George Van Den Broek, aka Yellow Days, is an old soul living in a young body. At 18, his musicianship and in depth understanding of music suggests a maturity that belies his years. In his lyrics he tackles complex issues like depression, anxiety and politics – all sung in a husky croon that evokes his diverse array of influences such as Ray Charles, Howlin’ Wolf and Mac DeMarco.
Born in Manchester, Van Den Broek moved south as a baby, his parents setting up shop in Haselmere, Surrey. He was given a guitar aged 11 for Christmas and ever since, music has been his life. He released his debut EP in 2016, and followed up with latest project ‘Is Everything Okay In Your World?’ last week. It’s a soul-stuffed epic about his struggles with mental health and growing up in a modern age. Rising hip-hop star Rejjie Snow features on a track too.
We caught up with the indie prodigy to talk scary neighbours, Rick and Morty and his upcoming debut album.
You recorded the new EP in your garden shed. What was that like?
“The acoustics do the job for what we do, but I was a bit worried about the neighbours! We’ve never had a formal complaint but I’m up at all hours working on shit and they’re very good to me. They definitely give me a lot of leeway with the noise!”
You talk about depression in the lyrics. Is that something you’ve struggled with?
“Yeah definitely. I had bouts when I was growing up and I think a lot of people do nowadays. It’s a part of modern life. We’re all so comfortable and settled most of the time that the day to day can become hard. The EP is about people who feel that way, who just can’t quite get by. I’m a character like that and hopefully Is Everything Okay In Your World can help people recover from depression and anxiety.”
Was making it cathartic for you?
“100%. It’s a way for me to process my emotions and without it I would be an emotional wreck. Writing songs is a beautiful process and I’ll always be grateful that I can do it.”
Rising hip-hop star Rejjie Snow features on ‘Lately I’. How did that happen?
“It was a dream come true to be honest. We opened for him on his tour for a couple of dates. He didn’t know who I was at that point but his manager liked my music and I was always down because I’ve been a fan for years. He’s such a natural rapper and when you hear him in the studio you realise how beautiful his voice is. I dabble in hip-hop too so there was a common link to latch on to.”
Who’s your main influence?
“Ray Charles is my number one. The amount of emotional grit and honesty in his music is what I aim for. I think that’s what music should be about. Emotion. I want people to be swinging from their chair during the three to four minutes or so that it lasts. Ray Charles’ music does that for me.”
What about a modern band?
“I grew up on Mac Demarco, Tame Impala, Thundercat. Those guys were emerging when I was a young boy getting to grips with music and helped me identify what my taste was. They shaped what I do now.”
Have you met any of them?
“No, that would be amazing. I think I’d get on with Mac. Although if we met I’d probably just spend all of the time staring at him, just crying a bit [laughs]. I don’t think we could share a proper relationship. But I am open to it, I don’t want to close the door!”
Who would your dream collaboration be?
“Recently I’ve been thinking Andre 3000. That would be some unreal shit.”
Music’s your life, but what do you do when you’re not making music?
“I love Rick and Morty. It’s an amazing programme, so well written. I’ve watched quite a few things by Dan Harmon actually, like Community etc. He’s hilarious.”
Is there a debut album on the horizon?
“I was building up to this latest EP for so long that I haven’t really looked beyond that. So who can say. I’m always in the studio recording stuff though. I’m sure it won’t be too long.”
‘Is Everything Okay In Your World?’ is out now on Good Years
Yellow Days play London’s Scala on Thursday December 14