping over trap beats, and he does so with ease.

“Yungblud is an act of defiance, in every perspective. It’s a mix of different genres, but it’s all bagged up in one big bag of energy that keeps burning,” he says.

For an artist who’s shot to international acclaim as quickly as he has, Harrison remains humble – and fiercely focused on the art. “I’m not interested in first-week sales, or if it goes platinum, like every single person in the music industry is right now. Everyone’s so concerned about numbers, they’re actually forgetting the art behind it.”

It’s through this art, honest and unfiltered, that the deep connection with his fans comes through. “The amount of DMs on Instagram and Twitter I receive every day from people saying that they find they can be empowered by my music, or they can say what they think, or it’s providing them with answers – that’s the best thing in the world for me, and it makes me not want to stop,” Harrison says.

He isn’t interested in old punk mentalities of combat and division. Rather, he wants his music to be a uniting force for young people, a conversation starter for those searching for their voice in a world filled with so many.

“Why in this world are we dividing anymore? It’s the 21st century, for fuck’s sake,” he says. “As an artist, my version of punk is not to divide. Violence and division is an old fucking way.”

“I love having conversation, and I feel like I’m not just shouting into the dark anymore. I feel like I’m having a conversation with my fans, and that’s what’s so special to me.”

Yungblud left his hometown for London at 16 after completing his GCSEs and started to focus entirely on songwriting. At first, he just wanted to get on the radio. Then, Brexit happened. He cites it as a major influence, both on his music and on the UK’s youth.

“There’s a change in the youth culture out there right now. There hasn’t been a shift like this since the ‘60s and ‘70s. Young people are angry. Our voice was totally stripped away from us when we were given an opportunity to speak,” he says of the fallout from the Brexit vote.

“You saw it with the March for Our Lives campaign – people underestimate young people. People wouldn’t believe that young people could orchestrate a march that happened worldwide and brought millions of people together. But you saw the power of young people that day. There’s a change coming, and I want to be a catalyst in that change.”

He also wants to spark change on a personal level, evident through album single ‘Polygraph Eyes’, a deep dive into the toxic, far too normal “lad mentality” around taking advantage of women.

“It’s a society that we’ve been brought up around, where it’s okay to push the boundaries. Where it’s okay to be like ‘Oh, just come on baby.’ It happens every fucking day. It’s an issue that if a girl wants to wear a short skirt or get as drunk as she wants, that doesn’t give you the right to take advantage,” he says.

“With the music video, I wanted to make it appear normal, so boys watching go ‘Oh my god, I’ve done that.’ Because a lot of people still don’t realise it’s wrong, and that’s the fucked-up thing.”

He’ll be bringing this message, along with the rest of his album, to our shores in late July. “I can’t wait. As soon as that [Splendour confirmation] came in, I died.

“Even the headline shows, though they’re 18+ and a lot of my fanbase goes from 14-25, the rooms are 80% sold out. Big rooms, the biggest rooms I’ve ever played are in Australia. It’s crazy.”

After his Australian shows, Yungblud has tour dates locked in until mid-November. “I don’t wanna stop,” he says. “Everyone’s said ‘Oh, it’s so easy, just put your album out and chill.’ But I’m going to be on tour for the next two years. Get ready, I’ve got another album ready to go, and I’m going to be dropping music two months after the album.”

As for his plans when he touches down here? “Chicken salt. Fucking chicken salt. I can’t wait to get that.”

Yungblud will release 21st Century Liability on Friday July 6 via Locomotion/Geffen Records. He’ll play the Corner Hotel on Saturday July 21, as well as Splendour in the Grass, taking over North Byron Parklands from Friday July 20 to Sunday July 22.

About anthonyfurci

Journalist and producer based in Melbourne.

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