Yung Bae is at a turning point in his music career. The Portland native began dropping sample-heavy disco/future funk albums since 2014 and has been on an upward trajectory revitalizing and spearheading these genres and their sounds. But with his latest record Groove Continental: Side A, Yung Bae has taken a different approach that includes an emphasis on original songwriting and huge collaborations with Jon Batiste, AWOLNATION, EARTHGANG, Channel Tres, and more.
He took these new batch of tracks to Miami Music Week to test them out on the South Florida party people. To do so, he headlined one of his own shows “Yung Bae & Friends” and was on the roster of the Brownies & Lemonade show that included sets from Louis the Child, Whethan, Malaa b2b Habstrakt and more. From my time in the crowd during Yung Bae’s set at the latter show, there was a real sense that his blend of his old and new sounds were something the crowd couldn’t get enough of. He opened with a hypnotic intro of “Pure Imagination” and seamlessly blended it into a set of funky house and sexy rhythms.
During the craziness, we caught a chance to sit with Yung Bae and pick his brain on a couple of odd and obvious topics.
How has your first Miami Music Week been and how would you compare the crowds here versus anywhere else you have toured?
Yung Bae: “I was just here in December too. Now it feels like everyone’s out in party-mode; everyone’s out in high spirits. So I’m pretty excited for the weekend. The sun’s out and the ocean breeze is nice too. If we were a little more inland, we would be done for.”
Before we talk about your music, I wanted to tap into some of your other interests. For starters, is it fair to say that you’re a pretty big anime fan?
“I’m a big fan of old-school anime. I watch a lot of reruns. Everyone who knows me know I watch the same ten shows over and over. I grew up on a fuckton of Sailor Moon. I still watch it to this day. I’ll just put on silent and play it in the background. It’s like screengrabs all day. I love it!”
It’s like comfort food, right?
“Yeah. It’s like I get the anime-lofi thing so much now. I put it on silent, add subtitles and let it playin the studio. I do the same thing with Samurai Champloo. That’s kinda what my brother and I grew up on too. That’s where I figured out what sampling was. Same thing with the Boondocks. I didn’t quite understand anime at the time and now I’m like, “Oh wait…and the soundtrack is fire!” Like this is great. This is a win! It was that and Cowboy Bebop, originally. Evangelion is still my favorite to this day. I want to get an EVA Unit 2 tattoo right here.” [Yung Bae proceeds to point to the right side of his torso with a massive smile on his face]
I feel like it’s pretty hard to top a lot of the classics even though there’s a lot of great current stuff out now.
“I feel so out of the loop. Same thing with just general current television. With HBO, for example, all I watch is the Sopranos. That show has been it for the last year for me and I’ve watched it like eight times. Throughout the whole tour, HBO has just sucked me in. It has me wondering like maybe HBO is worth the money?”
I feel the same. And meanwhile, Paramount is trying to grab my wallet with the new Halo show and I’m not sure whether to hop in or not.
“Isn’t that today? When I first heard about that, I was super excited. Like, ‘Daddy? Sorry.'” [laughs]
Sounds like it’s safe to say that you’re a video game guy right?
“Oh you bet. I just got Elden Ring today. I was just on tour with Madeon and I was waiting until after that like around the 24th [of March] or something. I had it preloading and I’m sitting there and waiting by my PS5. I’m fucking pacing and my girlfriend is like, ‘The fuck are you doing?’ I said, ‘I don’t know whether to get into this now and only have three days to be into it or wait to play it after the tour.’ So I decided to wait and throughout the whole tour I hear people saying, ‘You gotta play Elden Ring, bro. You gotta play Elden Ring!’ When I finally did, I hadn’t left my house all week until now. At the same time, GTA V ‘s new remastered for the umpteenth time. I swear it’s the same thing with Skyrim, bro.”
I feel like that’s a similar guilty pleasure like with playing an old anime, right? [laughs]
“And we’re the assholes that buy them consistently. It’s like every new console, I have GTA V and Skyrim. [laughs] And each time, I think that their not going to get me now. I refuse. And then they just got my money again like yesterday so.”
