YUNGBLUD Is The Weirdo This Generation Needs
24 hours before his interview with Kerrang!, Dom Harrison was on the phone with Bring Me The Horizon frontman Oli Sykes. The two talked about the pressures of fame and lamented the current state of the world – “How did we let things get to this point?” Dom recalls asking Oli – but as well as conversations that bordered on the philosophical, there was another reason Dom found solace in speaking to his fellow Yorkshireman.
“I was talking to him about how much I miss home,” Dom, the man behind the worldwide phenomenon that is YUNGBLUD, confesses. “Oli is the best, and such a role model for me. He’s from Sheffield, I’m from Donny, and I really admire how him and his boys from the North have been able to tour the world and figure this whole thing out.”
Currently locked down in Los Angeles, Dom has been sharing an Airbnb with his manager, guitarist and photographer – “Three of my best friends” – for several weeks. He admits to missing his loved ones in the UK, and, in a sad turn of events, was unable to attend the funeral of his grandmother who recently passed away, forced to watch the service via a livestream on his phone, over 5,000 miles apart from his grieving family.
His loss was the subject of episode two of his new Stay At Home With: YUNGBLUD YouTube series, with Dom emotionally acknowledging that the circumstances surrounding his grandma’s passing have “amplified my isolation”.
That feeling of solitude is something Dom is well acquainted with. “I used to think it wasn’t alright for me to be who I am, and I got so low that I contemplated suicide,” he told Kerrang! earlier this year. Having been forced through the coronavirus pandemic into another environment that feels increasingly lonely, Dom detects parallels between his current situation and his struggles as a youngster.
“This time has reminded me of how I grew up in an environment where it felt like the world didn’t want to know me for who I truly was,” he says. “No-one understood or cared about me. It seemed as if the world didn’t want me to grow into the person I wanted to be, and that made me really insecure.
“But then I sent a call out, releasing music as YUNGBLUD to see if there were others who felt the same, and all these people found me.”
Now, Dom is in a position where he doesn’t have to feel so alone. He’s always made time for his fans, finding moments every month to FaceTime at least 10 of them to say thank you for their support. In light of current events, he’s upped that to 50.
“Those people make me feel like it’s alright to be alive – I’m still around because of them,” Dom says when asked why he reaches out to so many supporters. “The only reason I got into this was to feel less alone – I’ve never wanted to be a popstar with a metaphorical finger up my arse, swigging a bottle of champagne. I’m not arsed about fame because this always has and always will be about connection.”
One aspect of the YUNGBLUD world that’s been connecting with plenty of fans is Dom’s triumphant new single, Weird!. He says it was written during what was, fittingly, “the weirdest time in my life,” and it makes for the perfect soundtrack to the strange and uncertain situation the world currently finds itself in.
Weird! does, however, have a meaning and significance that stretches beyond our present environment of social distancing and self-isolation. It’s a song that symbolises the version of weirdness Dom recognises in himself, how he’s “annoyingly energetic but slightly sad”, and represents the fact that “there’s always been an underlying feeling of anxiety to everything I do”.
When Dom describes the past 18 months of his life, all dizzying highs and despairing lows, it makes perfect sense that his latest output is characterised by feelings of both euphoria and despondency. From commercial and critical triumphs, and collaborations with huge names like Travis Barker and Marshmello, to a very public break-up with popstar Halsey, and the near-death of his mother, Weird! is born out of a time when Dom felt like all of his success was slipping away.
“I nearly lost my mum in a car accident,” he reveals. “I fell in love, had my heart broken and experienced real embarrassment through that heartbreak. After that, I fucked a load of people and explored myself sexually, but then I became more depressed and anxious. All that eventually led me to start taking drugs.”
Things all came to a head the night YUNGBLUD headlined London’s O2 Academy Brixton at the end of 2019. Everything was, on the face of it, going amazingly, yet in the days and weeks leading up to the show, Dom found himself feeling low all the time. In the end, it was a trip down memory lane that provided the reality check he needed to pull himself out of the mire.
“I thought back to how, two years earlier, my guitarist [Adam Warrington], my drummer [Michael Rennie] and I were living in a two-bedroom shoebox. We spent a night watching videos of the Foo Fighters at Brixton, and we all agreed that if we could get there, we’d have made it. Recalling that memory was a real slap in the face, because things had become so dark and strange, but going through it all meant that, ultimately, I grew up a little bit more.”
Buoyed by a renewed sense of optimism, Dom chose to bring forward the release of Weird!, which was originally set to drop later in the year. He has since been putting the finishing touches to his upcoming second album, which is expected to be out before the end of 2020, and he’s hinting that the day-glo vibe of Weird! could be an indication of where the new YUNGBLUD material is heading.
“The truth is, I’m not angry anymore,” Dom offers. “[2018 debut album] 21st Century Liability was so fucking angry, but that’s not who I am now. And that’s not to say that the new album is me going soft, because there are some fucking ragers and songs for the moshers on there, but this is going to be a record of optimism. How can I be angry when I now exist alongside this community of people where my insecurities, which I once considered to be a handicap, are now celebrated? This community was built by a bunch of outsiders, but I don’t feel like an outsider anymore because of how I’ve been welcomed by all these people. How the fuck can I be angry at that?”
When it’s put to Dom that he’s talking as if this new album is the antithesis to 21st Century Liability, he’s in total agreement.
“That’s a good way of putting it,” he concludes. “The album is a neat whisky, uncensored version of my life: it talks about liberation in terms of sex, my identity and my mental health, as well as love, heartbreak, self-harm, suicide, depression… it’s like a series of Skins. I want it to be naïve and full of contradictions. This record doesn’t give a fuck what people think about it, because it’s telling the listener what life is truly about. I have a dialogue with my fanbase that allows us to say what we think – we’re rebelling against the idea that speaking our minds is wrong.”
Inspired by his community and having come through the most challenging period of his life, Dom Harrison is no longer a 21st century liability. He’s the weirdo this generation needs.
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