06 Déc Interview : Yard Act – A band looked after by the Universe
A few hours before their show in Paris for the Pitchfork Avant-Garde, we met with Yard Act in a typical French café near the venue.
Can you introduce yourself as a band and tell us why you decided to start Yard Act?
James (singer): That’s a hard question… Introducing ourselves? Yeah, we’re Yard Act. And why did we start a band? Like, I’ve been thinking this, I don’t know why we’ve started doing that.
Ryan (bass): You were thinking that day about sliding doors and like all the things that needed to have happened for this band to happen. So what a very strange event, that, to occur for us to all find each other. That’s life eh.
James: It was very convenient for us to all live in Leeds. It was meant to be but it was luck we all lived in Leeds.
Ryan: I don’t know how.. It seems like witchcraft when I look back. It seems like whatever power you believe in made a lot of stuff happen for us to get together. I’m glad that it did.
James : We all knew each others. Like, Jay (drums) didn’t move to Leeds until later on but me, Sam and Ryan have all known each other for like, 7 or 8 years. We’ve all been in different bands in Leeds so everyone was aware of each other. It’s just great that we came together to be a band really. It wasn’t really something we thought about until we nearly decided to start it. Me and Ryan decided to start a band, that’s how we started the band. It wouldn’t have happened if me and Ryan didn’t become close friends, and Ryan moved into my house. So here we go, that’s how we started the band.
Ryan: Oh yeah, I was talking about the universe.
James: Yeah, Ryan moved into my house for three months and he was in my top room and I kept going upstairs to make demos with him and what was supposed to be our side project became our main project and we recorded this track, then we played a few gigs with a couple of other members, and then the pandemic hit. Initially we were like “oh we’re just going to wait for the pandemic to end before we put this track out” which would’ve been daft. So when we realised we could put it out, we put the track out, it did very well and we kind of chased it from there. And then Sam joined in the summer of 2020, we knew he was brilliant and the right person to replace our previous guitarist and Jay joined in February/March this year. And we knew Jay as well, we knew he was the right choice. Since then, we’ve just been doing our thing.
You’ve been under the spotlight really quickly and you released your EP at a time when you couldn’t really promote it. How did you make you feel?
Ryan: It was odd I guess because we weren’t doing gigs, so, normally that’s a good frame of reference of how it’s going. But, I don’t know. Coming out at the end of all that stuff, you know, everything kinda grew online, us at home on our computer, which was odd in one way but kinda nice in another way. So this summer it was like the blanket that was lifted up we would be straight out on big stages. I don’t know, like, it was nice because it was a new experience, like we’ve all played in bands before and that never happened before. I don’t know, as an experience, something that’s not repeating itself, that was good, for me.
James: Yeah, it was just about adapting really. And I think we all learned that there are other ways to promote your band other than playing live, which is good to know. But, it’s not as fun as playing live. But as we didn’t really have a chance to do that, I don’t think we realised until we came back… basically came last summer. We didn’t come back, we didn’t exist before it. We were really lucky that we step into a position that I don’t think many bands ever do, where we had an oven ready crowd of people who knew half our set. And that was really weird, cause we stepped into… I mean we still did shows where we had to win the crowd and move people over, but we also stepped into shows where we already had everyone on our side. We stepped on our first headline show we did in Manchester, you know, a sold out basement and everyone was bouncing up and down and knowing all the words. That’s really weird, you can’t really prepare yourself for it. That’s not how bands work, you earn your way up there. This band just happened really fast.
Ryan: It feels like we’ve cheated the levels on the computer.
James: So yeah, we’ve just learned to adapt and we’re grateful for it and we know we’re privileged to ever get it and we’ve started a year earlier we might have probably put an album out at a moment where we couldn’t have done anything with it, and we know other bands, like other great bands and artists that just totally had there album campaigns slashed by the pandemic. But we managed, because of where we were, to navigate through it at the time.
Ryan: Yeah, I told you, it’s the universe. Someone’s done something good, it’s not me.
How do you feel playing in Paris? Have you already played here before, maybe with your other bands?
James: Yes, we’ve all played la Flèche D’Or.
Ryan: I’ve played another place that was like, this is gonna be every venue probably, a tiny little bar by the side of the street, it’s underneath and you go down through very narrow stairs.
Oh yeah, Backstage by the mill?
Ryan: Oh yeah, it’s that!
James: Wow! Great memory… or great description. In general, not just in France, but all in all of Europe, out of the UK, you just get a better treatment.
Jay (drummer): Oh yeah, it’s noticeable the difference.
James: It’s a more enjoyable experience.
Sam (guitarist): Maybe not in Paris.
James: Yeah, we’ve just seen a lot of aggravated drivers today, I don’t know if that’s translate into a night club scenario. If it does it’s gonna be awful, but i don’t think it will.
Ryan: It’s wicked being here though, like, Pitchfork in Paris is pretty cool, the record shop is wicked, everyone seems pretty nice, it’s good.
