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Yungblud tells us about his past, present, future and new festival BludFest

Yungblud has announced details of his own festival BludFest – taking over Milton Keynes Bowl this summer with a stacked line-up. Find details below, and see above to watch our interview with Dom Harrison as he tells us what to expect while weighing up his past, present and future.

After teasing fans with his “biggest announcement yet“, the Doncaster artist has now revealed that the inaugural BludFest will be headed to Milton Keynes Bowl on Sunday 11 August – featuring a headline set from Yungblud alongside a line-up featuring recent collaborator Lil Yachty, as well as Soft Play, Nessa Barrett, The Damned, Lola Young, Jazmin Bean and many more to be announced.

Beyond the music, the “community” focussed event will also play host to include a ‘Make A Friend’ tent, free photobooths, a Yungblud museum, and a recreation of Camden’s iconic The Hawley Arms – the artist’s favourite pub.

Asked what it means to be headlining Milton Keynes Bowl in the footsteps of David Bowie, Queen, Green Day and Linkin Park, Yungblud told NME: “Wow! What the fuck? That’s the fucking mad, isn’t it? BludFest is happening! I’m launching my own festival. I had the idea to do it last November. I just had fucking insomnia one night and thought, ‘What’s the next thing we can do that is really a staple and just pushes the boundaries?’

“This whole thing has been about fucking with people. When press don’t write about us, when labels don’t want us, when festivals don’t take us seriously, when people don’t take my generation seriously, let’s just poke the bear every time and piss everyone off to see if we can get away with it. We’re a community, we’re getting bigger, we’re gonna do it anyway!”

Yungblud announces new festival BludFest – check out the line-up poster. Credit: Press

He continued: “We were talking and I said, ‘Where can we do it?’ People really got it excited about it and went, ‘Do you know what? Let’s do it at Milton Keynes Bowl. I’ve got that photo of Bowie in his yellow suit from ’83 and I remember [live album and movie] ‘Bullet In A Bible’ by Green Day. I was like, ‘What? We’re gonna do it there?’”

Harrison told NME that he was “excited to lean into the Britishness” of the festival, adding that “this country needs a bit of a kick up the arse, just in terms of mad concepts”.

“We’re very set in our ways in terms of, ‘This is how you do this and this is how you do that’. But you know what? Fuck it,” he said. “We’re gonna keep it really UK-themed and try to bring a bit of unity and love back to the Union Jack and try to re-define it a bit. It feels like a load of bollocks at the moment.

“It’s all about unity, love and a place that people can come to. With Yungblud, we dreamt of a world five years ago and now I’m going to physically fucking build one. This is a place that you can come to and be utterly yourself with your mates, your family or completely on your own. If people don’t know who you really are and you’re hiding it, come to fucking BludFest and do it.”

Yungblud added: “My plan is to eventually take it worldwide, but it had to start in the UK. Hopefully, it’s going to be like something no one else has seen before because my mind is mental and I wanted to put that into a physical world. When you’re walking through those gates at BludFest, you are walking into a physical manifestation of Yungblud.”

Tickets will go on sale at 10am this Friday (March 22) and will be available here.

Watch above or read below for Yungblud sitting down with NME at the Hawley Arms to tell us about why he’s doing something so huge to say thank you to his fans, looking back on his career so far, that ‘feud’ with The 1975’s Matty Healy, and his larger-than-life Britpop-inspired new concept album.

NME: Hello Yungblud. You’ve been reflecting a lot on your life and career lately online. What led you to that?

Yungblud: “To be brutally honest, it’s the first time I’ve actually realised what the fuck has gone on. From being 18-years-old and starting this thing to the end of last year, I’ve just kept my head down and kept running. I’ve never been like, ‘Woah, what the fuck?’. We played Wembley Arena last year and I wasn’t even there. All I’ve ever wanted to do was play a gig, meet people [on loop]. This has been the first moment to take stock on the good bits, the really bad bits, the fun bits, the really crazy bits and sat down with myself and thought, ‘What do I want to do next?’

“I’m 27 next, and I’ve been doing this since I was 18. It’s been like a fucking movie.”

You can’t plan that…

“You can’t plan it, no. A lot of people don’t realise that it’s me and my mates and fucking 10 iPhones – the whole time. I love the [Sex] Pistols, I loved The Damned, I love Siouxsie Sioux and I basically just studied how they belonged somewhere back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. I just put that on an iPhone to connect to people.

“This has got bigger than any of us ever expected. How the fuck do you deal with that? We just needed to take a little bit of time off and be like, ‘Alright – what’s the coolest thing we can do next? What’s the thing that serves our fanbase the best and  remembers the people?’ That’s what it’s always been about: me meeting the people and loving them, and hoping that they love me back.”

