Dom Harrison, or YUNGBLUD, is a raucous 22-year-old from Doncaster who exudes restless passion – he literally cannot sit still when talking about his fans or his music.
Speaking to Dom, it’s instantly striking that he genuinely just wants to connect. He has no time for stats or materialistic achievements: building a community is paramount to his measure of success. At the time of our chat, it was four hours before he was to hit the stage at Melbourne’s The Forum, and the line out the front of the venue spanned six blocks – the Black Hearts Club, as his fanbase calls themselves, were out in full force.
As we sat on a leather couch in his greenroom, I got a glimpse into the charismatic firecracker at the core of this diehard community.
Listen to the full interview here:
YUNGBLUD, Welcome back to Australia! I saw your Instagram that your best days ever highlight is all Australia.
I need to change that. I’ve not spring cleaned my best day highlights ever. I love Australia, there’ll be many more. I don’t know, I feel like when I come down here I almost come home, in a way. You guys were one of the first places to actually get me, you and the Netherlands. I just literally love it down here. It’s weird. It went here first. But do you know what, there’s like a general consensus for people in Australia. A bit of inside information from the rest of the world. Everyone else loves Australia. Everyone else goes, “Yeah, they’re on it first.” Taste makers.
I think we started Ed Sheeran, as well.
Yeah, and Lady Gaga. So many people, because you guys look out the box. So it’s like free spirits everywhere. A lot of other places are like, they don’t get things. They don’t understand. Whereas, I think the Aussie mentality’s like, “I don’t understand it. Sick c**t!” Do you know what I mean?
Would you ever move here?
F**k, yeah! You joking me?
What’s stopping you?
Because I don’t really have a base. I’ve got to keep wandering for a couple of years. Got to be the wandering boy.
That’s quite exhausting. I want to talk to you about your whole ethos of self-love and inclusion. You recently tweeted a lyric. It was, “I’m insecure as f**k because I know that they know I’m so different.” You don’t strike me to be an insecure guy at all.
That is so funny that people say that. All my life, I don’t know, I second guess myself. I don’t know why I do. I just get that knot in my stomach when you wake up in the morning that you don’t know why it’s there. Everyone gets it. The thing about this hope thing and finding this community and building it isn’t because I want to be a f**king pop star. That’s cool, that’s great. But it’s literally just to feel like I’m part of something and to basically not be the only person who feels the way I do. That’s what it was. It was a call out. I was like, is there anybody out there who’s like me? And f**k me, there’s a lot of people.
What’s the dialogue between you creating space for others where they can have no insecurities versus you having your own, as well?
That is the beginning and the end of the story, do you know what I mean? I can’t f**king tell people to not have insecurities if I don’t have them myself. I’m just like, this is who I am. I’m speaking out on mental health. I’m speaking about being insecure as f**k. I know people are looking at me like that and people are looking at you like that and that’s why we connect so much, because you are exactly the same as me. I’m exactly the same as you. And the mutual thing we have in common is that we’re just f**king together in the way we feel and the way we think. And that’s why I think we’re so strong.
Do you think there’s much of a divide between your persona as YUNGBLUD and Dom Harrison?
I would say obviously it’s a bit elevated, isn’t it, because it’s like when I put on the makeup and when I go on stage and shit, and when I walk my dog or go for a piss, it’s a bit different. I mean, I would love to be like full glow up in makeup while I’m having a piss but …
You can be, if you want to.
… I’ll probably drop my makeup down the toilet. Do you know what I mean?
Yeah. You’d be the type to fish it out and continue to use it.
Oh, yeah. Flat out. Rock and roll. Just f**king rinse it under the tap, use it again.
That’s the style. Your whole free-thinking ethos, does that stem a lot from your family?
Yeah, I think, to be honest. My mum is always such a f**king advocate for allowing me to be. She let me dye my hair at like four. It was just sick. But it was other people around me. It was people in society, like youth leaders or people that aren’t emotionally attached to you. Do you know what I mean? I think that’s what’s hard right now. I think if you ain’t the ideal kid, your parent’s flesh and blood, so they’re going to try to f**king figure it out, somehow, or they’re going to try and relate to you. If they can’t, then that’s their f**king fault. But I think with youth leaders and teachers or whatever, they can clock off at 5:00. They don’t need to be emotionally attached to you. So that was the struggle I had.
I think where I was from was really industrial and really kind of backward in the way it was thinking to be “normal,” you know what I mean? And I think that that led me to question who I was and question the way I thought. Because my mind naturally went to a place which was completely bizarre to anybody else, and no one got me around me. I don’t even think my mum got me. But she was just like, “F**k it. Just do what you want. You look mental right now, but whatever.” That was supportive, but they didn’t understand it. They couldn’t get it. So that was a bit of a f**king mindf**k to me. Because I knew on the outside they were like, “What is he playing at?” but they were just trying to …
Give me an example. What sort of things were you doing as a child?
For example, I was painting my f**king nails. Ben [his best friend] knew me from like 11 and I was just mad. I was just mad running around in dresses, in makeup and just crazy shit. I was just running around in a place called Doncaster like that. I remember going to school, and the school disco. Mr. Ball. I remember Mr. Ball. I was in a bungalow, I was like, “I want to paint my nails, straighten my hair and wear drainpipe jeans and wear my Nirvana hoodie.” And my big, stupid new rock goth boots that I begged my granddad to get me for Christmas one year and he did. I wore them, and I remember the smell of the hair straightening protector that my mum put on my hair when she did it for me. Every time I smell it, I go back to that place, because I was so nervous. I obviously got the piss taken out me loads and my teacher was like, “Why are you painting your nails? That’s for girls, that. Don’t do that.” And it was so weird, because I felt so like myself, but I felt so vulnerable and almost like I’d kind of taken my armour off and someone could stab me at any minute.
