Yellow Days: ‘I don’t like the sound of my own voice. I don’t like watching myself onscreen. My sense of self is muted and negative’

Yellow Days tells whynow about his loathing for postmodernity and personality cults, his large Dutch forehead, and realising he was turning into a spoilt little pop star.

Yellow Days Hotel Heaven 2 Georgia Sydney Jones

It’s a dour title to click through to, granted, but the context around that quote by Yellow Days is fascinating.

Known offstage as George van den Broek, Yellow Days always danced to the beat of his own drum. From his early days recording in his parent’s shed in Surrey to his whirlwind journey through the music industry, George has navigated the highs and lows of fame with a resilience and authenticity that’s as rare as it is refreshing.

With the release of his third LP, Hotel Heaven, he embarks on a bold new chapter, reinventing his sound and exploring the complexities of modern life through a meticulously crafted concept album. Renowned for his adventurous hybrid of off-kilter psychedelic indie-pop, P-Funk grooves, and sumptuous soul, Yellow Days applies the seductive allure of his captivating voice to stories of millennial angst and existentialism. It’s a style that has attracted fans, including fellow mavericks Tyler, The Creator and Tom Waits, plus a like-minded collaborator in the shape of Mac DeMarco.

In a candid conversation with whynow, Yellow Days wades deep into the influences that shaped his latest work, covering his Dutch ancestry, the hedonistic chapter of his life he’s left behind (transitioning into a more relaxed, ‘Stonery George’ state), and the spiritual surgery that led to Hotel Heaven.

The album, a stark departure from his previous releases, serves as a critique of today’s fame-obsessed culture and the carrion of social media, with personal reflections on George’s own experiences within it.

This is an artist unconvinced and unwilling to participate in the theatre of online posting and constant fan interaction that so many musicians are forced to engage in in nowadays creative climate. But none of these viewpoints are delivered by George with judgement or menace; he’s just throwing open his door to advise all of us, music makers and listeners alike, to take a step back and breathe deeply.

Yellow Days Hotel Heaven Georgia Sydney Jones

whynow: I wanted to start by asking about your ancestry. Is ‘van den Broek’ Dutch?

Yellow Days: My dad’s Dutch and was brought up in Holland for the first part of his life, but I was born in Manchester and raised in the South. A lot of my family, especially my brothers, have Northern accents, but I don’t really.

whynow: You do a bit!

Yellow Days: Haha, yeah, I’ve got the ‘gr-ASS’ instead of ‘gr-ARSE’, but it’s very light. And then I’ve also spent a lot of time in America as a young musician while touring and recording, so I’ve got a little-bit-of-everything accent.

whynow: Do you think you’ve inherited any traits that are characteristically Dutch?

Yellow Days: The forehead, mainly! Many Dutch people, including myself, have a very large, square forehead, hopefully supplying space for a rather large Dutch brain. But not always.

whynow: And you’re tall too, aren’t you?

Yellow Days: I’m six-two, but I slouch all the time, so when I stand up straight, I’m taller than most people. There’s usually a six-inch difference between me slouching and standing up properly, but I don’t want to dominate the room like that. I think I’m more approachable when I slouch. I’m not the type of guy to have good posture anyway; self-neglect is a theme in my life: chain smoker and heavy drinker.

whynow: You said your upcoming album, Hotel Heaven, is a ‘360’ from everything you’ve done in the past, wanting to start afresh. Why? What felt out of place before?

Yellow Days: I started all this when I was 16, just a kid, and got out there quickly. The music did well, I was touring, and I’d left school. But because I’m a multi-instrumentalist across different genres, I started writing for a lot of other people until the point came where I’d become a kind of ‘entertainment child’, someone who’s grown up in the industry, and I was making more art and doing more touring than I was actually living my life.

I was becoming isolated in music. It was like I wasn’t a real person. I signed this big Sony deal when I was 18 and did a record called A Day in a Yellow Beat—which I’m very proud of. You know, I think it’s a good record and all the rest of it—but it was just this immense pressure put on me by the label, lots of dangling carrots.

At that age, I’d achieved quite a lot of success with tiny EP releases and no real backing, all a grassroots rise to where I’d got to. So I had this kind of ‘fuck you’ attitude to [Sony], which created a hostile relationship, like a teenager and their parents. They’d say, “Hey, George, you should do this,” and so I decided to do the opposite. I had this attitude, an angry young man attitude, where I didn’t want to be told what to do.

They told me to write seven to ten tracks, so I made it 32. I felt like this dog backed into a corner. Then the record came out during Covid and flopped. I got dropped from the label and then went into this cycle of partying and drugs, just a jaded 22-year-old.

I felt I’d let everyone down and wasted my potential. I had so many big stars and all of my idols around me. There were a lot of feelings of regret and failure, but in truth, I was just a spoilt little pop star.


