Yuck always gets a warm welcome in Asia. The UK-based indie band puts in the effort not only by staying close to their fanbase – they released their latest album, Stranger Things, via crowdfunding website PledgeMusic – but also by nurturing young bands, like HK shoegazers Thud. Young Post caught up with singer/guitarist Max Bloom and guitarist Ed Hayes just before their show at the new MOM Livehouse in Fortress Hill.
How’s the tour been so far?
Ed Hayes: It’s been really fun, we always have a good time in Asia. We’ve had a really nice time in Taipei because we had a few days off to acclimatise ourselves to the time difference and weather! I actually enjoy the humidity. I find it a lot easier to deal with than when it hits 30 degrees [Celsius] in London.
How did you approach making Stranger Things differently than the previous two albums?
Max Bloom: We wanted to have a group of songs that were fun to play live. We recorded it quite simply, so we wouldn’t have to reproduce anything too complicated. That was different to how we approached the last two – especially the last one, which was very much a studio album where we got carried away with a lot of different instruments. It’s hard to replicate that with four people onstage. This one was very much: two guitars, drums, bass vocals, which is what we are. It was a lot more fun and easy doing it that way – within our comfort zones. We had a vision and knew what we were doing.
Is that why you recorded it at home – to keep it simple, rather than cost-saving?
EH: It was a bit of both, because we’ve always felt more comfortable recording at home anyway. There are no time constraints, and studios can cost huge sums of money. That allowed us to flourish creatively, in our recording and writing. Plus, you’re in your house – you can go and have a cup of tea.
MB: It’s difficult to work when you’re aware that time is money. If you run out of time, you can’t do anything – you have to stop. But there’s nothing stopping the creative process when you’re at home and it’s not costing you anything. We’ve spent seven years doing home recordings and refining our sound. It makes your recordings a bit more genuine and original sounding than a studio recording. Your home isn’t designed to be recorded in, so it sounds different.
Are you happy with how that sound turned out?
MB: Yeah, it was a learning curve. We mixed the album as well, and I learned to mix on this album. On the first track I mixed I found out a common error: if you want an instrument to be louder in the mix you turn it up, but then something else falls down so you make that louder. By the end you’re reaching the ceiling, and that’s bad practice. I learned to get out of that. Though it’s good to have your imperfections on show – as a band, it makes it more interesting.
Was there any track or moment during recording that defined how the rest of the record turned out?
EH: I don’t think so. We write quite similarly and always have done – that’s how we got to know each other. I guess we were all in a similar place with what we wanted to be playing and writing. And we had a collection of songs that seemed to fit together – more than it being an agreed direction.
MB: The first two tracks on the record were the first two we wrote. They just kind of started everything. It wasn’t really a conscious direction, it was more of a vibe that naturally flowed. Those songs made everything else unfold.
So there weren’t any lyrical themes you tried to fit in?
MB: Not really. I was trying to do that with the last album, but I didn’t really want to do that. I wanted to make 10 really good, catchy pop songs that were fun for us to play live. So we focused on each song on its own instead of going for overarching themes.
Has the release via Pledge Music gone well?
EH: I think so. It’s interesting using Pledge Music, because you can put up all these niche package deals that people can buy. It's really helped us to get creative with our merchandise. It’s a very good platform to release music. We did OK out of it.
It’s like – a fan coming to a show can grab a signed setlist, but they’d never get that if they live in a country we’re not playing in. This helps us give away things you might not usually find at a [merchandise] table.
You guys have taken local band Thud under your wing. What is it about them that appeals to you?
MB: Last time we came to Hong Kong they supported us. It was only their second show, so it was early days. But they were really good and I really liked what they were doing. And then Jane [Thud’s manager] asked me to mix a couple of their songs, and I also did a remix. I like what they’re doing.
Okay! Quickfire round: when was the last time you were grossed out by something?
EH: That slap in the face that stinky tofu gives you in the Taipei night market.
MB: The idea of snake soup.
Do you play Pokemon Go?
EH: He plays it obsessively. I don’t play it.
Which Pokemon are you most like?
MB: Not sure about the one I’m most like, but I quite like Gengar. Maybe I’m most like him? I nicknamed mine Evil Eyes. I’m definitely Drowzee in the morning. But my most powerful is Venusaur, who I’ve called Plant Man. My favourite thing about Venusaur is his little bum!
What’s your favourite Snapchat filter?
EH: I do enjoy the rabbit one. I’ve had fun with all of them, it’s hard to decide ... it depends on the context. They all work sometimes.
MB: [Takes a snap with the grumpy down-turned mouth filter] This one’s my favourite!
How do you unwind on such a busy tour?
MB: I like to listen to podcasts and keep a diary. A diary helps me remember what’s going on – it’s easy to let two or three weeks flash by.
EH: I tend to eat copious amounts of food, especially in Asia where the food is incredible.
The T1 typhoon alert was raised today. You guys prepared to weather the storm?
EH: We’re flying tomorrow morning, so hopefully we’ll narrowly escape it.
What is it that you like so much about Hong Kong?
MB: It’s a really cool place, there’s lots of good food and nice people ... who like our music!
EH: I love all the islands.
Is there anything you absolutely have to do when you come here?
MB: I would usually say get dim sum, but we haven’t really had time to do that this time.
What is your plan for the next year?
MB: I’ve no idea! Probably think about making the next album?
How do you rehearse when Jonny [drummer] lives in the US?
MB: We don’t! If we have a tour, we rehearse before that tour and when he’s available.
EH: We use Skype.
Which song from Stranger Things has been working best?
EH: Probably Hearts in Motion.
MB: Hold Me Closer comes at a point in the set that’s very exciting for me. Hopefully that radiates.
EH: It’s the most fun for me to play. That song comes alive live.