Go Yuck Yourself
With typical English matter-of-factness, Yuck singer/guitarist Daniel Blumberg calmly tells the story of how he met drummer Jonny Rogoff in an Israeli desert. It's a tall tale, one that sounds almost too perfect coming from the mouth of a 21-year-old Londoner in a rock & roll band, but Blumberg answers the questions without hesitation.
"People were staying in Israel, so I thought it would be relatively stress-free to go to a place where people could tell me what to do every day," Blumberg says. "I had some friends working on a farm in the desert, so I went on a bus ride there. The bus went too far, and we had to hitchhike back. We arrived just in time for lunch, and Jonny was serving iced tea and wearing an Animal Collective T-shirt. It was really weird, but we talk about it all the time, so it's become like the most normal thing."
Yuck formed as a bedroom recording project for Blumberg and guitarist Max Bloom, but became a full-fledged act once Rogoff moved from New Jersey and Hiroshima's Mariko Doi joined on bass. Blumberg and Bloom previously spent time in Cajun Dance Party, a group that was signed to XL Recordings when its members were still in high school. They received critical acclaim from the British music press, but, Blumberg says, the fact that the members were so young prevented Cajun Dance Party from touring. Five years passed between the formation of Cajun Dance Party and the rise of Yuck, and the aural difference is noticeable. Cajun Dance Party often received comparisons to Belle & Sebastian, Arcade Fire, and the Smiths, while Yuck take their cues from American post-punk bands such as Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth.
Because geography has played such an important (albeit unusual) role in Yuck's short career, it makes sense that a '90s-inspired shoegazer pop band from London would sign with Fat Possum Records, a Mississippi-based label that has released albums by blues artists such as R.L. Burnside, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Junior Kimbrough. In recent years, Fat Possum has issued albums by Jay Reatard, the Walkmen, the Black Keys and Band of Horses. It also released Yuck's self-titled debut in February, a 12-song disc that blends fuzzed-out rock tunes with atmospheric droners and acoustic-driven pop songs.
And just like his meeting Rogoff, Blumberg says hooking up with Fat Possum was nothing more than a random encounter. "We were putting tracks on our blog," Blumberg says, "and [the label] contacted us and said, 'Do you want to sign a record deal?' We said, 'Yeah,' so we did. It was nerve-wracking but good because we wouldn't have necessarily released it with a record label if it hadn't been one we trusted."
You might think a group from London would be excited to visit Orange County during April. For starters, the weather is bound to be nicer than that of Yuck's hometown. But Blumberg actually sounds a bit worried about that whole sunny-Southern-California thing.
"Will it be really hot?" Blumberg asks. "I'd like to say that would be amazing, but I'm not sure if I'm that into hot weather."
This article appeared in print as "Go Yuck Yourself: The London-based group keep a stiff upper lip while staring at their shoes."
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