It’s March 2018, and I’m checking my email when the name “YUNGBLUD” catches my eye. I open the press release and see a photo of a laughing British youth with bright pink socks. “Captivating,” Wonderland calls him; “thrilling,” says NME. I listen to his first single—the frenetic, Jamie T-esque “I Love You, Will You Marry Me?”—and agree that he’s one to look out for.
A few days later, I’m watching his set at the 9:30 Club, where he’s opening for K. Flay. Clad in a hoodie—and the iconic socks, of course—he knocks over a mic stand, smashes a guitar into a cymbal, and sings like a Damon Albarn/Eminem hybrid, never losing his energy. After his last song, he hangs out by the merch and takes photos with a handful of teens he’s just turned into fans. Then we go backstage for a quick interview. It’s the first night of his first “real, proper” U.S. tour. He tells me that when he got the call about it, he “was like, ‘You fucking kidding me?’”
Fast-forward a few months to July 29th. YUNGBLUD has evolved into a bolder, brighter version of himself. His fan base is massive now, and it has a name—“The Black Hearts Club,” alluding to the black heart tattoos he acquired later in the spring (which fans have started to imitate). His debut album, 21stCentury Liability, is out, and it’s full of catchy songs with titles like “Psychotic Kids,” “Machine Gun (F**k the NRA),” and “Anarchist.” He’s released three new music videos, not to mention a photoshoot by Anaïs Gallagher. He’s outspoken about his views on mental health, gun violence, and sexual assault. And he’s playing stages across America as part of the final Vans Warped Tour.
When I meet him for another interview at Merriweather Post Pavilion on the Columbia date of the tour, he’s wearing a Beavis and Butthead t-shirt and a bandana in his signature pink color. Still humble despite his success, he recognizes me and gives me a hug. Then we get to talking about Ritalin, California, gifts from fans, and Harry Potter.
TYF: You’ve been on Warped Tour for a while at this point. What’s your favorite memory from the tour so far?
YUNGBLUD: To be honest, man, the whole thing’s been crazy. Warped’s been the most mental. I’m getting, like, 400, 600 kids every day in every single city screaming the words to the album that came out two weeks ago. It’s just mental. I have to say meeting the kids with the black hearts is the best thing. It’s just an instant connection… Oh, we had a bit of a crisis, as well. Our toilet flooded and there was piss all over the floor. We were running around, climbing everywhere. It should have been eventful, but it was a typical Warped Tour story, d’you know what I mean?
TYF: True, true. Now I have some questions about 21stCentury Liability.
TYF: First of all, I cannot figure out what the voice is saying at the beginning of “21stCentury Liability.”
YUNGBLUD: Oh! (Grinning) “You’re all made from the spawn of the devil.”
TYF: Oh, okay, got it. I heard the “devil” at the end; couldn’t figure out the rest of it. Is that a sample?
YUNGBLUD: It was me, high-pitched.
TYF: Nice, nice. You also have the song “California.” Since writing it, I’m assuming you’ve been to California?
YUNGBLUD: Yeah, man. That song’s about when I first went to California and got signed. It was a really big moment in my life because that was the first time—ever—that someone said, “I wanna invest in you for being just yourself, and we don’t want you to change anything.” And then, two weeks later, I was back in the grim cold of England, and I thought, “Maybe I just need to go back there.” That was the first place I ever felt truly accepted.
TYF: Did California live up to your expectations?
YUNGBLUD: I liked California. Sometimes I kinda find it exhausting now; it’s funny. But it was, like, the first place to give me an opportunity, you know?
TYF: For sure. And you talk a lot about medication in your music.
YUNGBLUD: Yeah, man.
TYF: Specifically Ritalin. Would you like to elaborate on how you feel it’s affected your music and your life in general?
