21 September 2022

Yellow Days gives himself an attitude readjustment on new album, ‘Apple Pie’

For many of us, the promise of fame and fortune holds a certain allure. Putting those rumours to rest under the alias, Yellow Days, George Van Den Broek is here to offer a cautionary tale on the pitfalls of the Insta-verified “blue check world”. Set to psychedelic melodies, the artist’s new EP, 'Apple Pie', discusses the complications of people pleasing and authenticity, with George joining HUNGER from a Brick Lane rooftop to tell all.

Following a mid-pandemic move from sleepy Surrey to the heart of East London, George Van Den Broek, better known as Yellow Days, has morphed from self-proclaimed, Tumblr-inspired teen to self-possessed star on the rise. Swapping sunny bedroom performances for in-demand studio sessions and soul-searching subjects, it’s safe to say the singer-songwriter has covered a lot of ground in the past two years. His latest instalment EP, Apple Pie, is the story of a “jaded attitude that needed adjusting”.

Discussing the trials and tribulations interwoven with overindulgence and instant gratification, the 23-year-old musician is candid about the effects of success. Describing the reaction to A Day in a Yellow Beat and Is Everything Okay In Your World? George explains, “People started treating me differently. I started living in a jaded universe and all I saw was how hollow and shallow everything can become when you are serving desire and needs.” By contrast, Apple Pie covers “the strange complex that emerges from that and trying to rearrange myself in a way that makes sense”.

Self-produced and stripped back, the record is a move away from the Yellow Days’ earlier work, the five tracks a pared-down exploration of an artist undergoing creative redirection. “You go one direction in life and then you get completely pulled in the other,” he explains, frequently referencing the pitfalls of his people-pleasing nature. Reflected in the album artwork, the desire to please is a recurrent theme throughout the record. “Even on the cover, I’ve got myself literally on a plate. I wanted to make sure people were constantly amused, I was trying to make people like me. Musically, I was leaning into more trashy drum sounds, trying to be existential with it.” He laughs before pausing to add “hopefully this EP gives a little window into a slightly confused artist – I wanted to represent that plainly instead of assuming.”

Paired with dreamy melodies and laid-back tones, lyrics like “A little pressure/ Now I’m starting to crackpoint to the darker undertones at the heart of the record’s initially sunny demeanour. With a subtle smile and a cigarette constantly in hand, George isn’t keen to shy away from the serious stuff. “I relish when it gets really real, that’s the whole point of it for me. You go through phases as a writer of just making stuff you appreciate aesthetically but when it gets to the core of a personal issue, that’s when it’s really art.” He adds with a soft-spoken smirk: “I suppose I’m whining over success”.

Demonstrating an unphased attitude despite the crackling zoom connection and Brick Lane building work, sincerity seems to come naturally to George. As he talks about the process of making music in an oversaturated scene, his answers remain unaffected and honest. “When I try and engineer what I’m doing too much, I start to lose myself. When I’ve tried to manufacture something mainstream I’m not able to embrace the journey I’m subconsciously on.” Self-aware and straight-talking, he continues: “As a musician right now, it’s such a turbulent time, there’s a lot of pressure to cater to things like TikTok. I have to go the opposite diffraction otherwise I’ll lose the music within. It feels very smash and grab. It’s sort of a catch-22 because the algorithms reward plastic Disney princess vibes which for art, is really toxic.”

With windswept hair and a baggy tee, it’s safe to say George is a far cry from the super sugary world he’s warning against. “We need gritty interesting shit otherwise we will become boring – if everything we look at is squeaky clean, we just become squeaky clean people. That would be a really boring world to live in.” Now an intrinsic part of being an artist, the world of music and social media seem to be increasingly conjoined, with online promo now an expected part of the job. Agreeing with a grimace, George sheds some light from an insider’s perspective: “The music does take a backseat in these situations, musicians are expected to behave like influencers and it’s a shame the cards have been stacked in that way because clearly, it doesn’t reward the music that most people like.” Quick to add a more optimistic spin on the current cultural climate, he adds, “I think we’re due some great music in the next ten years, there are loads of great instrumental acts and new fusion scenes – people are passing the torch of musicianship.”

With an obvious focus on authenticity, Yellow Days provides a welcome antidote to the hyper-polished, high-energy soundbites that surround us, with Apple Pie bound to resonate with over-stimulated audiences looking to lie back and log off. “I think TikTok will keep people entertained for the ten seconds they watch the video. Maybe people will reject these platforms, a lot of friends of mine have just tapped out of getting the new thing but maybe that’s people getting old, I’m not a teenager anymore,” he laughs, “I’m very sentimental but I’m also optimistic. I want to affect culture, to make music sound a little better, that’s ultimately the goal of any ambitious artist – to add to the melting pot of culture.” 

Soon to tackle the weighty issue of inter-generational advice in an atheist society, Yellow Day’s upcoming single Inner Peace certainly seems set to stir the cultural melting point. Swapping tales of success for the pursuit of peacefulness, the record examines the artist’s life as he discusses “finding a pseudo-religious faith in love, kindness and some unworldly power.” Initially, this may sound like a step away from the subject matter at the heart of Apple Pie, however, George’s questioning nature remains ever-present. Exploring a “faulted, potentially superficial and misguided set of principles”, the themes interwoven throughout Inner Peace seem to be an obvious follow-up from Apple Pie’s enticing exploration of fame, excess and overindulgence in the Insta-era – a cautionary tale we could all take lessons from. 

  • Writer Olivia Allen

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