In the age of the internet, in the time of lockdown, artist Yellow Days is taking it all in his stride. With his sophomore album A Day in a Yellow Beat, released Sept. 18, now under his belt, Yellow Days is experimenting with alternative genres and testing his musical abilities to do so.
George van den Broek, the London-based singer and songwriter behind Yellow Days, started with music at the impressive age of 17. Since then, he’s worked with notable jazz musician Robert Glasper and alternative icon Mac DeMarco.
While Broek found his initial success in dreamy bedroom pop tracks, A Day in a Yellow Beat takes a stark turn in a different direction, as funk-inspired jazz beats dominate the record. This genre experimentation was inspired in part by Ray Charles and Marvin Gaye vinyls from his youth, but it was witnessing the jazz community that finally prompted the switch.
“Musicians I’ve played with and the records I’ve listened to stirred me in this slightly fusion-y and R&B soul place,” Broek said, in an interview with The Daily Californian. Over the phone, Broek’s nonchalant nature countered his musical style — an emotional yet euphoric synth pop collection of crooning.
Although A Day in a Yellow Beat relied heavily on jazz instrumentation, Broek considers himself on the periphery of the jazz world, looking in.
“There were some experiences (playing) that just anchored me. You learn about the community of that world, and you’re obviously being what I am — just kind of looking at it from the outside. But I just like the essence of it and the way that … people are always encouraging each other.”
A Day in a Yellow Beat marries the jazz world with the past synth work and signature vocal style that Broek is known for, producing a fresh sound that is clear throughout the astounding 23-track record. If it were up to him, however, Broek explained that he had hoped for an even longer album. Where it stands now, the album is filled with interludes that break up the longer tracks and use an eclectic sampling of American instructional videos.
“(The videos) just have this kind of really crude tone to them, which I just find really tongue-in-cheek,” Broek said. “I just find it to be just a really odd phenomenon, to say some really strange thing that probably will never happen again.”
Broek’s natural curiosity sent him digging deep into the archives on YouTube to find complements for his tracks and samples that would offset his melodic, existential sound.
“I first started doing it when I was like 15. I just found it useful to drag in someone talking,” Broek said. “It’s one of those things that I feel is going out of fashion, and it’s harder to make it work.”
The interludes scatter themselves across the album, pairing together tracks that took Broek two years to compile. While releasing a record in the time of lockdown is a challenge, Broek remained confident in his decision to move the awaited project forward.
“It was unfortunate timing as I handed it in a month before lockdown,” Broek said. “Instead of deciding to call the whole thing off and waiting, we just went ahead. We figured people will need music, and that it was always supposed to come (at) this time.”
Although fan reactions were limited to the realm of social media, Broek embraced the cyber connection. In addition to holding a Reddit chat with fans at the end of September, where he answered any questions from fans that came his way, Broek has also been keeping a keen eye on fan reception.
“I can see the kids connecting with (the album) on Twitter. … I remember when it went up at midnight … and after the hour passed, some kid was already quoting the interludes. I was like, this is real now,” Broek said.
Broek’s connection with the Internet coalesced in his music video for “The Curse,” a love letter to brutalist websites and build-your-own character video games.
“We locked heads on it and we came up with this world, with us doing kind of Sims characters, like PS3 stuff. Just being really janky and horrible. But at the same time, you know, we wanted it to be just (a) cool 3D world, just kind of glitchy and nonsensical,” Broek said.
With a European tour in 2021 to look forward to, Broek also sees additions to his discography in his future.
“I love albums and I want certain records to feel one way or another,” he said. “I think one thing for me is I need to be releasing three or four records a year. … The next one shouldn’t take too long, so we’ll get it out sooner, and quicker.”