YUNGBLUD: Yeah, man. To be honest, it’s the drug that suppresses your energy. It’s the drug that suppresses your ideas, and it goes hand in hand with the older generation today. And that’s why I talk about it. It’s a metaphorical thing. It’s a chemical and a real thing that… (Mimes a train moving along a track) [makes you] move like a train track. And to me… I just think it represents the world right now. You know, young people are so feisty, so opinionated. We’re not just arrogant little brats rebelling against the system for rebelling against the system’s sake. We’re smart; we’re intelligent. And for me, it’s like the fucking generation blinded by the cataracts of old ideologies is Ritalin for the kids of today, d’you know what I mean?
TYF: For sure. And in your song “Medication,” you say, “I’m insecure, so I got a tattoo of an elephant.” Do you really have a tattoo of an elephant?
YUNGBLUD: On my ass, yeah. My left bum cheek.
TYF: For real?
YUNGBLUD: For real.
TYF: Why’d you get a tattoo of an elephant?
YUNGBLUD: Just did.
YUNGBLUD: To be honest, I got a matching tattoo with my ex-girlfriend. Of an elephant. ‘Cause elephants never forget, do they?
TYF: Ah, yeah. If you were to get another tattoo right now, what would you get?
YUNGBLUD: To be honest, me and the boys wanna do “Volare.” Do you know that stupid Italian song? (singing) “Volare, la la la la…”
TYF: (Laughs) I don’t know that song.
YUNGBLUD: Adam [Warrington], the idiot, plays it at celebrations all the time. It means “to fly.” It’s a bit… eh, a bit wack. But fuck it. I might get it on my arm.
TYF: I feel. (Laughs) And you have a really cool music video for “Medication.”
YUNGBLUD: Thank you.
TYF: What’s your favorite scene from that?
YUNGBLUD: Ah, man, I loved dressing up. Probably the Girl Scout eating the fucking human leg. Or the school uniform while driving in the car… It was just such a fun shoot, man. I loved it.
TYF: The “Psychotic Kids” video is also very cool. I noticed that in the comments, a lot of people are like, “He should play a villain in some movie.”
YUNGBLUD: I wanna play The Riddler!
TYF: You wanna play The Riddler?
YUNGBLUD: Jim Carrey’s The Riddler. That’d be insane.
TYF: You predicted my question. I was just about to ask you which fictional villain you’d want to play.
YUNGBLUD: It’s DC, isn’t it? The Riddler. I’d love to play him. I want my videos to be unlike anything else. Everything’s just fucking neon lights or boys throwing money on cars with their mates standing awkwardly next to them. I want to do something that’s memorable. I want to be like, “That’s a fucking Yungblud video there.” D’you know what I mean?
TYF: For sure. Your music is notable for blending hip-hop influences with rock influences. If you were to create your dream collab with any rap artist, living or dead, and any rock artist, living or dead, what would it be?
YUNGBLUD: (Grinning) There might be some rap artists coming up in the future. Maybe.
YUNGBLUD: Can’t tell you what, but I’m just going to hint around the subject.
YUNBGLUD: But yeah, man, I’d fucking obviously like to work with Eminem, love to get in the studio with him. That’d be fucking nuts. I’d love to write with Alex Turner, love to see how his mind works. I’d love to write with David Bowie. I’d love to write with Joan Jett. I’d love to write with Busta Rhymes. I’d love to write with Grandmaster Flash. I’d love to write with Juice World. I’d love to write with Billie Eilish. So many.
TYF: Eminem is one of your greatest influences, isn’t he?
YUNGBLUD: I love Eminem, man. It’s so funny, man—a lot of people don’t like Eminem because apparently he’s too mainstream. But you know what, man? He fucking brought rap into the mainstream, d’you know what I mean? So, like, fuck off.
TYF: It’s very evident in your album—the way you frame it with that skit at the beginning…
YUNGBLUD: Totally, man. At the end of the day, I love it, so I’m gonna use it, you know?
TYF: Totally. Have you seen Eminem live?
YUNGBLUD: Yeah, I have. Incredible. Twice. He’s the best.
