YUNGBLUD: Life on Mars Tour
YUNGBLUD: Life on Mars Tour
with support from Palaye Royale and Poutyface
The Van Buren
Doors 7pm, Show 8pm
Over the past 3 years, YUNGBLUD has built a huge and devoted following of young people from all corners of the world that he considers a community rather than a fanbase. Bound by a love for his brilliantly outspoken and genre-bending version of 21st Century rock-and-roll music, that community has witnessed YUNGBLUD’s rise from a struggling musician living in a Northern England council flat to a global superstar hailed by Rolling Stone as a “pop-punk rebel on a mission.” But toward the end of touring behind his 2019 EP the underrated youth the 23-year-old artist felt suddenly overcome by a massive wave of insecurity.
“I realized that even though I’d been telling everyone for years that it’s all right to be who you are, I had no idea who I really was,” says the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist otherwise known as Dominic Harrison. “I was a nervous wreck and overcompensating all the time, so I decided to just stop everything and check myself.”
Within days of that revelation, Harrison wrote what would become the title track to his new album weird!: an urgent and soaring anthem that redefines individuality for the modern day. “That song is me saying it’s all right to feel like you’re 12 different people at once,” Harrison explains. “There doesn’t need to be any kind of cohesiveness in the way you think or look or behave—cohesive is for a textbook. So it’s okay to be completely full of contradictions, because that’s the nature of being a real human being.”
The second full-length from YUNGBLUD, weird! emerges as his most emotionally complex work to date. “It’s a story of coming-of-age and self-acceptance and liberation, in terms of sex and gender and drugs and heartbreak and all the other twists and turns we go through in life,” says Harrison, who refers to weird! as a “Skins” episode in album form. Doubling down on the raw vulnerability first glimpsed on his powerhouse debut album 21st Century Liability, weird! also looks back on moments of major upheaval that he’s endured in recent years. “I fell in love and got my heart broken, and when that happens it forces you to figure out who you really are—it just obliterates every single guard you’ve put up,” he says. “Making this album was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, because I really had to look inside myself, but it’s also the most fun I’ve had in my entire life.”
True to YUNGBLUD’s refusal to box himself in, weird! embodies a wildly eclectic sound: Queen-inspired harmonies, Beatles-esque chord progressions, elements of dance-punk and glam-rock and hip-hop and metal. Working with his longtime producers/co-writers Matt Schwartz (Cold War Kids, Bullet For My Valentine), Zakk Cervini (Bishop Briggs, Machine Gun Kelly), and Chris Greatti (Poppy, Grimes), Harrison recorded at several studios in London and L.A., but also embedded the album with moments spontaneously captured on iPhone voice memos. “I love imperfections, and how they feel so real and pure and magic,” notes Harrison, naming hyper-creative and boundary-pushing musician/producers like Jeff Lynne among his key influences on weird!. “This record really taught me that there’s no limit to where I can go or what I can do with my music, as long as I completely believe in what I’m creating.”
On songs like “mars,” YUNGBLUD reveals the rare balance of conviction and sensitivity he brought to his songwriting and performance on weird!. With its delicate storytelling and tender vocal work, the acoustic-guitar-laced track shares the narrative of a young trans women Harrison met while playing Warped Tour in 2018. “She told me how her parents had come to the show with her, and how seeing our community helped them to understand that her coming out as trans wasn’t just a phase—this is who she really was,” he recalls. “It made me cry to think that we could have that kind of impact and change people’s perceptions, just by being ourselves.”
Another full-hearted celebration of self-discovery, “cotton candy” delivers a dreamy meditation on sexual liberation, unfolding in airy textures and impossibly sweet melodies. “To me sex and sexuality is about freedom and the idea that you can to lose yourself in other people of all genders, of all shapes and sizes, to find yourself and figure out who you truly are,” says Harrison, whose co-writers on “cotton candy” include the hitmaking duo Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter. Meanwhile, “strawberry lipstick” presents a delightfully warped portrait of all-consuming lust, its fuzzed-out riffs and explosive vocals giving way to a gloriously chaotic intensity.
One of the most poignant tracks on weird!, “god save me, but don’t drown me out” rides the line between desperation and defiance, gradually building to a transcendent moment of radical self-acceptance. “I wanted to paint a picture of what depression really feels like—where everyone can be screaming at you, but you just can’t hear anything at all,” says Harrison. “I wanted this video to ignite a resemblance or a spark of self-love to highlight the idea that if you ever feel like you can’t go on, it can get better.”
