Yuno Combines Emo, Hip-Hop, Visual Art and Skateboarding Into Sub Pop Debut 'Moodie'
Published Jun 13, 2018Sub Pop's latest signing Yuno has given the music world one of its strongest song-of-the-summer candidates for 2018 with the sun-kissed bopper "No Going Back." So far, the song has thrown people for a loop, according to the Jacksonville, Florida artist.
"Hip-hop is mostly what I listen to, for quite a few years now," Yuno tells Exclaim! "I feel like it does influence my music in ways that a lot of people don't notice. For instance, people would tell me that 'No Going Back' reminded them of Tame Impala, which I didn't even get. To me, it sounds like either 'Hard Knock Life' or 'Anything' by Jay-Z. There is a trap influence on the song 'Why For.' So it's in my music, but it's not always apparent, I guess."
Yuno recently compiled a Spotify playlist full of his hip-hop picks, but his debut EP, Moodie, is a six-track sampler of beat-driven, synth-heavy pop that most recalls the late 2000s surge of acts like Passion Pit, MGMT and the Tough Alliance. It's quite amazing to learn, however, that he discovered music through a rather unlikely genre.
"I grew up listening to a lot of different kinds of music, but emo was what got me into music in general, and got me exploring instead of just listening to what was on the radio," he says. "I feel like it's always in there."
The 27-year-old's formative years occurred smack dab in the middle of emo's lucrative second wave. And although it's hard to hear any obvious traces of the subgenre's characteristics, they're clear to Yuno.
"The loud vocals, I do a lot," he explains. "I started out by screaming to see how it would work, because I didn't know how to sing. And I still do that from time to time. I'm not sure why, but guitar is my main instrument. Like in 'No Going Back,' there really isn't any guitar, but I threw in a solo just because it felt right."
Emo, punk and metal all came out of his love for skateboarding. Although he says he's "terrible" at it ("I've never done a kick flip in my life!"), skate culture was an important part of his teenage years, especially absorbing it through videos and videogames.
"There was a lot of music I heard in skate videos and videogames that I wasn't exposed to before, because I don't have those older siblings to show me what to listen to," he says. "So it was nice to have this other place to discover music and cultivate my taste: everything from Johnny Cash to Del the Funky Homosapien."
There is a chance that he watched one tape that featured his A&R guy. Yuno was signed to Sub Pop by another one of the label's artists, Ishmael Butler of avant-hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces, also known as Butterfly, from jazz rap trio Digable Planets. In the EP's press release, Butler says, "There was seductive magic that I couldn't, and still can't put my finger on, which is the essence of his uniqueness. Kid's a star, man."
"I was vaguely familiar with him," Yuno admits. "I knew about Shabazz Palaces, but hadn't really heard their music. And then I learned that he was also Butterfly from Digable Planets. But I've definitely listened to a lot more of his music. Digable Planets turned out to be a pretty big influence on the EP."
With some guidance by Butler and Sub Pop, Yuno has taken full control of his deal. Not only did he self-produce Moodie, he also designed his own artwork and merch, shot his music videos and took his own press photos. Not much has changed since the days of doing it all by himself in a bedroom.
"Music has always been the thing I've wanted to do as my career," he explains. "I always drew and made videos in school for extra credit, which is how I actually started making music. I needed a song for a video I was shooting for my history class. So I was able to combine all of those interests with music. I think it could be harder to do that in another field. I like how music encompasses all of my hobbies. I've been working on all of this for a long time, so it's cool that Sub Pop gave me a chance to get my art out to people."
One part of the job that is brand new to Yuno is performing. Prior to the recording of Moodie, he had never played a gig, until late April when he embarked on a brief U.S. tour opening for Twin Shadow. As he prepares for first-ever headlining tour in August (which includes Vancouver and Toronto), Yuno says he is still tinkering with his approach to how he performs.
"[The Twin Shadow tour] went well, but it was a pretty strange experience, just because I'm used to being all alone in my bedroom uploading my songs online," he admits. "And now I'm able to perform them for people. But I was nervous. It turned out well because I wasn't sure how these songs would turn out live. But once I got a band together we were able to decide how to approach the songs and which ones would be more entertaining to play.
"Before I got a band together and we started working on songs, I didn't actually have an idea of what my live performance would be like. Now that we've done it I'm happy with how it came out and I'm excited to add new elements and change the songs up a bit."
Moodie is out June 15 on Sub Pop.