TYF: Super cool. And your fan base is known as the Black Hearts Club. How did this come about?
YUNGBLUD: I don’t… I mean, I literally got two black heart tattoos on my fingers, and then everyone started doing it. And it’s just incredible. It represents the community that I want to create. I want to defeat the barrier between an artist and a crowd, because there’s so many entitled artists right now who just play a show, get in a Mercedes van, and fuck off. I want it to become a conversation; that’s really exciting for me.
TYF: For sure. Your fan base has just grown exponentially since the last time I saw you.
YUNGBLUD: Like, what the fuck? It’s crazy, man.
TYF: It’s wild. So many people are really hyped about you right now.
YUNGBLUD: I’m so excited. Let’s go!
TYF: Yeah! What are the most memorable fan interactions you’ve had?
YUNGBLUD: When they write me notes, man. I read ‘em all. And I just can’t believe when people say, “You actually saved my life; I was thinking of killing myself.” Like, fuck me, man. That’s what I’m doing it for. It’s what needs to be done, you know?
TYF: Yeah, for sure. And you were singing with Simple Plan a few days ago.
YUNGBLUD: And I just came offstage with them.
TYF: Really? Just now?
YUNGBLUD: Just now.
TYF: Oh, man. I missed the end of their set, but that’s super cool. What was that like?
YUNGBLUD: It was crazy. 13-year-old me is freaking out.
TYF: Yeah! What song did you sing with them?
YUNGBLUD: “I’m Just a Kid.”
TYF: That’s so cool.
YUNGBLUD: Yeah. It’s fucking really cool. It was really fun.
TYF: Fantastic. Is that the same song you performed with them a few days ago, too?
YUNGBLUD: Yeah, man. I was excited.
TYF: Super cool. And now we’re going to finish up with a few lighthearted questions.
TYF: If you could enter any fictional world, which one would it be?
YUNGBLUD: Harry Potter. Fucking love it.
TYF: Which Hogwarts house are you?
YUNGBLUD: Everyone wants to say Slytherin, but I’m Gryffindor, man! I’m a fuckin’ happy boy!
TYF: (Laughs) Nice. Did you ever play Pokémon when you were little?
YUNGBLUD: A little bit, yeah.
TYF: If you were to have one Pokémon follow you around all day…
YUNGBLUD: Obviously Squirtle. He’d just squirt everyone in my face who tried to suppress my ideas.
TYF: Fantastic. Bring him onstage.
YUNGBLUD: Yeah, man! (Laughs) Fuck it. That’d be dope.
TYF: And what are your favorite movies?
YUNGBLUD: Harry Potter. I love old war movies. I love dramas, man. I love fucking crying! I weep. I weep. At fucking rom-coms, whatever.
TYF: If you were to direct your own drama, what would it be about?
YUNGBLUD: (Takes a deep breath) Fucking hell… Some sad boy from Northern England who wanted to change the world! (Laughs)
TYF: Call it 21stCentury Liability!
YUNGBLUD: Dope, yeah. Let’s go!
TYF: If you were to time-travel to any era, what would you choose?
YUNGBLUD: I just wanna fucking be in armor and shit. It’d be cool.
TYF: Can I ask you about your bracelets?
YUNGBLUD: Yeah, man. These are from fans. I just got ‘em today. (Gestures to bracelets) “Anarchist,” and then a girl named Sarah gave me one that says “Sarah.”
TYF: Nice. It has the Yungblud colors.
YUNGBLUD: Fucking love it. Pink and black, baby. Let’s rock and roll. We love it.
TYF: Yeah! All right, is there anything else you’d like to say to the fans before we wrap this up?
YUNGBLUD: I just wanna say, man, with this record, it’s like… I want this to be an outlet for people that feel uncomfortable with themselves or can’t say what they think. At the end of the day, man, your voice is important. Who you are is important. If people don’t like you for who you are, then they’re not meant to be in your life.