Originally from Yorkshire, England, Harrison first started using songwriting as catharsis at the young age of ten. After picking up a guitar at just two-years-old, he later moved on to bass, piano, and drums, independently releasing his debut single “King Charles” in spring 2017 and landing his record deal by that summer’s end. With 21st Century Liability arriving in July 2018, he’s since scored major hits with the gold-certified “11 Minutes” (with Halsey feat. Travis Barker) and the platinum-selling “I Think I’m OKAY” (a collaboration with Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker that garnered a 2020 Billboard Music Awards nomination for Top Rock Song). Along with releasing the underrated youth (a top 10 debut on the UK Official Albums chart), YUNGBLUD put out Live In Atlanta—a 12-track effort showcasing the joyfully hellraising live performance he’s brought to sold-out crowds in countries around the world and to leading festivals like Lollapalooza, Reading and Leeds Festivals, and Austin City Limits. Endlessly prolific, YUNGBLUD has also created two graphic novels: The Twisted Tales of the Ritalin Club (his acclaimed 2019 debut) and The Twisted Tales of the Ritalin Club Volume 2: Weird Times at Quarry Banks University (its 2020 follow-up).
In the making of weird!, Harrison kept his community of fans at the forefront of his thought process behind every track. “When I finally get to play these songs live, I want to walk out to a crowd of people who feel liberated and happy and accepted, and feel like the reason we’re put on this Earth is a good one,” he says. So, while much of the album delves into painful subject matter, it ultimately telegraphs an undeniable sense of hope. “My first album was severely bratty because I was so angry at the world, but this album is about finding a community of people who understand me, and about figuring out who I am from a place of love and acceptance,” says Harrison. “I hope it makes people feel like it’s okay to feel out of place or twisted or weird, because life is weird—but that’s what beautiful about it. So don’t ever try to live it as someone else. Live it as you.”
About Palaye Royale
Living out a wild odyssey worthy of legends, Palaye Royale’s adrenaline-fueled, rock n’ roll circus is leading a generation in togetherness through truth, honesty, and change. First landing in Los Angeles as teenagers, Las Vegas-bred brothers Remington Leith (vocals), Sebastian Danzig (guitar), and Emerson Barrett (drums), worked their way up through the ruthless L.A. rock scene while briefly living out of their car, soon finding themselves playing arenas with the likes of Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, and Stone Sour. In an unexpected yet auspicious turn, the trio’s fourth full-length Fever Dream emerged from a much-needed break in the chaos, with the three classically trained musicians returning to their roots and composing most of the album on piano. Equal parts ecstatic head rush and in-depth meditation on the state of the human psyche, the result is Palaye Royale’s boldest and most visionary body of work to date.
Made in collaboration with GRAMMY-nominated producer Chris Greatti (YUNGBLUD, Grimes, Poppy), Fever Dream came to life over the course of a year, with Palaye Royale working in deliberate seclusion and taking abundant time to sculpt each lavishly orchestrated track. “Because we’d been touring constantly for five years, we hadn’t had time to just sandbox ideas and explore,” says Emerson. “This album was an opportunity to fully dive into our art in a way that we really hadn’t since our first record.” Recording Fever Dream at their home studio, the band ultimately arrived at a forward-thinking collision of art-punk and glam-rock and Britpop, tapping into their intensive study of music theory and adorning the album with so many refined details (choir-like harmonies, delicate Mellotron tones, lush string arrangements). “Making this record felt like getting back to when we first fell in love with music, only now we’ve toured all over the world and there’s so much more experience under our belt,” says Sebastian. “The whole reason we started this band was to get to where are now.”
The follow-up to 2020’s The Bastards, Fever Dream takes its title from one of the album’s most majestic tracks, a throat-shredding epic rooted in Palaye Royale’s newfound sense of optimism. “This record is very much about self-belief and self-empowerment, and overcoming all the obstacles that life throws at you,” says Remington. “It’s the first time we’ve really taken a hopeful approach in our music, partly because everyone’s probably had enough depression over the past couple of years.” Opening on a moment of piano-laced reflection, “Fever Dream” quickly morphs into a triumphant anthem, fully embodying the transcendent spirit that’s earned the band a cult-like following through the years. “Our role has always been to provide a sanctuary for the people who listen to our music,” says Emerson. “We want to build a world for everyone to get lost in, where they can recreate themselves when destroyed by living.”
