The Welsh DIY star talks influences, growing up, and why going on tour terrifies him
When we meet Yxngxr1, he’s experiencing an acute burst of energy that’s giving him the shakes. “I need to calm down otherwise I’m going to be speaking absolute nonsense for the next hour,” he confesses. In the style of nonsense’s more engaging cousin, the chat that follows spans Welsh hip hop (or lack thereof), a Glassdoor-esque review of his years at Foot Locker, the emotions at play while writing his recent album, and a redacted story about why he’s called ‘Fart Man’ on Twitter.
The 25-year-old Welsh artist broke into the scene with his jaded-before-his-time nostalgia-laden DIY bedroom pop, also inspired by his love of US hip hop. His new album, Front Porch, is a deceptively sunny-sounding collection of tracks borrowing from multiple genres, often with a deep neurosis and longing at play. Yxngxr1 will hit the road in November in support of fellow Soundcloud star glaive – and he’s been busy bridging the gap between his internet roots and real life mass appeal.
Here’s what happened when we caught up with Yxngxr1 ahead of his UK shows.
Firstly, your name… I know you’ve said it’s inspired by XXXTentacion. Did you want something that confused people?
Here’s the thing, right. When I first made the name I was working at Foot Locker. The original name was something even worse. It was ‘Userplain’ – like ‘username’ but I’m a plain boy – but that was taken so I had to put the Y on the front. So when I changed my name from ‘Yuserplain’ to Yxngxr I just left the Y there and thought “Yeah, that’s gonna have to stay in” instead of just putting my normal name down. I never expected people to really even care and then things started taking off and it got to a point where it was too late to change it to something else. I tell everyone it’s because I have an older brother and he and his friends used to call me the younger one, but that’s just a blatant lie!
Tell me more about working in Foot Locker. What was their playlist saying?
It was a CD full of the worst music. The thing is, it might not be bad music, but because of the amount of times you have to hear it loop over and over and over and over… So we had ‘Despacito’ and a bunch of Dua Lipa songs on there. You’re meant to get sent a new CD every single month. I worked there for a year and a half. Guess how many times we got sent a new disc? Zero.
How did growing up in Cardiff influence your music?
I listened to a lot of American artists like XXXTentacion, Lil Peep, Smokepurpp, Lil Pump, Ski Mask – all these SoundCloud artists. I wasn’t in tune with what was going on in Cardiff at the time. I could relate to these artists way more than I could to anyone from the UK because at the time you had Ed Sheeran at numbers one through ten in the charts with his ÷ (Divide) album. I actually think the way Cardiff inspired me was pushing me out or making me realise that something new needs to come in.
That makes sense. I was trying to think of Welsh hip hop influences but couldn’t get further than Goldie Lookin’ Chain…
It was just Goldie Lookin’ Chain, that’s all that Wales has to offer!
When did you realise you could do music full time?
It’s gonna sound very big headed but I promise it’s not meant to sound like that. It was when I started making more money from music than doing my job. There’s a Ricky Gervais quote that’s like, I get paid more than a tiler. So why would I do it myself when I can pay someone to do that? And that’s how I kind of felt. I was getting paid more making music than working in retail serving shoes to people who were just rude to me! It’s not my fault you left it a week before school starts and now we’ve run out of black Airforce…
Let’s talk about influences. Tyler, the Creator is a big one for you – who else?
Dominic Fike and Mac DeMarco. The Beatles as well. Learning their chords and the way they play is super interesting. We went to Paul McCartney’s house the other day. I mean, I say we went to… we stalked his house is what I meant to say. Just pelting rocks at his window and shouting ‘Let me in! Let me record something!’. The Beatles will probably be my top artist on Spotify Wrapped this year with ‘The Ballad Of John And Yoko’ as my top song. It’s got a really funky bass – I listen to it in the gym sometimes and it proper gets me going. I can imagine myself playing it on stage. I love Britpop as well. I’m listening to a lot of Suede right now, and there’s certainly a lot of older music that inspires me as well as hip hop.
You came up through Soundcloud and a lot of your career trajectory has been thanks to the internet. Are you a very online person?
Chronically online. I do like going on TikTok quite a lot and just making the worst videos you could ever imagine. Online is where I grew up, musically. I remember my first shows being scary because I’d only ever done things through Instagram or Discord or whatever. To go from that to real life stuff, I kind of went ‘Why would anyone want to come and see me live? This is the stupidest thing ever. I’m just some kid who lives and sleeps in a bedroom and makes music!’. It’s super cool.
Your new album Front Porch is very nostalgic, and lyrically feels quite discontented. What headspace were you in when you made it?
I felt like I was getting older. I was looking back on those days where the boys were in uni and I could go to their house whenever I wanted to and we could do anything we wanted to. We probably did every single drug you could think of. We smoked everything you could and drank everything you could and stayed up till god knows when watching NFL. Now everyone’s got a job and is in a relationship and growing up and I feel like the outsider because I don’t have a ‘proper’ job. When you’re in the moment you ignore the fact that you’re gonna grow up and you won’t have this time forever. I wish I would have savoured that a little bit. It’s a really sad album, masked in happy-sounding music.
Break ups and some form of romance, or at least sex, is something you touch on a fair bit. Do you feel like that’s something you spend a lot of time thinking about?
A couple of years ago I was still trying to figure out who I was, and I was experimenting with everything, pretty much. So a lot of the lyrics back in 2018 and 2019 were very love and relationships based because I had no one. I had the boys but I wasn’t really into girls or boys. And then I was into girls and boys, and then boys, and then I was into girls. Everything was so confusing. Music was my way of expressing what was going on there. It was a very strange time but I feel like I’ve grown into myself more now.
The tour starts in a few days, so how are you preparing for that?
I’m mainly isolating myself and sh*tting my boxers. Nah, I’m still waiting for a guitar to get fixed. I’m super excited for it. We’ve been doing a lot of practising. It’ll be my first ever time on stage with a guitar as well.
What’s a typical Yxngxr1 fan like?
The word ‘fan’ is a bit of an ick for me. I speak to everyone on Discord and if I get DMs and stuff I’ll usually reply. I don’t see it as a fan thing where I’m unreachable. If someone says ‘You’re my favourite artist’ I’m like ‘No, I’m not, there’reyxngxr1 other people doing way better stuff than me. Go and listen to them!’. Everyone is super cool and caring. I try to meet everyone after a show as well and everyone always has their own stories about what a certain song means to them. I remember this one kid, he was super, super nervous but a lovely boy. He was with his mum and he came up to me and was quite shaken. A couple of months prior, I’d sold a pair of trousers that I wore in a music video. And he came up to me with those trousers on! I spoke to him for as long as I could and it was super nice. Everyone’s so kind, I love them.
Photo credit: Cosmo Rush