As the creative director and show designer for YUNGBLUD, Sam Tozer made it a point to match the the artist and his band’s energy with that of his stage design — ranging from the lighting all the way to the pyro and sets.
Tozer and YUNGBLUD first teamed up in 2016 for set ideation, but their creative relationship kicked into gear during preperations for the artist’s recent tour. The concept that Tozer and his team created was the perfect companion to YUNGBLUD’s vision, and the execution transformed into a very collaborative process between YUNGBLUD, Tozer and Flora Harvey, who he works with over at Vision Factory, a creative design agency. “We knew the rough outline of what we wanted to achieve, but wanted to create more of a story behind the set,” recalls Tozer. “After digging deep and finding the references, we felt connected to Yungblud and began to sketch up proof ideas of what we wanted it to look like.”
In the end, Tozer and his team found their biggest inspiration from YUNGBLUD himself — topped with influences from the music video of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” and the architecture of oil storage units in Doncaster. It took them a total of three months (and countless sleepless nights) to execute the idea in its full splendor, but Tozer still fondly recalls the process.
“Create work that represents you and be open to constant development. If you are creating something unique or new, people will come to you.”
In three words, how would you describe your job to someone who isn’t familiar with the music industry?
Ideas to life.
Can you run us through a day in your work life?
If it’s a day in the studio, I’ll usually start with a morning workout, a coffee and straight to my office in Alma Yard. I sit down with Oli, our studio manager, and work out what needs to be done for the day. I then spend the rest eating pastries and floating between mood boards, client conversations, emails and drawing software. We usually finish off the day with a beer at the local pub before rushing home to walk the dog.
A day of production rehearsals is where all hell breaks loose — normal working hours get abolished and we see what was once in our head come to life. During these days, we work with the rest of the touring team and artists to direct and produce the show into the final(ish) piece that audiences get to see.
What are the necessary first steps someone should take to enter a career in music as a creative director?
Create work that represents you and be open to constant development. If you are creating something unique or new, people will come to you.
Did you always know you wanted to have the career you do now, and did school play any part in inspiring you to this path?
Yeah. I love music and I’m a super visual person, so the thought of combining these elements together always stuck with me. I’m from [England’s] West Country and there isn’t really much of an industry there, so moving to London and studying theatrical lighting design at the Royal School of Speech and Drama was one of my main goals.
“A day of production rehearsals is where all hell breaks loose — normal working hours get abolished and we see what was once in our head come to life.”
What lessons and/or work ethics did you only pick up after working in the music industry?
It’s all about relationships. If the people around you don’t feel comfortable or if you don’t give off the right vibe, you’re never going to be trusted to push the limits of new ideas.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve had to face so far and how did you overcome it?
Every show has their own challenges, but the buggiest was getting through COVID-19. Our industry ground to a halt over the lockdowns. I made ends meet by working on music videos and live streams, but I much prefer being in a room full of people all experiencing something together.
What is one thing about your job that most people would find unexpected or surprising?
I spend 99% of the time answering emails and about 1% actually designing. I want to change this!
Is there a secret to career longevity in this industry?
I don’t think I can answer that question yet… maybe come back to me in a few years.
What are some habits you follow regularly to always maintain a good headspace for work?
Exercise. I know it’s cliché, but I exercise every morning before heading to the studio. It just gives that moment in the day to clear the head.
“If the people around you don’t feel comfortable or if you don’t give off the right vibe, you’re never going to be trusted to push the limits of new ideas.”
What does a day off look like for you?
Walking the dog, trying not to binge watch a TV series and catching up in the sun whenever the UK weather lets us.
How do you see your job evolving with the music industry in the next five years?
I think social media presence is becoming a massive part in a musician’s outreach. We already do this now, but involving this more into the stage performance feels like a big step.
If not music, what would you be doing?
Designing furniture. I have a small obsession with ergonomics.
Stay tuned for more features with music industry professionals — from managers to sound engineers, stagehands and others; the people who make the music world go round without standing behind a microphone.