Most people will know Max as the principal songwriter and frontman of Yuck. Having formed the band with fellow Cajun Dance Party bandmate Daniel Blumberg and moving onto lead vocals after Daniel left the band, Max has led Yuck through three albums and numerous tours that have taken the band around the world. Now he’s taking a step back from Yuck and concentrating on things much closer to home with his first solo project.
Born out of the end of an eight-year relationship, the singles Max has released so far find him in a far more contemplative place than Yuck’s typically more raucous sound. His solo stuff is gentler and softer but wracked with emotional anguish as he explores a broader range of influences to achieve something he jokingly calls ‘dadgaze’ – which actually isn’t a bad way to describe it.
His debut solo album is due out early next year, and he’s off on a short tour around the UK with a full band in support of new single Bottle, which came out this week. It has a more Yuck-ish sound than either of the previous singles but still finds Max in a very painful place.
In our chat, we talk about the ending of relationships, looking back on your past like it’s another world, putting Yuck on the back burner, and how uncomfortable it can be singing incredibly personal songs in front of people for the first time. Before all of that though, we chat about the hugely incestuous nature of the bands Max is in, including Yuck, Happyness (in which he plays guitar and his girlfriend Anna plays bass), Heavy Heart (in which he play bass and Anna sings), and the full Max Bloom band (which Anna is also in, along with the other two members of Heavy Heart).
Ever considered supporting yourselves?
Ha, could be a potential thing for promoters abroad, like a 2 for 1 deal – we’ve never done that! You’ve got half the hotel rooms, half the travel costs, but we’d charge the regular fee, so we’d all be getting paid twice! No, that hasn’t happened yet, unfortunately. Playing more than once on a bill, I’d have trouble remembering all the songs. So I’m in Yuck, my solo stuff, Heavy Heart, and Happyness. That’s four, and Anna’s also in four bands – it does get a bit difficult to remember everything.
How do you manage that in a practical sense? Like, how many times are you practicing for those?
Well, Yuck isn’t really a regular thing at all anymore. We recently did three shows in China and one in Japan, and we just kind of rehearsed four times and had a warmup show at Moth Club. We get it together when we need to, but to be honest, I think it’s going to be on the back burner for a few years. We always have a really good time when we play live, but we’ve all got our individual things going on, and we’ve been going for a long time. It’s quite difficult to keep reopening that chapter of my life; a lot of us want to pursue different things now.
I saw on Twitter that you still think of Yuck as a Cajun Dance Party side project, and you’re going on tour with Post Louis, which features one of your old Cajun Dance Party bandmates. Presumably, there’s no Cajun Dance Party reunion on the cards, but does that feel like a lifetime ago now?
Yeah, it does, but even aspects of Yuck feel like they were a bit of a blur. When I look at photos of myself playing five years ago, it’s like looking at a different person. Sometimes I’ll see something I said in an interview that I would never consider saying now.
Like reading your old tweets?
Exactly! With Cajun Dance Party, we were just kids; we were way too young. What happened was amazing for all of us, but we were so young, and it was easy to get swept away with it. I have really, really fond memories of Cajun Dance Party, but when you’re 17, and something like that happens to you, the way I reacted was like, “Cool, this is my life now, I don’t need to give a fuck about A-Levels, and I’m basically going to sack everything off because this is the best thing ever and it always will be.” No one ever really told me – or maybe they did, and I didn’t listen – that you should take life a bit more seriously, and that music stuff is quite momentary.
It’s interesting, because there can’t be that many people who have had a similar experience to you. Maybe Ash? Maybe everyone thought you should just go for it.
Going for it was definitely the only option at the time. But Robbie is highly, highly intelligent, and he always took his education seriously. For Daniel and I, we just wanted to carry on making music, which we did. For Will and Robbie, they were like, “Well, this has been fun, but I’m also really passionate about going to university and learning.” And maybe I would have been too, but I don’t think I was quite done. Cajun Dance Party wasn’t very fulfilling for me because I wasn’t writing music in that band, I was just playing bass. Yuck though was my band – I was writing the songs, and I really needed to do that to feel what it was like to be the creative force in a band.
You don’t have to answer this, but I’m curious, what’s your favourite Yuck album?
Oh, that’s an interesting question! I listen back to the first album, and there are things I love about it. It was recorded in a shit way; it was a complete learning curve, and that’s what I love about it, because it’s the sound of someone learning how to record themselves for the first time. I was using an 8-track and GarageBand and stuff like that, and one piece of shit microphone. It was a sound that I liked, but since then, I’ve recorded other bands fully in a studio. What I thought sounded good at the time I listen back to now and I think sounds very crappy, but I also kind of love the naivety of that sound.
