YUNGBLUD may have been tired following his surprise appearance with Bring Me The Horizon at Leeds Festival last week – after all, he had just returned from tour in France when he got the ‘dream’ call up. But the following morning, speaking to Rolling Stone AU/NZ with a cup of coffee in hand, he was just Dominic Harrison, a young man in awe of his own accomplishments.
“We flew in from Paris yesterday, and the Bring Me boys hit me up and they were like, ‘Do you want to come out with us at Leeds?’ and that’s a fucking dream come true,” he says. “I’ve been to Leeds Festival my whole life, and I’ve been a fan of Bring Me since I was so young, so fucking dream come true man.”
Growing up in a town more famed for its horse racing than its musical talent, YUNGBLUD had always held onto the ‘rock star’ dream – but the reality has far exceeded even his wildest expectations.
“I feel so lucky, this is so much more beautiful and so much more deep and so much more magical than I could ever imagine,” he says. “I get to tell the truth, and I get to play the biggest shows of my life… It’s the best thing in the world.”
Harrison says a lot of pop music, in his opinion “says fuck all”, and one of the things he loves the most about his career trajectory is having a platform to speak the truth.
“I think a lot of music sometimes doesn’t tell the fucking truth. And I get to tell the truth, and I get to talk about real shit, and I couldn’t be more grateful, you know? I get to tell the truth, and I get to play the biggest shows of my life.”
One of those shows was right here in Melbourne, where Harrison played his first-ever arena show.
“It’s always first, in Australia. I fucking love it,” he says. “You guys are always first – I played my first TV show there, I played my first radio show there, and now my first arena. I’m so grateful.”
Harrison spent over 12 hours at meet and greets in Australia, and when his Friday night appearance at Splendour in the Grass was cancelled, he simply put on his own show down the road, at the Kingscliff Beach Hotel. A testament to how much he loves his Australian fans.
“I think you guys are so… you’re down to try new things. That’s what I love about Australians and Australian culture,” he explains. “Like, if you’re presented with something, you don’t turn your nose up at it.”
Adopting an impressive Australian accent, he continues. “It’s like, ‘Yeah, fuck it mate, I’ll fucking try it’, whereas in the UK we just instantly turn our nose up at shit.”
Harrison admits he goes a bit “rogue” on this side of the world, which on the last tour resulted in an emergency trip to the dentist to fix his tooth, broken in the frantic energy of the Melbourne show.
“I’m upside down so all the blood goes to my head and I get a bit mental,” he jokes. “It’s like, as soon as I get a bit of chicken salt in my blood or a bit of fucking Big M or chicken Twisties I go feral.”
Although the YUNGBLUD phenomenon has blown up in recent years, Harrison says it’s important to him to continue performing at intimate venues. Even if it means performing three shows in one day at a 500 cap venue.
“I always loved the Foo Fighters because they used to do stuff, like, before a stadium tour they’d rehearse at a local pizza shop,” Harrison says. “[They would] just turn up and start playing, and fans would get wind of it and they’d play for five hours and everyone would just turn up, you know what I mean? It was so cool.”
While many young fans credit YUNGBLUD with changing – and in some cases saving – their life, Harrison says the feeling is entirely mutual.
“I think that’s what’s rare and beautiful about my community; I write music to connect to people, I don’t write music for the radio or for fucking the chart or anything,” he says. “Genuinely – I know that can sound like it’s such a fucking marketing tool, but fuck that.”
Harrison writes music to connect with people. In fact, that is precisely the point of YUNGBLUD..
“I want to belong somewhere, I always have,” Harrison explains. “And they saved mine just as much as I saved theirs, man. It’s such a mutual thing that’s getting bigger every day and I’m so grateful and happy, you know?”
Harrison calls YUNGBLUD “an act of defiance that’s fighting for love” – which is why he has the heart and broken heart tattoos on his middle fingers.
“The first night I got them, 70 people got them on their fingers,” he says. “By now I think there’s about half a million black heart tattoos and Black Hearts Club members in the world right now.”
That’s a lot of adoration for a kid from Yorkshire who never really felt like he fit in.
YUNGBLUD’s first album, 2018’s 21st Century Liability, introduced him as an angsty young man, while his second album in 2020, Weird!, showcased a heartbroken, lost soul. Now, YUNGBLUD has found himself. And he is bold, brash and unashamedly himself on his third, self-titled album.
