In this age of self-isolation and quarantine, it's never been more important to check in on each other and to connect. This goes for artists, too, who have been social distancing alongside us: livestreaming concerts and hangouts, creating their own talk shows, and... well, that's what we want them to tell us, with Remote Access.
Last month, the neon-haired, pop-punk revivalist Yungblud released a blissfully metallic anti-anxiety anthem, “Weird,” along with a homemade video shot from the roof of a Los Angeles Airbnb, where the singer is currently social distancing with a few bandmates and his manager. Featuring lyrics detailing hard-won battles with mental health (“I can't think, I can't lie / I feel anxious all the time / If I smiled I would be lyin'”) overcome collectively (“Come hold my hand / Hold it tight”), the song came primed for its quarantine debut; but, Yungblud explains, it was written long before the coronavirus pandemic reached its peak.
“I was in what I thought was the weirdest time of my life ever imaginable,” he says, referring to a moment when his meteoric rise, dotted by collaborations with Halsey and Machine Gun Kelly and capped by a sold-out show at London’s O2 Academy Brixton, collided with personal heartbreak and surfacing depression. “But then all this happened and I was like, whoa, I could not have been more wrong if I tried.”
Despite feeling as if he’s been “put in a chicken coop” in quarantine, and missing his U.K. home (he has been calling his mom and sister most often), Yungblud is staying productive. He’s completed a new album, which he told Kerrang! will be “naïve and full of contradictions” and is “building the world” around it prior to release. He’s also staying positive, and spreading that positivity to fans around the world, particularly with the weekly YouTube Originals show Stay Home With: Yungblud, in which his stay-at-home crew document their most candid moments together: dancing around the apartment in their underwear, cooking (Yorkshire pudding is a favorite), and checking in on fans. The artist does not shy away from vulnerability, either, opening up about the sadness he felt after being forced to miss a close family member’s funeral; the fourth and final episode of the weekly series premiered on Monday (May 18).
It’s all part of the Yungblud experiment, which is less about Dominic Harrison, the 22-year-old kid from Doncaster, and more about providing a sense of belonging to those that need it — that is, anyone who’s ever felt alone and isolated. “Anybody out there who feels strange, and unstable, and like they don't know what's going on, I feel the same as you. And we're together in that feeling.” MTV News calls up Yungblud to check in.
MTV News: You're quarantined with your bandmates and your manager in Los Angeles, and you are working on an album. What has collaborating been like during this time?
Yungblud: To be honest, I'm just in a house with my best mates. When we say, "Oh, it's my manager, or my photographer, or my guitar player," those are just official terms. We're just all best mates. And I think we're just having as much fun as we possibly can. Because I feel quite lonely, and to connect to people, and to connect to my fan base, and to put out content going, "Is anybody else feeling the way I am?" and getting a response saying, "Yes, I am," comforts everyone. And that's what we do it for.
MTV News: How has isolation affected your music and your creative process?
Yungblud: It's just about out-of-the-box thinking right now. We've literally been put in a chicken coop by the higher powers that be, and I don't want to be a chicken right now. I want to be a human being. And I want to connect to people and make people feel like, yes, it is weird. It is bizarre. But as long as we stick together, we're all going to be OK. So we're just trying to have as much fun as possible and just provide laughs. We've got a YouTube Originals show, where it's me, no insecurities, just me in my underpants, running around the kitchen, being an idiot. I'm kind of happy to show that side of me, because it's just what I do at home.
MTV News: Who have you been calling or texting the most lately?
Yungblud: I'm calling my family a lot. I'm calling my mom a lot. I think I'm telling the people I love that I love them a lot more, which is a good thing. And I've been calling my fan base, I've been Skyping so many people all the time. Because if anybody knows Yungblud and what it's about, it ain't about me. I'm not just Yungblud. Yungblud's an idea and an ideology that Dom connects to, and Frankie in Jersey connects to, and Joey in Australia connects to.
It's an idea that you will never be lonely, and you will never feel isolated, and you'll never feel like an outsider here, even though you might be an outsider in the "real world." It's a place to exist to be solely who you are, no matter what you are, color you are, race you are, sexuality you are, however you identify. You're just you, and we celebrate that. And I think right now, for people to feel calm, we’ve got to say connected. So, I just call my fan base and just check in. I'm like, "How's it going? What's up?"
