”Written byNick Trethowan
“What I think about when I make music is that the longer and further, I go with it, the more I try to find different ways of making an idea.”
Listening to Yum Yuck, one easily drifts off into his dreamy world of nostalgia, luscious synths and style-led hand in hand past the gates of Horn and Ivory by his silver-tongued, smooth vocals and an effortless groove. Like all good dreams, you don’t want his songs to end and the moods and themes he creates and plays with linger in your mind throughout the rest of your day. Yum Yuck’s songs are uplifting, sensual and dissolving; and feels like the perfect comfort for a headphone journey into the heart of the human condition.
Bedroom alt indie-pop singer/songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Pascal Righini is the mind behind Yum Yuck. Popping up in 2015, Pascal created Yum Yuck as a platform to experiment and develop a personal style and sound away from his band, The Plastics. Since then, we’ve seen an array of outstanding EP’s, an album and countless hit singles, all delivered with an enigmatic charm and a style so rarely seen these days that it should immediately be considered classic.
I caught wind of the Yummy-Train when Icicles and Lioness were first released which quickly established a different direction from his work in The Plastics and for the bedroom alt-indie scene in South Africa. These idyllic dreamy tracks were just a precursor for the development, experimentation and production to come over the next six years. With a range of features and collaborations, Yum Yuck remains unique and positively refreshing. Beautiful synths work with hypnotic bass and the small complexities and intricacies of the many fine layers of production, to create an ethereal listening experience, one that leaves me feeling like I could simply close my eyes and float.
What remains to be the cherry on top, is that he happens to be one of the nicest people who has been a firm supporting force behind many projects in SA and someone who really brings a light to the industry he works in. I caught up with him to chat about taking home a SAMA, his new EP and more about his take on the creative process.
“I feel like I’ve done a lot of experimenting and I’m now getting to a place, that is a more confident place.“
How did Young Yuck start?
Yum Yuck started maybe two years before The Plastics album In Threes (2015) I was doing a lot of demos and sketches for the album as well but while I was writing more, all these other songs came out that really didn’t feel at all like The Plastics: it was just a kind of tonal/mood/point of view and maybe they were a bit too developed by me that I felt like that the other guys in the band didn’t really have a collaborative buy-in with and or wasn’t their take of the music but I was also very happy with how they sounded. So Yum Yuck was started as a space/platform for me to just release any music that I recorded and liked, in the beginning, the whole goal of the project was to be very undefined in terms of what kind of songs and what style and genre it could be.
What’s the inspiration and intention behind the name?
The idea was that I knew (well, I hoped) that some people would love the songs and some people would hate the songs – and for me, the idea of ‘this track doesn’t relate to the track before which didn’t relate to that’ some people will find some of it Yum and some of it Yuck and I want to embrace that idea. I wanted it to be something you could love and hate within the same EP. I’ve kind of evolved from that but yeah that was the intention!
What is your creative process, how do you prepare yourself for that?
What I think about when I make music is that the longer and further, I go with it, the more I try to find different ways of making an idea. For me, and this is what I live by, a formulaic approach leads to a formulaic product. I want the creativity to always be there, I don’t want to even say I write songs by sitting down and picking up my acoustic guitar, a pen and paper and banging out a song or sitting down at my piano and just writing a song and it’s done.
I’ve tried to, through investing time in different skills and a lot of hours, create a lot of different ways to write a song. For example, sometimes I write with my guitar and I write some chords and make up lyrics on the spot or as I go, that is one approach. Sometimes I play some synthesizers or piano first, then build a beat which is a basis for the mood of the song. Sometimes I like to use samples, as a way to inspire me. I started really looking and getting into samples a couple of years ago when a friend of mine put me in the direction of Kanye – he was a real Kanye head and me and him would always get drunk and be like ‘let’s make a track with samples!’ which would end up sounding shiiit but I learnt how to do sampling from that. Sampling is another way I like to start an idea. Sometimes it’s rad to get inspired there and tweak it, enabling such a different part of your brain, it’s like you find all these tones and chords and voicings almost by mistake which is stuff that wasn’t something that was part of your own brain. Sometimes you get tired of your own thoughts, you know? “Oh god, here I go again on the guitar” Mix it up for yourself! It often goes: I start with samples, I build up the beat and inevitably one by one, I delete the samples and I just end up with the stuff I wrote around them – but it’s a great way to get started and so that’s another approach.
The truth is that all the approaches end up in the long journey and its part of the thing about working in the box of how a lot of modern songs are made, is that you DO go through the process of re-inventing the song a bunch of times while you’re making it and that is something I do a lot and enjoy doing to a degree because it also drives me crazy. But for me, I like to take an idea and say ‘how far can I push this?’ How much can I get out of this idea? When I feel that I have given everything I can to this idea, to make it as good as it can be and I’ve done all that I can, then it’s done.
