July 26, 2017

Interview: Yucky Duster

Catching up with Brooklyn's Yucky Duster to discuss their sophomore album.

Brooklyn-based punk-quartet Yucky Duster writes effortlessly catchy songs with humorous storytelling as the band sing’s tales of slippery romance, intimacy, situating yourself into the world: variously offering funny colloquialisms or cutting desolation. Yucky Duster is a supergroup of sorts–it’s members having an impressive collective of DIY punk bands comprised of members of Bluffing, Slonk Donkerson and The Gradients. Maggie Gaster and Madeline Babuka Black started Yucky Duster with the idea to play fun, 60’s surf rock inspired tunes Maggie on bass and Madeline on drums. Eventually adding Luca Balser and months later Zack O’Brien on guitars. The band’s latest EP, Duster’s Lament released last fall via Infinity Cat Records showcases delicate emotional heft with arresting imagery that’s heightened by jangle-pop guitar leads and soaring vocal harmonies. The infectious and uplifting melodies–carrying the spirit of New Zealand bands like The Clean with the familiar punk-pop swing of Beat Happening. Yucky Duster capture the essence of being honest, unguarded, and fervently impassioned with their boisterous and highly melodious punk-pop that will speak to you comfortably as much as make you dance.

After playing a show at Bard College with T-Rextasy at The Root Cellar. I caught up with the four Dusters to discuss the band’s sophomore album, dream collaborations, and song writing process.

The Le Sigh: How did the four of you first meet, and why did you decide to start making music together?

Maggie: Madeline and I meet at our friends show who was like “you guys should play music together” and then a few months later we jammed together and it worked out!

Madeline: Luca and I went to school together at Copper Union. I was in a band before called Bluffing and Luca was in a band called the Gradients and Zack was in Slonk Donkerson, and we used to all play shows together. I saw Zack at Palisades one time and he just seemed really excited about the demo we recorded on a field recorder.

Zack: Maggie yesterday said that my aquarius sign allowed me to identify Yucky Duster as a good thing before it was good! So I was very excited to join the band.

Maggie: He has great foresight as an aquarius.

Madeline: We’ve had this lineup for a year and a half. Our first show as a band was a Halloween show. Zack was dressed as a mummy and we wrapped him in toilet paper. Maggie was dressed as animal the muppet drummer. I was Helga from “Hey Arnold” and Luca was the Muppet Beaker.

TLS: Where does the name Yucky Duster come from?

Madeline: After we were playing together for a couple of months we were like we need to figure out a name, so we went to this bar and wrote down a bunch of lines and words that fit well together. I wanted it to be a woman's job like “cleaning” and “dusting” then Maggie wrote down the words “Yucky Duster”. We laughed for a long a time over yucky duster and I always liked it.

TLS: Some songs on Duster’s Lament like “Different People” and “Duster’s Lament” take sugary pop melodies paired with darker lyrics, themes of sadness, isolation, life's ups and downs. Do you consciously think about pairing upbeat melodies with more introspective lyrics when approaching song-writing?

Madeline: We all really love this band Ovens, I love they way he approaches pop songs they are are really catchy but short and melodramatic.

Zack: I think we all have sort of similar musical DNA and we all hear the same pop melodies. In terms of the lyrical content we all kind of picked up on each others thing.

Madeline: I was really sad when I wrote “Real Good Bad” and was trying to make that one really twee and melodramatic. I feel like a lot of your songs are about feelings Zack!

Maggie: All of our songs are emotional

Zack: We are just four emotional people.

TLS: Do feel inspired and a sense of community living and playing shows in New York City?

Maggie: It’s definitely helped us make connections and book shows.

Luca: It's bittersweet!

Zack: People who book shows and put venues together have done really nice things for us and given us the opportunity. The other side of it is “fuck there's so many bands and we are all playing guitars.”

Madeline: I remember talking to some friends one time at a show and my old band was going to play Ladyfest at Hampshire and talking about it. All the bands only had men in it and I was like "this is a guy fest." I think it’s exciting in the Brooklyn scene that is moving away from being male-dominated. We play more and more shows with females.

TLS: What was the most memorable show you played?

Madeline: We played a show with UK band Shopping and that was my favorite show. It was the right mood.

Zack: That is the ideal show, playing with a band that is really fun and good. They do a good job of being like “we write dance music” and then the message is sort of innate. It's all really inspiring. If you have a chance to collaborate with a pop star on a song who would you collaborate with and what would the song be about?

Luca: Lady Gaga and Brian Wilson, that's my dream team.

Maggie: Missy Elliot.

Madeline: Gwen Stefani. We’ve been rocking out to a lot of No Doubt in the van recently.

Listen to Yucky Duster on bandcamp.

Abbie Jones, who will sing along to every Liz Phair song at karaoke by heart and is always down to get milkshakes past midnight. When she isn't writing about music, she is playing drums in her band or hosting shows in her backyard.