Though it’s only been a few months since the release of his very well-executed new album Stranger, recent talk of Yung Lean has centered around something entirely different. Namely, a new pair of shoes he made with Converse inspired by his most recent-full length.
The “Toxic” One Star launched this past Friday at Converse’s immersive pop-up in London, the One Star Hotel. Lean was present to unveil the shoe amidst a very curious room; a neon-lit lounge that offered guests the chance to brush up on their Mahjong and backgammon skills at specially-designated game tables.
We snagged Lean during the event to chat about the new shoe, some of the lessons he learned while creating Stranger, and why exactly everyone was playing backgammon.
So first off, can you walk us through your Converse One Star design?
This shoe is covered in slime. It’s a tropical neon shoe, with these nice little stars. Then the Sad Boys logo right here. Then we have the Sad Boys gear dog, which is a fierce dog – very angry dog. Then the Converse thing here. We’re making another one, which is a bit more complex and a bit more of our own design.
There’s something different on the other heel – is it a different graphic?
Yeah, it says World Affair Sad Boys 2002, then it’s this happy star logo. It was all made by Sherman and Blade.
And maybe you could walk me through the concept of the room here as well – you have some Mahjong, some backgammon. What’s happening in here?
Backgammon, I really like. Backgammon is a good game – like an old timer’s game. You sit on the beach, and you just play backgammon for a really long time. I play it on the tour bus a lot. It’s 50% chance, 50% skill, just like life.
Your new album ‘Stranger’ and its visual accompaniments were very cinematic. What were some of the things you were thinking about when conceptualizing for the videos?
Not much, really. We wanted to make a film at first. A Stranger film, with the whole album. Then the budget got way out of hand. We didn’t have that money, so we made the Stranger trailer and we wanted it to be kind of like the Wild West. To be a Western thing, but a bit more gory. A bit more blood, and a bit more strange, I guess. Like a Werner Herzog meets the Wild West. Then for “Red Bottom Sky,” Marcus and I just had a coffee at my apartment and I wrote down ‘chainsaw,’ ‘a ferret’ and ‘go-kart.’ Then we worked around those three words.
You chose those words, how?
Just from the top of my brain. Listening to “Red Bottom Sky,” it’s a very bittersweet song. The first time White Armor heard it, he said it was like a Bob Marley song. I didn’t want a happy video to go with it, so that’s where I wanted the chainsaw and the ferret and the go-kart; to be not what you would expect in that video and what I think would look good, basically.
Can you tell us anything that you learned or took away from the whole experience with ‘Stranger?’ Or something that pushed you forward as an artist?
It’s harder to record with a children choir than I thought. I don’t know. We always have to do too many re-takes. The first take isn’t always the best one. We had to re-take a lot of the vocals when we recorded in Iceland. We went back to Sweden, and then we had to re-take most of the vocals. I thought it was a bad move, but they turned out to be better.
As the media has used this label ‘Sad Boys’ more and more to you and also applying to other artists, how do you feel about that term now?
For me, it’s my group. It’s what we started. I don’t really know what the media uses it as. If they use at as a label for other artists then, it’s whatever. It’s not a genre. It’s our band. It’s like saying, ‘Oh, this is Nirvana-esque,’ or something.
You’ve got a full day free with no responsibilities. What are you going to choose to do?
Go to a cinema. Watch a film. Maybe go swimming. Probably listen to a Lee Scratch Perry album. Drink some coffee. Read a book.
For more of our features, read our interview with SoundCloud rapper turned designer Lil Gnar right here.
- Imagery: Chris Danforth