yeule: “I’m not afraid to dip my toes into something different”

Dive into the mesmerising world of YEULE‘s ‘Softscars,’ where raw emotion meets modern angst in a captivating blend of cyber-twee and dreamy grunge. Read our latest Dork Playlist cover feature now.

Words: Ali Shutler.
Photos: Neil Krug.

yeule has spent the past few years blurring the line between fizzing alt-pop and digital character play. For 2022’s ‘Glitch Princess’, they became a “cyborg entity” to wrestle with technology and identity over lush synths, while 2019’s debut ‘Serotonin II’ was ethereal but cut with a haunting menace, the perfect soundtrack to doomsday at the hands of AI overlords or billionaire tech bros.

Their music has been called avant-garde post-human cyber-pop, they studied cybernetic theory at uni, and their love of fashion and make-believe has earned yeule a reputation for being mysterious. It’s one they shrug off. “I’ve always just been myself,” Nat Cmeil explains, with yeule a canvas rather than a shield.

It’s hard to be mysterious when they give so much of themselves away in song anyway. Third album ‘softscars’ sees yeule continue to twist raw emotion around modern angst but with a focus on live instruments, it feels even more honest, more human than anything that’s come before.

“Writing this record, I was very much inside my own head. It hurt, but it was important”

Nat Cmeil

After working on ‘Nuclear War Post X Diary’, their 2021 covers record that included takes on Grimes, Big Thief, The Breeders and The Velvet Underground, yeule found themselves playing guitar more than piano. It quickly reignited their love of groups like My Chemical Romance, Blink-182 and Fall Out Boy. “Before that, I think I was denying that I was emo,” they grin. That pop-punk scene resonated deeply with Yeule as a child, but it hit just as hard when they revisited it. “You know that meme, ‘utilising my memory loss privileges to rewatch my favourite films’, that was me with early-00s alt-rock.”

It also allowed them to overcome a case of ego death. “I had no identity, so coming back to my roots was really important,” they explain. “This album was a lot of coping with the passage of time. Everything’s so different, but I feel a sense of comfort coming back to things that sound familiar. There is also something very gentle about my early work that never hit a certain spot I always wanted to hit. ‘softscars’ allowed me to really nail that feeling.” That said, you won’t have heard punk rock quite like this. “My love for electronic music will never go away entirely,” they explain.

Lyrically, instead of escaping to alternative realities or jumping to the future, yeule turned inwards for ‘Softscars’. “Most of the time, we try to avoid doing that by looking at memes or doom scrolling, but writing this record, I was very much inside my own head. It hurt, but it was important.”

That painful, confrontational introspection was inspired by a series of journal entries they’d labelled ‘scars’ that included “traumatic events or life-changing moments. I wrote them down as a scar entry because they created a wound in me,” they continue.

“I’m okay with being vulnerable because that’s how some of the best music is made,” they add, praising Mitski and Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker. “She just says it as it is, and that’s how it hurts.” Inspired by that attitude, yeule adds: “I don’t censor anything. I don’t change the words. It’s all coming up off those pages.”

Opener ‘X W X’ is a purge of fury and frustration, with yeule “ranting about gender dysphoria” before dreamy grunge track ‘Sulky Baby’ finds them trying to forgive themselves for not giving their younger self the love they needed. ‘Software Update’ is a visceral “low-key diss track” written about recent traumatic events. “Previously, I would have just pushed it to the back of my head and suffered in silence, but now it comes out as anger, which is better than taking it out on myself,” they explain. The title-track brings together this new direction with what’s come before.

“I don’t even want to begin to start with where the next album’s gonna go,” they grin, admitting that it’s already being written. “I’m not afraid to dip my toes into something different as long as it maintains the integrity of what the project is about.”

A transitional record, Yeule describes ‘Softscars’ as a departure from their old work “but I also feel like I’m making the music that I always wanted to make, but couldn’t because I didn’t have the resources or the companions.”

“I’ve seen a lot of people call this record shoegaze; I like to think of it as cyber-twee”

Nat Cmeil

Growing up, yeule was obsessed with Club Penguin, MSN Chat Bots and “anything else that fulfilled the loneliness I felt as a kid. I’d watch Anime or play games like Final Fantasy and see these really cool looking characters,” they continue. “There’s this childlike innocence in me that still wants to be the sort of character who I’d put on a pedestal. What I’m doing now, it feels so much like those dreams I had as a kid.”

They started releasing electronic music in 2014 because it was the easiest thing to create with a small budget and no bandmates. “A lot of those songs were written about being online, falling in love with those simulated worlds.”

As their career evolved from bedroom producer utilising microphones from the video game Rock Band to working at Abbey Road Studios, yeule started creating a community around their music, but made sure the atmosphere was always the same. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a shitty DIY setup or I’m using a mic that costs way more than my rent; I want to create a space that’s sensitive, violent and devoted. If you introduce someone into that environment who doesn’t understand the message or the music, things can get uncomfortable, but with ‘softscars’, I mostly worked with friends” – including Mura Masa, Chris Greatti and Kin Leonn.

They’ve already released a handful of tracks from ‘Softscars’, including the garage rock of ‘Dazies’, the slow-burning ‘Sulky Baby’ and the dreamy ‘Ghosts’. “I’ve seen a lot of people call this record shoegaze; I like to think of it as cyber-twee,” they explain.

“It’s about making fantasy reality. It’s about living that fantasy and being free from reality, even if it’s just for a second. A lot of people like me try to avoid real life as much as possible. ‘softscars’ is me living in my delusions.” They admit they call them delusions because “there’s a part of me that still hates myself, but there’s something so cathartic about confronting that, and screaming about it.”

yeule believes the music is already resonating with people because “there’s not a lot of music out there that speaks about very specific issues like eating disorders, gender dysphoria or obsession. It’s all very personal to me. It can sometimes feel like I’m the only one struggling with these things, but then I see people react to the songs so strongly. I guess I’m not alone.” ■ 

yeule’s album ‘Softscars’ is out 22nd September. Follow Dork Playlist on Spotify here.