Yungblud
Yungblud at Glastonbury, 2022. Credit: Eva Pentel for NME

Even back in 2019 when we spoke, you referred to your following “The Black Hearts Club” as a “community” rather than “fans”…

“Community or family, always. ‘Fans’ puts you on a pedestal. All my life, I just wanted to be a part of something and never felt like I did. I wanted to matter. It’s the hardest thing in the world, feeling really small. It’s really fucking dark. All anyone wants to be is seen. People want to be seen for who they are. I wanted to build a space where people could say, ‘Yo, I feel like you – that’s sick’, or ‘Woah, I didn’t know you liked that too’.

“Even if it’s outside of Yungblud, it was more about creating a space than the music in the beginning. The music was more of a vehicle to be like, ‘Here’s something that you can go too, to find each other’. Then I got really big, and it’s been mad.

“If anyone can ever be arsed to do a film about us one day, it would be mad to go into it.”

Who would play you?

“Barry Keoghan’s got the same nose as me. Put some eyeliner on him and tell him to grow his hair. He’s about the same height as me as well.”

He loves getting his kit off as well

“I love it man, same!”

yungblud live
Yungblud live at Mad Cool 2022. Credit: Andy Ford for NME

And now you’re celebrating that community at BludFest…

“I get really buzzed off the fact that people are going to find relationships and make friends there. It’s a festival that’s all about the people and not corporate. We have the best festivals in this country, but as they get older they get more stale and less about the people. They become more about the transaction a bit fucking dated. I just want to vibe out a bit and create something cool.”

What can you tell us about how you landed on this line-up? 

“I just wanted it to be artists that I think are completely real. No matter what, whatever people say, we are fucking real and person-to-person. Lola Young is one of my favourite artists from this country at the moment; I think she’s fucking rad. She’s got her own thing going on, she’s different and weird. It’s a really exciting time for British music: from Central Cee to Lola Young, it’s actually moving globally. Nessa Barrett is amazing too. I think she’s a songwriter for a new generation.

“Lil Yachty is trying to do what I’m trying to do and push the boundaries as much as possible, whether people like it or not. I also had the idea to do ‘the icon’s slot’, for an artist that we pay homage to as one that inspired it in the first place. The reason I’ve got a white streak in my hair is because of The Damned. Every year, at about 7.30pm we’re going to have an icon.”

Like the Glastonbury Legends’ slot?

“Yeah, but my own. We’ll have the icon slot then Yachty then me. It’s going to be sick. There are many more to come, but I just wanted something that transcends genre, is defiant as fuck, and is all about inspiration and imagination. It’s a celebration of unity between artists and people.

There’s a certain ‘spiciness’ to the bill for sure… 

“It’s a bit fucking naughty. These artists are not beholden to anything. I know how hard it is. People either don’t want to give you a fucking leg up because you’re too dangerous, people don’t believe you, people think it’s fake, or people just think you’re a little too loud. That’s what I’ve experienced. I’m looking at these artists and saying, ‘You’re real as fuck, come and play my festival because my community and family will like you and what you’re saying needs to be heard’.”

Will there be some big collabs on the night?

“Probably. I’ve got mental ideas. Some people are going to come out that are legends – for my set and for other people’s sets. Who I’ve got coming out with me is fucking mental.

Any clues you can share? 

“Glasses…”

Cool. What can you tell us about the rest of the experiences on offer?

“I’m not going to give it all away, but we’re going to have a ‘make a friend’ tent. All you’ve gotta do is be inside that tent and you’re approachable. We’re taking The Hawley Arms to the festival and are literally building it in Milton Keynes Bowl. I’m probably going to be watching bands and pouring lager, then at seven o’clock I’ll go have a shower, wash my winky and I’ll be ready to be fucking Yungblud. There’s going to be a Yungblud museum, loads of stuff looking back on what Yungblud’s done, we’ll have a BludBurger; it will be full of experiences.

“I went to Glastonbury and I loved Glastonbury because it’s all about the people, so I wanted to take a little bit of inspiration from that.”

Yungblud on the John Peel stage at Glastonbury 2022. Credit: Eva Pantel for NME

To see that many people there must make you feel invincible and unstoppable as a unit?

“If you love Yungblud, if you hate Yungblud but are kind of interested, if you’ve never had anything to do with Yungblud, if you loved it at 15 but outgrown it, if you’ve come to it older – I want to signify that it’s going to be here forever for you.

“I am not ignorant that people come and go to fanbases. I’ve done it to many artists – but I want Yungblud to be a constant in people’s lives. If you want to turn to it and feel that feeling again, it’s there all the time. I’m going to do this every year and I hope everyone comes from everywhere. That’s why we’ve kept the ticket prices as low as we can.

Ticket prices can be pretty heavy these days. This seems like a bargain?

“That’s what I’m saying: it’s about £50 for 10 or more bands, all in. That is it; we’re not even making money – we’re just doing it for the fucking tunes. I’m excited. It’s all about saying ‘thank for this moment’. I’ve had so many arguments about the price-point but that’s it.”

You’re just here telling your truth and people who appreciate that truth come to you. So when something happens like Matty Healy having a go at you, or when someone attacks another part of your community, do you a grow a thick skin? How does that make you feel?