Focusing back to your music, your most recent album Continental Groove: Side A was an absolute blast to listen. From “60’s Spy Shit” to “Disco Body Parts” with AWOLNATION. But one thing that’s more evident in your latest body of work is that there’s a lot more collaborations in here than some of your other albums. What was your reason for that shift in making your music?
“It was one of those things where I didn’t do in-person [collaborations] at all. I would rather sit in my studio on my couch in some boxers with my cats and chill. But my label started pushing the idea where they said that I should try this and stuff. It was one of those things where I was inherently trying to avoid sampling or sampling less. There’s only like a couple of samples on the [new] album itself. But on everything else, I realized that I could write this out; I could make the vocals and chop this up too. It was such a fun process to make our own future funk and use the vocals we were making. Ultimately, it helped me too. I could sit in the studio and decided that this is what I want and this person can do it if I guide them the right way. And now when I go back to sampling, I’m like fuck…I’m locked in. There’s only so much I can do.”
In other words, you can’t have the sample work for you? You have to work around the sample, right?
“Exactly! And now it’s like I have these ideas, I can put them to paper and it’s not that hard. In fact, it’s easier because I don’t have to clear samples. Which is sick! Ultimately, the switch to collaborating more came from me trying to avoid sampling.”
Who would you say are some artists or bands that have influenced your music that you don’t think a lot of people would expect to have?
“When people ask me that and their shocked to hear that I never really grew up on Daft Punk, or J Dilla or Nujabes. I mean, with Nujabes there was [Samurai] Champloo, but that was about it. I didn’t know who he was. And with Daft Punk, I haven’t really listened to their entire discography. But it was inherently around me and I always thought that I kinda like this. But my main influence was a lot of yacht rock. I got really into the Doobie Brothers. They have an album called Living on the Fault Line and they sorta tap into Motown territory. That was always a sound that drew me in.”
“One of my favorite people right now is Durand Jones and the Indication and what I realized during this album cycle is that I love the 1960s a lot more. While working on the album, I was trying to make Motown meet late-night disco because I love the tongue-and-cheek-ness of these genres. You listen to music nowadays and it’s just dirty. When I listen to Motown, it sounds nicer even though it’s dirtier. It’s like my grandma has no clue what the song is saying so we’re going to run with it. [laughs]”
“On top of that, I also thought how could I bleed that with a current sound too. Since I listen to a lot of hip-hop, I wanted to make something classic while having that make sense for now and make it digestible. Like I listen to an ungodly amount of hip-hop on the radio. I love Lil Durk. He’s so fun In other words, it was like a fun, tricky balance of my established sound with more Motown and hip-hop influences.”
Since we’re in a bit of a different world here in Miami sonically with all this electronic music ranging from house music and dubstep and you’re starting to carve your path in this EDM landscape of sorts, would that change your advice to a young music producer or songwriter and what would that be?
“I’ve always stuck by the creed. I’ve been making disco now for the last seven years now and it sucked at first to watch my homies get booked and stuff. It felt like since ‘nobody likes disco’, then alright. I’ll go play a wedding. It was hard, but honestly stick to what you like. If I was making whatever else that I didn’t care for, I would hate my day job. But now, I get to say that I get to make disco all day in my boxers. And that’s sick, bro! If you told me that like ten years ago, I would have been like, ‘What?!'”
“I also noticed with my music that it was something that people didn’t know they liked until they heard it for the first time or the first couple of times. It’s like when you go to a wedding and you hear and Earth, Wind and Fire song and you go, ‘Oh wait…that’s disco.’ They get to that point where they realize the song their liking turns out to be disco, funk or dance music. For a long time, I felt like I was left field for the longest time. But now I’m like whatever. Everybody is left field of each other and it’s more fun that way.”
That’s a great way to put it! When do you think you’re fans are going to get a hold of Groove Continental: Side B?
“Within the year, for sure. It’s been confirmed the management, label…everyone’s on board for a release this year.”
Thank you for coming out and doing this interview. Have a great Miami Music Week.
“Thank you and thank you the fans for checking this interview out!”
Make sure to check out Yung Bae’s latest album and keep an eye out for the upcoming Groove Continental: Side B.