MTV News: Yeah, there is a great moment in your YouTube show, Stay Home With: Yungblud where you call fans, and everyone just gets so excited.
Yungblud: Dude, it's mad everywhere across the world. I just needed to check in with them, and I always do that. I do it every month but, as opposed to doing 10 this month, I did 50. The only reason I got into this whole thing was to feel like I belong somewhere, so I call them to remind myself that I belong somewhere. And when you can't be on stage, when you can't meet them, when you can't smell them, when you can't touch them, you’ve got to connect with him online.
MTV News: There was also a scene where you had talked to your mom about getting a stick-and-poke tattoo.
Yungblud: Oh, she's mental, man. They just don't get it, do they? She's like, "That's what happens in prison." I'm like, "Mom, no it doesn't. It's chill. Everyone does it.” She's funny. My mom does not hold back anything she thinks. My mom's worse than me. As soon as she opens her mouth, you don't know what she's going to say.
MTV News: Did you end up giving yourself a tattoo?
Yungblud: No, I can't get a hold of any ink. Soon as I can get some ink, I will.
MTV News: Do you know what you'll give yourself?
Yungblud: I always wanted to get “verisimilitude” — it's my favorite word — tattooed on my skin. Verisimilitude, ah! It's like the appearance of being true and real. Someone read me that out of a book once. I was like, “That's a sick word.”
MTV News: I’ve never heard it before!
Yungblud: It's like, you close your eyes, ASMR. Verisimilitude. Verisimilitude.
MTV News: You released “Weird” during the coronavirus pandemic, but you actually had written it beforehand. That song makes so much sense for this particular moment, but what kind of space were you in when you wrote it?
Yungblud: I was in what I thought was the weirdest time of my life ever imaginable. I felt like I was trying to catch smoke all the time. I was going through a period in my life where I was taking another step in a journey to coming of age. Everything was weird to me. The world felt weird. Weird, weird, weird, weird, weird, weird, weird, weird, weird, weird, weird, weird, weird — it was going through my brain.
And in that moment of vertigo, I figured out that I needed to accept the parts of myself I didn't like, celebrate the parts of myself I do like, and realize there's just a load of stuff out of my control. Once you realize that, and you have a moment like that, and realize that the things you've been going through for the past 18 months have just been a weird time of your life, you figure out that everything's going to be alright. Because there are going to be many more weird times. Everyone's trying to grab onto something that's familiar, because nothing is familiar right now. And I just wanted to provide people with an opportunity to escape, and to come together and dance around your kitchen like an idiot.
MTV News: What else have you been doing to stay creative during isolation?
Yungblud: I have been cooking, I will have you know. I loved cooking when I was a nipper, but I've been touring, so I never really cook. So, it was kind of good to get back into that. My guitar player's so much better than me; he's literally like Gordon Ramsay. I think I'm going to open a restaurant; I keep saying this. We'll call it “Food for the Slightly Sad Yet Annoyingly Energetic.” Come pick up your pasta.
MTV News: What is it that you've been cooking?
Yungblud: Adam made a curry last night with homemade naan bread. I made beef udon. A good old Yorkshire Sunday dinner, a roast, which is what we have in the U.K. on Sunday. You get a big joint of meat, put it in the oven, let that cook, vegetables, Yorkshire puddings. For American people, a Yorkshire pudding is like a savory pancake that you put gravy on; it's to die for. I miss home, I miss Sunday dinners, I miss cups of tea, and I miss fish and chips with loads of salt and vinegar on it. If you miss the U.K., you’ve got to bring the U.K. to you.
MTV News: What else can we expect to see from Yungblud coming out of quarantine?
Yungblud: There's so much coming. The album's done, man. I’ve just got to figure out how to build the world of this record in this situation. To build the world of an album, it's hard enough when you've got all the tools, and all the paint brushes to paint the picture. But right now, I'm stuck in between four walls trying to build it. I've been working on my second comic book, so keep your eyes peeled on that as well. I can't be not busy or I go mental.