“I feel like the level of music-making and talent in South Africa is incredibly high and the whole music scene feels like there is a lot of talent here.”
So keeping that in mind, when do you know when it’s enough, you’re done and the tracks ready?
Generally, if I have a co-producer working with me, generally when they get really irritable with me and they’re like ‘dude, it’s done’ or three months into making the track and I hit them with “let’s change the chord progression” and they’re like “nooo!”
And that’s something I’m learning more as I continue on this process, when I started Yum Yuck, again the project was a lot for me about having the chance to be experimental because I wanted to flex those muscles and see where I go and as I’ve kind of moved through the project, I feel like I’ve done a lot of experimenting and I’m now getting to a place, that is a more confident place. Where I feel like I don’t actually need to do all of this experimentation, yes if something awesome happens that’s great but a good song is still a good song and that needs to remain true. Something where you can almost do a campfire test of your song and sit down with a piano or an acoustic, sing your track. Does it sound like a great song? Or without all the glitz and glamour does it sound like nothing? So that’s where I have kind of come back to.
Talking about co-producers, tell us a bit about the debut track off of your new EP Late titled ‘Bet It All’ and working with Josh Berry?
I love working with Josh. He co-produced my previous album as well as Lighthouses, which was our first song we co-produced together. I have a really good time working with Josh, I think that we understand where we both think it can go, but we also have different sensibilities on certain key things. So sometimes he helps to bring me out of being so ‘me’ and sometimes I push back and take it away from being something that’s more him and I find that in this push and pull process, we find a really unique space. It’s hard to find producers that instinctually work on your song and do something, that take your idea or bring their own idea and just make the song better without it being a discussion. You can trust them. You can say “Hey dude, let’s start working on drums today” and you can sit there trying to be involved in every step or you can say ‘hey I trust this person’ and I want their sensibilities and their creativity on the song and then you give them an hour or something on drums and the song is just 10% better.
Can you tell us a little about taking home the well-deserved recent SAMA win for Best Rock Album with last year’s Orange Sunshine?
It’s fux*ing awesome, I’m really stoked about it. Obviously, no one makes music to get an award, but having been nominated with The Plastics before, for a couple of albums, it felt really good to kind of take it home. I just feel very thankful that the people at the SAMA’s were so open to this album, because I wasn’t sure, sometimes SA music genres that we are operating in, such as Alternative or Indie music, sometimes it feels a little behind. I think that the open minded-ness of the SAMA’s to nominate my album in the Rock category and then to take the win, was a huge moment that made me feel very appreciated and seen. After the application process was done, the SAMA’s team sent a communication and they had said it was a record number of entries into the SAMAS ever which is amazing because South African music is clearly alive and well and having heard that – and also listening to and seeing some of the other winners – I feel like the level of music-making and talent in South Africa is incredibly high and the whole music scene feels like there is a lot of talent here and to be recognized amongst such a huge amount of talent was an incredibly good feeling.
So what’s the what about the upcoming EP Lace? What are we looking forward to, when can we expect to see it out and can you tell us about it?
It’s four songs, track one is Bet It All which is the Poppiest song on the EP for sure. The EP as a whole is darker in tone than Orange Sunshine, it’s moodier. The EP was written basically all in the first lockdown. So I wrote about, I think, 10 songs at the time. These four were the ones that came out really well and I feel that if you listen to the EP as a whole and listen through, feels like a collected group of songs. It was a bit of the idea behind the name Lace and much like actual Lace material, each song in a way, is about a different kind of connection. The EP explores these different loose connections that knit things together, although everything can be seen to be connected and all these small threads make something quite strong but also quite fragile. That was something I felt gave the intention for the EP as a whole. Some of the songs talk about relationships, about memories, substance abuse and internal dialogue. There is a relationship of some kind of a connection per song. The full EP drops in late September, but the next single (which is one of my favourite songs that I’ve ever made) is coming out next Friday Le Stat. It’s something I’m really proud of as a song, it all came together really well. I self-produced it for the first time (I think ever) in Yum Yuck and there is two songs that I produced as me on my own but also with some help in terms of thoughts and ideas from my mix engineer Vicente Espi he helped with a couple of extra synths on Le Stat and Selfish Lovers. The last song on the EP During the Heatwave is also coming out before the full EP drop on the 10th of September.
One of the things you’ve done personally for years is provide a helping hand to young creatives around CT. Are there any creatives or groups you’ve got your eye on at the moment?
I do actually, a project called Aboynamedblu which is a guy I worked with earlier this year, helping to co-produce along with myself, Aqib Kazi and Aboynamedblu and it’s just something really exciting. He’s a young guy and I think people are going to be super blown away. I think the first single is hopefully intended releasing late September.
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