VIRTUALLY EVERY NOTICE the British band Yuck has received in the press—including this one—comments on their masterful revisiting of familiar indie-rock sounds. Upon first listen, their excellent self-titled debut album plays like a time capsule, a fuzz-guitar mash note to the rising crest of alternative rock from the late '80s and early '90s. Here's a muddy Dinosaur Jr. motif, there's a spaced-out crib from Sonic Youth, tied up with a sardonic grin à la Pavement, plus some of the sparkle-and-crush power pop of Teenage Fanclub thrown in for good measure.
So many other bands could be rattled off to describe Yuck's sound that there's almost no point. But their revival of familiar sounds was not by design at all.
"I don't think that much thought went into what we sounded like," says guitarist Max Bloom, who founded the band with singer/guitarist Daniel Blumberg after they both departed London five-piece Cajun Dance Party. "We didn't sit down and think, 'All right, let's make a song like this' or whatever. It was just for the joy of writing songs together. That being said, I was discovering a lot of guitar and guitar-based bands that I really liked around that time. It was a big period of discovering what I liked and what I didn't like."
After the two recorded some initial demos, they rounded out the new band with bassist Mariko Doi and drummer Jonny Rogoff. "We met Mari in London," Bloom says. "She lives quite near me and she used to be in a band, and they'd just broken up, so she was kind of just around. And Daniel met Jonny in Israel. Our friends were taking a year out there on a kibbutz, so Danny went to visit, and it was in the desert and Jonny was also there doing the same sort of thing. I think Daniel was wearing a Titus Andronicus T-shirt, and Jonny was like, 'How do you know them? They live 20 minutes away from me!' because he's originally from New Jersey."
Despite Yuck being Bloom and Blumberg's second professional band, the band members are only 21 years old—except for Bloom, who won't turn 21 until just after they finish this current US tour. It seems obvious, then, that the amalgam of influences in Yuck's sound is not a calculated move, but rather the end product of unconsciously absorbing music that, in many cases, has been present since before the musicians were born. The indelible tint of the late '80s and early '90s is now a given ingredient in the sound of young bands: Thurston Moore's elastic guitar, or Robert Pollard's condensed-milk version of pop, for instance, have taken on the role of omnipresent and unavoidable building blocks—much in the same way the blues twang of Chuck Berry or the frenzied gospel of Little Richard permeated the music of bands a generation ago.
Part of the sound comes from Yuck's embracing of the lo-fi recording methods that accompanied the alternative rock movement. "We tried recording in studios and it never really made sense—we weren't entirely comfortable," says Bloom. "If you think: In a studio, how many bands come and go and pass through the studio and use the same equipment, play in the same room... there will be less of a chance for happy mistakes that happen as you go along. Whereas if you record in a space that you're happy with, like your bedroom or whatever, then things sound maybe a little bit different because no one's recorded music in that room before."