So then I was forced to do a lot of soul-searching. And during that time, that wild phase, that I wrote Hotel Heaven, seeing myself in this ‘in-club’ but also hating it simultaneously. You can see in the videos that I’m stuck in the furniture, trying to get out. The record’s about pleasure obsession, all these greedy people in a greedy life. The hotel is where these rich and famous people go to seek refuge during the apocalypse, but they all have such a mediocre sense of self that this place becomes hell in itself. That was the impetus for it all.

whynow: So, this is essentially a concept album?

Yellow Days: Exactly, yes. The idea is to exaggerate what’s happening in the world now. Instagram culture, everyone trying to be rich and famous, people like Elon Musk and Virgin taking them to space, and that horrible incident with the submarine.

The mood of the record begins quite joyously but then descends into this nightmarish experience. I grew up in the countryside with a big group of friends, and we were all party kids getting fucked up; then, coming into my 20s, it hit this saturation point where I couldn’t sustain it anymore. I cleaned myself up, chilled out, and relaxed into a more ‘Stonery George’ tempo of life. All that stuff hollows you out from the inside, and those things have a lot of emptiness when you take it too far.

whynow: It’s in those hollowed-out moments that you find out who you really are, or at least who you’re not.

Yellow Days: Very true. It’s boiled down to the basics. My music’s always been very biographical, like a diary, and quite literal. My first two records, Harmless Melodies and Is Everything Okay In Your World? were journals of emotions. With Hotel Heaven, I wanted to mature and metamorphosise the whole situation. Instead of making it journalistic, I wanted to make it surreal.

We live on a top-floor flat on Brick Lane, and you begin seeing the block of flats as a hotel full of people like me. Then there’s this all-knowing concierge, and my life’s being written as I live it. Framing it all like that became a method of doing away with the literal nature of how I used to write, becoming more abstract and making characters.

whynow: Were you partly inspired by Arctic Monkeys’ Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino? There are several overlapping themes, especially around technological fatigue and modern life. Would you say Hotel Heaven is a purely cynical album, or is it a display of you working through some things and coming to positive conclusions?

Yellow Days: There is a breakdown halfway through, and then there’s also a resolution, but the resolution is just: “I don’t want to die.” It’s that hit-rock-bottom moment where it’s like, “God, I just don’t want to die.” I want to live out there, to be there (that’s the lyric: “I want to be there”) rather than be stuck in this place forever. A hotel is a place that isn’t a home, where all the simple comforts of home have been stripped away.

As for the Alex Turner reference, I basically live under a rock and only listen to old stuff, so in my head, I thought, “Great! Nobody’s done a hotel record before.” Then when I finished mastering the record, somebody turned to me and said, “Hey have you heard that Alex Turner record? He writes about living in a hotel,” and I was like, “What the fuck?!” But this always happens in music: I’ll be working on something, then hear a musician living on a different continent, and it turns out we’re all on the same wavelength.

Yellow Days Finer Things In Life Georgia Sydney Jones

whynow: So, back to the postmodernity criticism. What bugs you about all of this? And how does this all come out in your music?

Yellow Days: It’s the personality cult. Which, don’t get me wrong, aren’t all bad. I love certain personality cults around Mac DeMarco and Tyler, The Creator. Those guys are funny and charming, but I’ve always had this self-loathing since I was a kid. I don’t like the sound of my own voice, either. I don’t like watching myself onscreen. My sense of self is muted and negative.

Ultimately, I don’t take pictures of myself and post them online because I don’t like myself that much. A huge part of being a musician nowadays is taking loads of short videos of yourself and posting them to TikTok and Instagram, but I couldn’t bear to see myself doing any of that. Some people use music to get away from themselves. I’m definitely that type of person.

READ MORE: TikTok City | London life is now made-to-order – and it’s nauseating

whynow: I wanted to finish by asking you about Mac DeMarco. You were clearly influenced by him in a big way, especially by his atonal style, but what was it like working with him, and what were some of the things you weren’t expecting from such a big personality?

Yellow Days: Well, it was like a dream come true. But what surprised me was that he was exactly how I thought he would be. I’ve heard musicians meet other artists whom they admire and say they wished they hadn’t, but Mac is the generous, friendly, super funny, weird, and cool guy you think he is. He’s just an all-round stand-up human being. Meeting him was an absolute joy, as was watching him make music, all the little squals and screeches he’d make when he gets on a roll, he goes completely mad. He’s probably the nicest man in the world.

Yellow Days recently announced details of major touring plans for 2024. This month will see him embark upon his first full UK headline tour since 2018 which includes a landmark London show at KOKO, which he’ll follow with a run of dates in Europe and then two legs of extensive North American touring. Tickets for the shows are available HERE.

Photo credit: Georgia Sydney Jones

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