“Honestly, I don’t really care. That whole ’75 thing was funny to me. It was quite funny because we were in Manchester Arena, ironically, when that whole thing happened. It went on a little too long, and that’s why I found it funny. I like the dude. I think he’s a bit of an idiot, but I like his fucking tunes. It was a pretty cool thing; I was like, ‘Fuck it, right, some fucker’s talking about me, cool’. I thought about it for about two minutes before I went on stage, and never thought about it again since.”

And it didn’t escalate to legendary beef status?

“I don’t think so, no. I think if we saw each other at a party, it’s be like, ‘Alright, you fucking dickhead?’”

You both seem to stand for a lot of the same things.

“That’s what I’m saying; it’s funny! That’s the thing about being British. People like me, people don’t. Honestly, I’d be lying [if I said that] between the ages of 22 and 25 it didn’t get to me – because it really did. This year, having a little bit of time out [has helped]. It’s all bollocks; it’s all fucking entertainment. I’m just having a good time. I love my community, I love my fucking music. I fucking do, that’s all I’ve known up to now and it’s got us to here.

“Lead with your gut, love people, and I think you’ll be alright. That’s my motto.”

When you started teasing BludFest, you said that in order to move forward, you’ve got to look back. Is this the end of a chapter?

“It is the end of a chapter. I’m going into new music, which I can’t wait for you to hear. Again, I’m 27 next and for a character to me it’s either death or rebirth. This point has been amazing up to now. I’ll never lose what it’s about in terms of Yungblud and the soul of it – but musically, this next album is something I’ve been working on for two years and it’s a fucking adventure. It’s a full concept that you can play from start to finish.”

What can you tell us about that arc?

“It’s been made in England. It’s been made in the North, and I flip the narrative where I’ve sung about darkness. This album is the light. It’s all about getting through it; it’s positive. It’s that thing in your stomach when you listen to Oasis, or The Verve, or Bowie, or Suede, or Madonna. It makes me feel like I can get up today. It makes me feel like I’m invincible and that I can do anything – that’s what this new album sounds like.

“Stone Roses, Amy Winehouse – everything that has fundamentally done work on my soul. Everything up to now has been about your heart and your head and making sure that I’m educated, that I use my voice. That I speak from the heart, meet people, be loud, be bratty, be unapologetic, be crazy. This is [me asking] ‘What does my soul want to say? What do I feel in my fingertips when you stick on [Oasis’] ‘Live Forever’, [The Verve’s] ‘Valium Skies’ or [Primal Scream‘s] ‘Screamadelica’?

“It’ll be a great ‘Urban Hymns’ or ’Screamadelica’. I know the old dudes are going to leather me in the comments for that but I don’t give a fuck because I’m going to go there. If you listen to it, then it’s that from a new perspective.”

So if the world is a bin-fire, you’re just kicking the bin over and saying ‘Let’s go’?

“100 per cent. It’s all about unity and love in another way. As opposed to saying, ‘Fuck you, this is the world we’ve got to get to’, this is saying ‘Come together, look each other in the eye, be human’.”

Will you be using BludFest to launch new material? 

“It’s all a little masterplan. I’ve got loads of songs. In the past year since my last album, I’ve been experimenting and dropping songs in realtime. ‘Lowlife’ sounds completely different to ‘Happier’ which sounds completely different to ‘Hated’ which sounds completely different to ‘When We Die (Can We Still Get High)’ with Yachty. Where do I want to go? It’s all been about having fun with it. The answer came that I’m going to make this album that I’ve been trying to make for two years.

“There’s a mixtape of songs that I’ve written and love that might not make any sense but I think are fucking sick, so I’m just going to drop them, going into BludFest and in the meantime create a fucking opus.”

Is this like your ‘Black Parade’?

“It’s a ’Tommy’, it’s a ‘Quadrophenia’ [The Who]. It’s ‘A Night At The Opera’ [Queen]. It’s a ‘Black Parade’ [My Chemical Romance]. It’s an ‘Urban Hymns’. It’s a thing that’s intended to be listened to from start to finish, and it’s pushed me harder and made me gut myself harder than anything before.

“We locked ourselves in a studio in Leeds and just felt. We shut the world out instead of asking, ‘What’s popping on this?’ ‘What’s the state of art’ or whatever. Fuck that. Could this album have been written 50 years ago? Could this album be written in 50 years time? Fucking everything else. It just is.”

That takes balls

“I’ve always led from truth. We got fucking further than I ever thought we would get, and I can say that. I’m down. It’s all about each other. We might as well just try and reach for fucking Queen, Bowie and The Verve – because they didn’t even know what they were doing at the time. I hope people like it, because it’s fundamentally the most truthful I’ve been able to be since ’21st Century Liability’. I’ve approached this album like I’ve just started.”

Watch our full video interview with Yungblud at the top of the page where he also tells us about breaking America, memories of Camden, the NME Awards, and much more. 

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