The second album, though… at the time, I was quite devastated with it, because we were working with a producer, and it just didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. We got to a point where we ran out of time, and I was powerless to stop it. The wheels were in motion for its release, we had run out of time, and our producer was like, “Cool, I’m happy – next project,” and I was like, “Well, I kind of hate it, but fuck it – release it.”
But I listen back to it now and I think it’s a very important part of our story. And then the third album was a very painful experience – it was a really confusing time. I don’t know, there are songs on each of those records that I think are my favourite songs, but one complete album is quite difficult to choose.
So you’re now doing solo stuff, which has been inspired by the end of a long relationship.
Yeah, it’s pretty much all about that. It kind of turned into a concept album of sorts, because the first song I wrote was ‘To Be Alone’ and everything kind of fell into place after that, so it’s quite chronological. It was written at a time that was a big hole in my life, and I can’t really remember much about what happened at the time. I had broken up with my ex-girlfriend after eight years together, I had no money, and I was living at home with my parents, and I felt like the wheels had come off, and my life was just in pieces.
But because I was living at my parents’, money wasn’t too much of a problem at the time, so I was able to pick up the pieces and have a look at my life a little bit, and it was at that time that I wrote the album. It feels like a really long time ago, and I’ve moved on a lot since then. I was in therapy at the time on anti-depressants, and I’m off anti-depressants now, I’m in a new relationship, and I’m very happy, but this album is all about very dark times.
The album was born a dark time, and now you’re revisiting all of those old emotions – how are you finding it?
Well, it’s funny – the new single is not metaphorical at all, it’s very factual. It’s about the time that me and my ex-girlfriend broke up – the very specific moment, and when I used to sing this song, I found it quite hard not to start crying. It’s a very, very emotional song for me, but now it’s quite a happy experience singing these songs because it’s like proving to myself how far I’ve come in my life since that point.
I don’t really remember recording the songs at all, but it was done over quite a long period, doing it at my parents’ house on the weekends after finding a new flat and getting my life going again, so it took a good few months to finish recording it. With the last two Yuck records, certainly, it always felt like I was always trying to meet a deadline. Like the album has to be done by this point, to be released by this point to get this, this, and this festival, or these types of press, to go on tour for this long, and so on. That would take most of the fun out of recording, and it was quite difficult to be creative in that scenario.
With this, I wrote these songs because I had nothing else to do, and I didn’t imagine I’d ever release them. I know that’s true because I’m cringing about the idea of people hearing these songs because they’re very personal. But I was really able to take my time over this album, and do things entirely on my terms with control over everything. The artwork was entirely my choice; the way the songs were released was completely my choice. I had 100% creative control, which isn’t something I’ve experienced before, and that’s been quite refreshing.
So have you found it quite freeing writing like this, free of the expectations of the kind of sound fans might expect?
Yeah, I think so. Making a Yuck album – I certainly felt this on the third record – there are certain boxes that need to be ticked. I love indie rock and pop music a lot, but I’m not the kind of artist or musician who can make the same music forever, like Dinosaur Jr or Teenage Fanclub or whatever. They’ve kind of plateaued in a certain style – and they are amazing, I love them so much – but it seems natural to me to move on. With this album, I was able to make whatever music I wanted because there was no expectation. I didn’t need to make this record, people didn’t want me to make this record, it’s just something I did.
I think it’s really important that every artist goes through a period of time when they really ask themselves why they’re doing this, and usually when you don’t have a team around you like a manager and a label or whatever, and you’re just alone, but you still want to make music. That’s a good thing. You’re a real musician, I think, if you make music because you have to, not because you want to. That’s the realisation I came to with this, I had to make this album, I didn’t want to.
So what are the musical touchpoints for people coming to Max Bloom?
Well, at the time, I was listening to the album Mind Games by John Lennon and Nilsson Schmilsson by Harry Nilsson. He has a great vocal range; I got into that because it was one of Wilco’s big influences, and I’m a huge Wilco fan. Some Beach Boys too, and an artist called East River Pipe, who no one really knows, but he releases records every now and then. His last one was in 2011, I think, but basically releases home recordings on Merge Records.
Ok, one last question – can you recommend one band you’ve seen this year who people should go and check out?
Do you know the band Chai? They’re a four-piece Japanese girl band; they’re an absolute joy, seeing them is like pure happiness. I saw Girlpool as well; they’ve been easily one of my favourite bands of the last few years, and their most recent album is the best album of the year for me.
To catch Max on his first UK tour for his solo project, check out one of the dates below:
Dec 04 – Headrow House, Manchester
Dec 05 – The Library, Oxford
Dec 06 – Café Kino, Bristol
Dec 07 – Kazimier Stockroom, Liverpool
Dec 08 – Jimmy’s, Manchester
Dec 09 – Paper Dress Vintage, London
Listen to his latest single, ‘Bottle’: