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Sunday, August 14, 2022

English independent pop is looking for its place in the world

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A debut album The overload (Music As Usual), which debuted at number two on the UK charts. A fan with a pedigree like Elton John who recorded a new version of one of the songs from this album with them. A singer who was there as an extra Peaky Blinders and that he had an encounter with Cillian Murphy during filming that ended with the musician prone. A little over five years ago, Yard Act would have been enough to make the list of half the festivals in this country, dominate the independent media and even show their heads in mainstream media.

But for now, that independent and Anglo-Saxon post-punk that defines them is once again a remnant in almost every non-English speaking area. The world twerks Spain parked Anglophilia to embrace traditionalism and its own heritage. Meanwhile, these four Yorkshire Thirties and other island guitar combos (Idles, Wet Leg, Shame, Dry Cleaning) remain stubborn in sounds and a way of understanding the business that sounds archaic today, and most importantly, it’s no longer universal. “There are quite a few bands that are doing similar things to us and have had some success over the last few years,” points out Ryan Needham (Yorkshire, 32), the band’s bassist, via Zoom from his home in Leeds. “I think there’s a change coming, that guitars are coming back because they’re always coming back. At least we think so. If you stand still, sooner or later you will catch a trend. Although, to be honest, we are not programmed for success. I don’t know how normal it is for us to triumph.” James Smith (Yorkshire, 32), singer, nods from the other half of the screen – sprawled on the sofa at his home, also in Leeds – and adds : “When we saw that there was an option First, we decided to work hard on it for a week. We got to two. Voucher. Time to get back to normal.”

James Smith, Yard Act singer. Manuel Vazquez

Normality, everyday life, the deepest human misery and the ridiculousness of feeling special are some of the guiding principles that shape the discourse of the pregnant James Smith The overload as a concept album around a character, Graeme, who appeared on the group’s first self-released single upper fixer, and who we could briefly call a moron. Smith draws on the storytelling tradition of Ray Davies (The Kinks), Damon Albarn (Blur) or Jarvis Cocker (Pulp), but lives in post-Brexit Britain, so this mix of self-harming humor and tenderness is more inclined to the former than to the latter. “I struggle to be optimistic. In fact, I managed to have a certain redemption, a certain humanity, at the end of the album,” he emphasizes, referring to a narrative that mixes the study of the essentially English character with the style of the classic literature of the islands, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (David Nobbs, 1975), with an almost unhealthy penchant for watching first dates every night. “I think there’s a very English, even Yorkshire element to the lyrics, particularly in the humor, but then there’s also a universal intent of tackling big issues. But without giving meaning, knowing that I can get tired at any moment. There’s no point in always being cynical, because cynicism gets you nowhere. I will not Hippie, because with him hippie You get even less,” he says.

British rock band Yard Act, pictured at the Earth Room in London.
British rock band Yard Act, pictured at the Earth Room in London.Manuel Vazquez

Not only is Yard Act’s commitment to a somewhat maligned and even disoriented sound heroic today, there’s more. After more than a decade of combing through Leeds’ alternative circuit, they are succeeding. “Imagine how we are, that moving to Leeds seemed like cosmopolitan hell,” jokes the singer, who didn’t think it was possible to advance in this music until he met Needham and they started making some songs together to compose in which they met from Talking Heads to Sleaford Mods, through The Fall, Gang of Four or the hip-hop that Smith is a fan of “even before he knew America had two coasts”. “And then the pandemic came,” the bassist interjects. “We’ve always had bands outside of our jobs because you have to pay the rent. Suddenly you couldn’t go to work, so we could spend all our time doing it. I recorded a bass line, sent it to James, and he sent me back five melody options in half an hour. Since I was at home…”

Today the band seems to be taking their sound to new heights. “The other day I couldn’t go to rehearsal because I was alone with my son,” Smith spontaneously begins a conversation with his bassist. “We walked by the place you were playing and you almost sounded like Rage Against The Machine. I like it”. Yard Act will perform at Mad Cool Sunset on September 10th, a one-day festival that will be headlined by Rage Against The Machine, of all people.

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Source elpais.com

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