“I think it’s all making a lot more sense, and I don’t know, I just think it’s so pure, this record,” Harrison says. “ It’s me in an album: it’s me making a cup of tea, it’s me talking to my mum, it’s me fucking in my purest form. It’s me laughing with my friends, it’s me having an orgasm, it’s me fucking making you beans on toast, you know what I mean?”
The latest single, “Tissues”, features a sample from The Cure – one of many early punk-era bands a young Harrison uncovered at HMV.
“I think it’s one of my favourite songs I’ve ever done,” he says. “I want to fucking dance, I want to shake my arse, I want to shake my hips – I love this song.”
And dance is exactly what Harrison does in the track’s accompanying music video.
“I’m dancing for the first time – what the fuck?” he jokes. “I wanted to show everyone I could fucking move; everyone’s going to be like, ‘YUNGBLUD’s dancing, what the fuck?’”
Overall, this is YUNGBLUD’s most personal album yet, and he isn’t afraid to lay everything bare. Far from sugar-coating, the track “Sweet Heroine” is an ode to the person who pulled Harrison out of a dark place.
“A ‘dark’ place seems so cliched, actually, fuck that – a really traumatic place, that’s better,” he says. “I was literally on the floor and this person gave me a feeling of alcohol and drugs that gave me that escape, but they weren’t hurting me, they were helping me… they feel like skinning up, they feel like drifting away, but they’re not fucking hurting me.”
YUNGBLUD has been the subject of contempt from strangers on the Internet, facing backlash on social media for “spitting on fans”, like some of the heroes of his youth. Iggy Pop and Johnny Rotten are just two of the punk-era artists famed for it – in fact, the Sex Pistols would also be spat on by fans.
In no way, though, is YUNGBLUD a “punk” – and please don’t call him one.
“I get pissed off when people call me a punk. I’m like, ‘Don’t define me by one terminology’,” he says. “If you define YUNGBLUD by one thing it’s over. It’s lazy. You know what I mean? It’s ignorant.”
It’s the message the punk bands of the 1970s and 1980s conveyed – the energy and the unadulterated truth – that Harrison identifies with.
“It happens in music, there’s so much bollocks, there’s so much lies, there’s so much deception,” he explains. “And then an artist comes along every couple of generations and tells the uncensored fucking truth and you go, ‘Oh, shit. Wow’. And I loved it all, I thought it was fucking just defiant and angry and real, and I adored it.”
At the end of the day, it’s all peace, love and orgasms for Harrison, who notes the idea that sex could save the planet inspired the new track, “Sex Not Violence”.
“The world has become a lot darker place in the past five years, in terms of anger on the Internet and online and anger in general, really, and I think it’s so complicated,” he says. “It’s so complexly oppressive, and I thought there was something so simple in the idea of sex: the energy, the euphoria, the fucking explosion, the magic within sex. The beauty within it.
“And I think there’s something simply powerful about having the trust between, and the energy and the euphoria between two people, or three people, or fucking ten people – whatever you’re into – is something we need more of in the world.”
Even the track listing on the new album is deliberate. The final song, “The Boy In The Black Dress”, is the end of the chapter for this incarnation of YUNGBLUD.
“It’s like my life story in three minutes: the first time I grew up a year in ten seconds in a scenario. The first time I got punched in the face. The first time I got ridiculed for wearing make up. The first time I had casual sex. The first time I got taken down on the Internet,” he says. “These moments that kind of really fucking make you grow up a lot.”
He continues, “I think it’s kind of a question to me when I was starting at YUNBLUD going like, ‘Was it fucking worth it?’ And then by the end of the song I go, ‘Yeah, absolutely it fucking was’. It was worth it all, because I’m here and I’m at this point. I wanted to close the door of what had been there before within YUNGBLUD and open up another chapter to what is next.”
What is “next” for YUNGBLUD involves more than just music: there will be more tours, of course, but there is also a fashion line and movie in the works.
“YUNGBLUD does not stop at music, YUNGBLUD is an expression; that’s the idea of it,” Harrison explains. “If you know what I’m going to do next, everything is fucked.”
YUNGBLUD’s self-titled third album is out Friday, September 9th.