That’s pretty big to feel that at a young age. How old would you have been then?
I was year six, probably like 11 or 12.
And you were super conscious of what everyone else around you was doing.
I mean, I just kind of like, I don’t know, I wanted to do something, so I did it. You know what I mean? That’s the kind of kid I was. If you told me I wasn’t allowed to do it but I wanted to, I’d be like …
Let’s go and do it some more.
Yeah, that’s what I mean. That’s what I was. I got ADHD. I was very hard to put your finger on, to be honest.
Are you the type of guy who has to touch the fire to know it’s hot then?
Yeah, absolutely. I’m like … Ow!!
You were home for Christmas. What does a family Christmas at your house look like?
Loads of family. I love having people in my house. It’s sick. So does my mum. I don’t know, my house was the house that everyone would come back to after a night out. My mum would just make us toast and bacon sarnies in morning. I’d love that. “Everyone back to mine,” and my dad would be having a nightmare because there’s like f**king 20 Northerners in his front room hunched up together. But yeah, family Christmas, man. There’s always an argument, obviously. Big old Yorkshire Christmas dinner. Freezing. A lot of music.
Yorkshire puds? Is that a staple?
Always. Always. Are you joking me? I Have Yorkshire puds with milk on for breakfast. Yorkshire puds. My mum makes sick Yorkshire puds. The best Yorkshire puds ever.
Everyone’s mum makes the…
I’m flat out. Don’t even start this argument. I will fight you.
No, please. I’ll bow down!
Speaking of Northern culture, you have a song that you wrote about a specific bridge which has the spray painting, “I love you. Will you marry me?” on it. And you got Jason, the guy who wrote that, along to one of your gigs.
Yeah, he wrote the spray paint on the bridge.
How did you link up with him?
He found me on Facebook. I was looking for him for ages and I was like … I don’t go on Facebook anymore. I have Facebook, and I don’t have my real name on it anymore. I have this ridiculous stupid name. And it just was like, “Yo, it’s Jason, the Park Hill man.” I was like, “I’ve been looking for you for ages and you just DM me, slide in on Facebook.” That’s the universe, isn’t it? He just loved the music. I was trying to find him and I got him to the show. He’s a really nice dude, man, and he came to my Christmas party. He’s part of the family now. He’s a good dude. He’s a big part of my life.
How did you find out about his story in the first place?
Ben. Ben’s from Sheffield. Ben taught me a lot about my life. We just spoke. It’s like a bit of a Sheffield legend, you know what I mean? It’s a bit of a mystery that people just kind of know, if you’re down with the kids on the street. And then I was just like, this is such a sick thing to write about, because it exactly represents my fan base, misunderstood people taken advantage of by corporations or a higher power that tries to step on us.
Yeah, because they sell merch of it now, don’t they?
Yeah. A beer brand and all that crap. It’s mental. It was just like, people need to hear about this story that it’s not cool.
Speaking of big romantic gestures, have you ever done a big romantic gesture?
I love doing crazy stuff. I love making mix tapes and shit. There ain’t nothing more romantic. Legitimately, we just do crazy stuff like burn mix tapes and write on it. There’s nothing more romantic than a dead format and all that stuff for Valentine’s day and shit. I’m pretty bad. I got one of my girlfriends a favourite band… I hit the band up and got them to write her the lyric of her favourite song out and sign it. All that stuff. I love that, she’s got it on a piece of paper in her house, maybe. I don’t know if she’s still got it. Erased the memory of me. Threw it in the bin. Just took my name off it. That’s fine. Just take the little plaque off and burn it with your lighter.
Wait, did it have your name on it?
No, I had the lyric and then I put my name underneath it in a little, “Happy Birthday, baby. Love, me.” I did it separately, because you just never know, do you? Just in case you break up, you can just take that out of the frame and just pretend it was from your mum. Scribble my name out and put, “Love, Mum.”
What else is coming up for you? What’s the 2020 vision?
Are you joking me? There’s new music. There’s a big song for Australia coming out soon. As I say, there’s a big moment happened in Australia last year that I took note of. Me and that artist have been friends for a while, and we love it down here, and we love Triple J and we love kind of ‘Like A Version’. So that’s two clues. And we are doing something together for Australia. Not specifically for Australia, but we’re kind of saying that to each other. We’re like, “It’s going to be crazy in Australia”. And then there’s a new album coming. I can’t even believe the shows I’m booking.
What’s the biggest “pinch me”?
I mean, a lot of stuff like second headline slots at festivals and potential arena shows and crazy shit. It’s mad. I’m like a little bunny rabbit just bouncing through the forest with my bunny friends.
Someone needs to animate that real quick. Best of luck with the show – there’s at least 1000 people already here.
I love that.
How does that make you feel?
Yeah, they just camped out overnight. It’s mad. It’s crazy. They’re my family. That’s the thing about it. I never wanted to be … I don’t give a f**k about hit records, I’m telling you. I don’t care. If one happens, it happens. I’m not arsed about that. If that comes, it comes, that’s amazing. It’s like, “How many hits did you have? How many number ones did you have?” I don’t care about that. I just want to play stadiums. I want to unite people. I want to unite people to do something in culture. I want to be Foo Fighters, not f**king a pop star.
I think you’ve succeeded, thanks YUNGBLUD.
Rock and roll. Happy New Year.
Listen to the full interview here:
YUNGBLUD completed his Falls Festival sideshows on January 3rd in Sydney.
For upcoming global tour dates, visit his website.