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What I Learned at Bandcamp: Youceff Kabal

Youceff Kabal, Yus, Bandcamp, interview

Photo by Quinton Dominguez

Youceff Kabal has been a performer in the Phoenix music scene for years, playing everywhere from Trunk Space to Crescent Ballroom. The Brussels-born artist, also known musically as YUS, sings solo over electronic beats he’s created on his computer.

In May, he released El Yunque on Bandcamp. The six-track EP is available for name-your-price download.

Below, read The Spec‘s interview with Kabal and listen to tracks from the album…

Tell us a little about yourself…
My name is Youceff Kabal, I’m a 25-year-old American from Belgium living in Phoenix and I like music and a lot of other things.

How long have you been making music?
Since high school I’d say. About nine years or so.

Who/what are your influences?
There are so many! My mom I’d say would be the biggest. She introduced me and my siblings to poetry fairly early on and I sang “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” with her in one of our family videos way, way back in the day. Thinking back on it, that was absolutely insane, but I have no idea where that tape is and that really sucks. I’ll also list my older brother Mhamed, we argue often, but he really was a major influence in terms of music and showing me new artists such as Panda Bear and Jai Paul.

I have all or most of my listening history logged on my, for a more in depth look at what I listen to.

What is your favorite song you’ve released and why?
That’s a cool question. Honestly, it changes all the time. I go on kicks listening to my music, like, listening to things I worked on here and there. Right now, I really like “Ride For Tide,” but for a while my favorite was the remix I did for “Newtimers,” and also the remix I did of “Chromatics.” From Talisman, my favorite is “Now.” Also, I collabed with Philippines artist Eyedress on a song called “After Hours” that I really, really liked for a bit.

Upcoming projects, where do you want to go from here?
Where do we go from here?! There’s a bad side to being a musician today in that the zeitgeist managed to make music seem more banal, like something anyone can do, which totally isn’t the case. But what it does is it makes for a very congested internet and it’s really difficult to stand out. It’s more about virality/shock value and sticking to what we know than really good music (like, musicians are literally copying other musicians because fans like that particular sound). We depend on brands like Pitchfork/Hypetrak/whoever to find the good stuff, but there’s so much money being exchanged and those sources aren’t as legitimate as they were (like, there are conflicts of interest everywhere).

So, what do I do? Where can I take this that others can’t? Make really, really great music videos, and be really, really great live, and have really cool people around, so that in a sense we’re just working for ourselves and the plan as a whole is fail proof. If I’m happy with what I’m putting out, and my friends are happy with what they’re putting out, then it really doesn’t matter who’s hyping or not, how many people are listening, who’s booking us for shows. We’re just making great content so that when we’re older, we have our experiences documented and know that we really gave it our all.

Why do you make music?
I’m gonna try my best to not say something epically corny, lol. You know, honestly, it just struck a chord with me when I was young. I just Googled “struck a chord” and one of the definitions is to create an emotional response, and that’s exactly it. As someone who grew up in Europe, I’m very…well, Europeans are very emotional. Like, they’re very public or it feels more in touch with their emotions. Here in the U.S., there’s a weird sense of disconnect with our emotions, and I think it develops in our schools. Like, it’s really not cool to cry at school or to take a leap for something without knowing the potential repercussions. We’re gonna be classified as this or as this. We’re gonna be a nerd, or gay, or boring, or whatever people come up with today. Like, as Americans, we love the scientific method, we love to have a calculated logic for why we do the things we do, so that when people ask us why we do what we do, we don’t sound like a lunatic. The thing is, that’s just complete bullshit.

Music just struck a chord with me and when I write music, or perform music, I separate myself a bit more from what people want me to be, and I’m just more me. I can explain things about myself, or about things that are happening around me, betterĀ than I can with prose or language or whatever that is not music. It satisfies my need to communicate, which is actually a very, very deep need, and it’s such a rush when that need is satisfied. I think that’s really why I do it.

Anything else you’d like readers to know that we haven’t asked you about?
Um, if you make music too and want guidance or whatever, you can send music to everything [@] and I’ll listen and you never know what can happen!

Thanks again!

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