Reuben Styles is one half of Australian electronic duo Peking Duk, but is switching gears with his intimate solo project, Y.O.G.A.
Reuben’s project takes a dramatic turn away from the sounds of Peking Duk , as he opens a view into his most intimate moments, and how they affect his mental health. An acronym for You’re Only Great Always – Y.O.G.A holds a vision to encourage people to come together to support safe conversations around mental health.
While releasing this project, Reuben is also fundraising for Black Dog Institute, which is the leading mental health researcher in Australia. “Team Y.O.G.A are all rocking mullets in support of the mullets for mental health campaign” Reuben excitedly tells me. This passion for promoting mental health and well-being stems from his own experiences of the loss of his friends, who sadly lost their battles. On his EP, Reuben has an uplifting approach to his experiences of dealing with death, and sheds light on how the good and bad things in life make him feel.
As World Mental Health Day passes, we caught up with Reuben to chat all about his solo project Y.O.G.A, and his latest EP ‘You’re Only Great Always II’.
I’ve written a lot of songs in the past because it’s a nice way to deal with grief and loss, and finally I was ready to release a song about my good friend. Hearing it made me really happy.
Firstly, congratulations on the album – how are you feeling?
I'm feeling great! I’ve learnt in the past with Duk there is always nerves when the release is coming up, but I got to the point where I didn’t actually worry if the song would do good or not, I just liked the song and that is what mattered to me – and I feel like I’ve reached that same point with Y.O.G.A! Releasing the first song was so scary, it was putting myself out there not only as a solo artist, but the first time I’ve released a song with my vocals as the lead, I’ve never put out a song as the vocalist. The nerves before the very first song was crazy, the second was less... a little spooky. And last week before this new EP came out, I was so content with being a solo artist... it isn't spooking me anymore. I have made peace with that, and I am back in the state where as long as I make music that I love, that’s all I need. It is totally fulfilling. I am stoked to put out music which has a slightly personal touch to it. When we write songs for Duk, it's quite fun I’d say... but with this record it is the first time I have put out a song with lyrics that resemble feelings I am going through and feelings that I've had previously. It has been quite the journey. One of the songs on the record is about one of my best mates who passed away. I wrote the song just after he passed, and I was worried that I wouldn’t do the song justice and that it wouldn’t be good, but when I listened back to it on release day, it was nice hearing what came through and I feel like I did the song justice. I'm happy to put lyrics like that out there.
What was the production process like?
Being a ten or twelve year old listening to Blink-182 and playing guitar, to then starting to make hip-hop beats, to then eventually making electronic beats and then starting Peking Duk, it is kind of fun going back to that regular old fashion music where you play something on a guitar and then record it!
Does it spark a youthful feeling of making music for the first time?
Yeah! I guess so! It is a little new... it's not like Duk has any rules, but Duk is a well-established artist and we would hate to put something out that our listeners wouldn’t like. I’m not saying we strictly stick to a process or rules, but if it doesn’t bang and if it isn't a dance track then it probably won't sound like a Duk song... whereas with Y.O.G.A there are no rules whatsoever, it is really fun and it does feel like I am a kid playing Blink songs again.
How did finishing these songs feel?
‘Finishing’ is the greyest word in the world, with any form of art. It is so hard to know whether you’ve touched it too much or not enough. I’m so scared of that word, even you saying it now has me thinking of so many things I could do to each of the songs that are out already. I think the strongest thing anyone can do as an artist is to learn that nothing can ever really be finished, you have to be brutal and you have to learn to love it and find when it is good enough. It is so easy to touch something too much, and knowing when to put the paintbrush down is so hard.
You said that you had written songs for late friends, but never wanted people to hear it... do you remember the moment that changed?
I do and it is hilarious to be honest... I watched a Disney movie called Coco. And Coco is just such a great movie, I can't fault it in any way, shape or form. They teach about the Mexican way of celebrating the dead, and the way that they do it is not by focusing on living their life to end up in heaven per say, its more about once you’ve lost someone that you love; it is up to you and your family and friends to give them an afterlife. Coco really taught me what the key to an afterlife is, it's about putting in the work with your friends to keep up conversation about them. I’ve written a lot of songs in the past because it’s a nice way to deal with grief and loss, and finally I was ready to release a song about my good friend. Hearing it made me really happy. So, thank you Disney for teaching me that lesson!
This release was in time with mental health awareness week – what can people do to start more conversations around mental health in their community?
That’s a good question! I guess it’s just encouraging people to start talking. As soon as they feel down, talk to someone. It doesn’t have to be to the person you live with or to your partner, maybe it can be someone a little removed? Personally, I find talking to someone more removed from you makes it easier, jumping on a zoom call and having a beer with someone you don’t see too often. If you start, maybe they’ll have something to get off their chest as well! But yeah, always, always, always talk if you are not feeling 100%.
Tell me about Team Y.O.G.A
Well! Team Y.O.G.A is fundraising for Black Dog Institute which is the leading mental health researcher in Australia. We are doing the mullets for mental health campaign, and for the whole of September I have been rocking a mullet and raising money for Black Dog Institute with Team Y.O.G.A. I think there is about fifteen of us! I think the best thing about mullets for mental health is, as opposed to mo-vember or some of the other great fundraisers, anyone can have a mullet! We are fundraising for mental health research and I am having a great time doing it as well! Everyone gets to have a mullet while doing a good thing.
Listen to Y.O.G.A's latest EP, 'You're Only Great Always II' on Spotify below:
Words by Oli Spencer