Life & Culture

How Oli Burslem’s Homelessness and Hedonism Led to Yak’s New Album

Tom Connick catches up with the former Another Man cover star to discuss the long road to Yak’s latest album, Pursuit Of Momentary Happiness. Plus, get your first look at the band’s new video, Fried

Oli Burslem is recharging his batteries. After yet another long weekend of booze and beyond, the former Another Man cover star is holed up in a flash café off London’s bougie Broadway Market. Faced with a DJ set at a Fat White Family show this evening, he’s almost fearful of what he sees as the inevitability of things going a little off the rails. He might drive, he says, to put a barrier between himself and the bar.

The Yak figurehead’s dedication to a party-hard pace comes as no surprise. Off the back of the London group’s debut album Alas Salvation, Burslem and his bandmates barrelled into a near two-year tour, their reputation for largely improvised, chaotic sets of psychedelic blues-rock preceding them. From there, they decamped straight to Australia, banding together with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker and POND’s Jay Taylor to begin work on their second LP. Quite quickly, exhaustion caught up with them. “I was trying to keep the peace with a lot of relationships,” he says of that ill-fated, auto-pilot trip to Oz. “All of which... failed.”

Rather than retreating with his tail between his legs, though, Burslem returned to the UK as carefree as ever. With nothing more than the clothes on his back and the contents of his £200 car, he made his way back to London. “I didn’t give a fuck, really,” he says from behind his near-constant Cheshire cat grin. “I didn’t really care, at all. After we worked so much behind that first record, I ended up with less than I had before we had the band. And I was happy with it!”

Before long, it became apparent that that bare-basics lifestyle was exactly what Burslem was after. Wrung out by the incessant touring schedule behind Yak’s debut album, his more-than-modest return to England brought on the wave of inspiration he’d been seeking. Holed up between his car and the studio, without even a bedroom to call his own, a period of de facto homelessness brought on Pursuit Of Momentary Happiness. But, buoyed by moral support and the odd collaborative effort from Spiritualized head Jason Pierce, Burslem found his groove once more.

“We could’ve made a Ty Segall-like garage record,” he shrugs, “But it became apparent that I didn’t want to that. If you’re going to do something as irrelevant as guitar music, you might as well put some real meaning and feeling behind it. And some more ideas than just some T-Rex riff!” Pursuit Of Momentary Happiness is “as uncompromising a record as possible,” he says; a full-length which finds Burslem expanding his sonic palette with evermore melodic strokes. “That first record was heavy in a certain way, but this record is far heavier in its content. I’m now more confident with singing – that shows more strength, I think; being able to put yourself out there.”

Faced with another few months and years on the road, Pursuit Of Momentary Happiness’ title seems set to become something of a premonition. Those moments on-stage are set to multiply with this new material, he admits. “That’s why we started this,” he says, looking to Yak’s touring life once more, “to have a bit of a laugh and push everything to the limit. Now, that’s even got more so. We can take it down to complete silence, no guitar or anything, to the loudest thing, pushing all the security to the limits… and the bar, and the rider,” he adds with another grin. Attention turns back to the lingering hangover: “But maybe I’ll reign it in a bit. That kind of behaviour stems from feeling like we don’t really deserve this, or it’s not gonna last,” he shrugs, “But we’re here now. So, we might as well not fuck it up.”

Yak’s new album Pursuit Of Momentary Happiness is out February 8 via Virgin EMI/Third Man Records