Although much of Fever Dream bears a blistering emotionality, Palaye Royale shifts into a more playful mood on songs like “No Love in LA.” A tongue-in-cheek anti-valentine to their adopted hometown, the track brilliantly calls out all the fakes and sycophants (e.g., “Plastic people don’t got nothing to say”), spiking that venom with snarling riffs and serpentine grooves. (As proof of its magnetic pull, “No Love in LA” marks the band’s fastest-growing streaming track, gracing the cover of coveted playlists like Spotify’s New Noise while gaining major traction at Alternative Radio.) Released alongside “No Love in LA” as the first glimpse at Fever Dream, “Punching Bag” pushes into far darker terrain, channeling a weary frustration in its moody piano melodies, brooding guitar tones, and brutally stomping beats. “We’re living in a strange time where if anyone does something wrong, people want a public execution,” says Remington. “‘Punching Bag’ came from being so sick of the way people treat each other, especially online—it’s about not letting anyone’s opinions define you, and turning all that bullshit into a positive.”
Throughout Fever Dream, Palaye Royale strike a potent balance between incisive commentary and intense introspection, often transforming their pain and grief into magnificent catharsis. On “Broken,” for instance, the band delves into the complexities of a doomed and toxic romance, dreaming up a dizzying tension between the song’s explosive chorus and achingly vulnerable verses. “I was going through a breakup at the time I wrote that, and it came together so quickly—when you’re depressed like that, the lyrics tend to just fall right out,” says Remington. One of the album’s most confessional tracks, “Paranoid” presents a spellbinding examination of insecurity and self-doubt, unfolding in gorgeously spectral textures before reaching a furious urgency at the bridge. And on the euphoric “King of the Damned,” Palaye Royale proudly embraces their status as leaders of a legion of misfits. “Anyone who loves this band knows they’re a bit of an outcast, a bit set apart from the norm,” says Sebastian. “At the same time, there’s a confidence to knowing that we’re all in it together, and this song’s our way of telling everyone that we’re there to look out for them.” With its fuzzed-out riffs, pounding drums, and joyfully unhinged vocal work, “King of the Damned” was partly inspired by an incident in early 2020 when club promoters canceled a sold-out gig in Glasgow a mere 20 minutes before doors were set to open. “They decided we were too dangerous for the venue, so we went outside and played an acoustic show for all the kids who’d come out to see us,” Sebastian recalls. “At some point, we realized we had to get out of the streets and back to the tour bus, and there was this moment where Remington was heading off with a sea of a thousand kids behind him—he looked like Napoleon going off to war.”
Despite their classical upbringing, Palaye Royale has always had the raw essence of rock-and-roll in their blood. Having formed their first band when Emerson (the youngest of the siblings) was just five-years-old, the trio began hosting basement shows purely out of necessity. “We were so young that the venues in L.A. wouldn’t allow us, so we started playing shows at our house and calling it the Boom Boom Room,” says Emerson. While the gigs soon got the band evicted (a turn of events that left them temporarily homeless), Palaye Royale succeeded in catching the attention of rock royalty like Courtney Love, Scott Weiland, and Kim Fowley (the infamous producer/manager of the legendary Runaways). At the urging of another esteemed fan—Alex Burdon, daughter of Eric Burdon of The Animals—the band scored a deal with Sumerian Records in 2015, then made their full-length debut with Boom Boom Room (Side A) (a 2016 release produced by James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins). “When we signed with the label, the main thing we told them was that we just wanted to tour,” says Emerson. “We opened for so many metal bands whose fans absolutely hated us, but that’s partly what made us who we are now as performers. We decided we had to be so undeniable onstage, you had to respect the passion and energy and how invested we are in the art form—how completely we’ve dedicated our entire existence to this.”
From the charming squalor of the start of the band to the more elaborate setup of their most recent tour, Palaye Royale has endlessly delivered an electrifying live show, one that frequently finds Remington hanging from the light fixtures on the venue’s ceiling. And whether they’re taking the stage at major festivals like Reading and Leeds, Download and Pinkpop, or playing to sold-out crowds in such far-flung locales as Tokyo, London, Japan and Mexico City, the band’s most crucial ambition is to deepen their rarefied connection with their beloved fanbase. “When we first started doing our own tours we’d stand outside the venue and hug every person who came out to see us,” says Emerson. “Even though it’s not really possible to do that now, we still try to give everyone as much of our time as we can.”
For Palaye Royale, returning to the live stage is among the most thrilling rewards to be gained from the release of Fever Dream. “The work of crafting this album and putting so much care into every moment was an amazing experience for us, but there’s nothing like the energy of being in a room with this community of people we’ve created over the years,” says Sebastian. “We already feel so emotional about these songs as it is—even the heaviest, most aggressive songs—and the thought of everyone singing along and going completely insane together is so incredible. It’s going to be something you couldn’t replicate any other way, and we’re going to do everything we can to bring that to every show.”