James: We played in Toulouse last night and that was cool too. Paris got a lot to live up to.
Currently there are a lot of bands that go back to guitar music. Why do you feel like right now is a good time to be a classical rock band.
James: Good question.
Sam: What band started it?
We were thinking like, Sam Fender…
James: You love Sam Fender.
Sam: I do.
Ryan: I think there’s a lot there to unpack. I think about sheer volume, I think people are excited about that again. Like, the live band. And there’s a lot about the lyrical content, the subject matters I suppose.
James: I think it’s something about the fact that the guitar is the only instrument you can really play and wrestle with. It’s probably the most physical instrument. There’s something about the guitar that is the expression… There’s a way of expressing through a guitar, because you can move around with it, it’s not covering your face like a trumpet. I think it just comes around. Like everytime guitar bands come back into fashion, they’re slightly different and they’re slightly the same. There’s just never been… There’s always been amazing music, they’ll always be someone making something amazing whether it’s on a laptop or with an old organ from the 1600’s or with a guitar. However the music is made, it doesn’t matter, there’ll always be amazing music. But I don’t think there’s ever been something that looks cooler or more iconic that a guitar. No one ever designed or made an instrument that looks cooler and is instantly as accessible as guitar playing. The image of someone still there and playing the guitar and going for it, it’s still… When people see it for the first time, it’s still one of the most exciting thing.
Ryan: I think it’s the product. Like, I don’t know, a synth nice as its own, but it’s very static you know. I’ve tried, you can’t really rock out on it.
Sam: You know, this new thing you’re talking about, this resurgence, and I don’t have a perspective on it. It goes boomers, generation x, millenials, generation z, is that right? Do generation z like this music?
Yeah, Arctic Monkeys’ actually coming back in trend because of TikTok. And the latest Willow Smith album is pure rock, and there’s Olivia Rodrigo.
James: Yeah, we’ve actually talked with our manager who has a 15 year old daughter and she said loves Arcade Fire, and that she listens to it. She got it out of our manager’s record collection. So there’s a new generation robbing their parents’ music, that was out 15-20 years ago.
Ryan: So 15 year old kids are finding Kings Of Leon, The Strokes, Arcade Fire…
James: And I think, few year before that, if you slightly earlier, they were probably looking at Chemical Brothers, Fat Boy Slim. I mean, there was music around, but it was more the rave, the dance stuff, and the hip-hop of these years.
Sam: It was My Chemical Romance. I can’t wait for emo again.
Ryan: I guess Yungblud is kind of an equivalent.
James: Yeah, and if you look at Billie Eilish, maybe not the new album, but the first album, that was like… Or Princess Nokia, and I know Princess Nokia is not huge, but they were reappropriating metal and you know, Slipknot and stuff. All that imagerie, Yungblud, Billie Eilish in that first record, it’s all like grunge, nu metal, nu metal became fashionable. Being around the first time, I didn’t think I would see it. It comes around. The past fashion is a healthy ressource for the future.
Sam: The question was like why now though? It’s a bit weird, I’m trying to think it through, I’ve got no idea.
Another band told us it was because of the pandemic and people were tired of music you can make in your room and wanted to hear guitar live.
Ryan: That’s what I meant by the volume, like going in a room and actually being hit by a wall of noise. That could be a thing. I completely agree with that.
James: It’s a great theory, who said that?
The Luka State
James: There’s some weight in that theory, I’d be curious to form some study. I don’t have time personally.
Can you tell us a bit about your first album?
James: The overall message was just to – without being too on the nose – just try to see the humanity in people and get less divided by politics and more involved in seeing people. Realising that everyone lives a life and that everyone’s trapped within a system that they’re trying to cope within and not everyone’s aware of that. They try to overcome that system, they try to live within it and everyone got their own stresses and strains. It’s basically just an anticapitalist album but it revolves around the moody wars of the fact that we all have to live within capitalism. A lot of it has to do with me coming to terms with having to make money even though I wished it didn’t exist and the complexity of that.
Will you come back to France to promote it?
Ryan: Yes! We’re in Lille next February, l’Aeronef.
James: And in la Boule Noire. Is that place good?
Ryan: And then we’re back for some festivals we can’t announce yet. We’re back quite a lot.
Do you happen to listen to French bands sometimes?
Sam: The only French bands we listen to is electronica. Phoenix are great.
James: Or François and the Atlas Mountains.
Jay: I like Gojira as well.
Ryan: France is good
James: And all the electronic stuff as well, Daft Punk is really special, aren’t they.
Any bands that you like at the moment that you’d like to share to our readers?
Jay: We saw Gustaf, from New York, they’re really great.
Sam: We should probably mention Katy J Pearson who’s playing tonight.
James: Barba Ali, he’s technically New Jersey, he’s coming on tour with us in February. And Nuha Ruby Ra is coming on tour with us in May, so we’re just gonna promote these supports. They’re both amazing artists, and so is Katy J Pearson who’s playing tonight at the Supersonic.