Yard Act are a Leeds-based rock band who have found increasing success after releasing no more than three singles, however they insist their success isn’t new at all and that being liked isn’t what drives them.
We spoke to Yard Act’s frontman James Smith (via Zoom) about their latest single ‘Dark Days’ and their plans to a play socially distanced show next month.
The band formed at the end of 2019 when Ryan Needham (bass player) moved in with James and they began to collaborate. This was after they had spoken about starting a band for many years. “When he moved in, that’s when we started writing all the songs,” James said. “And that’s kind of how Yard Act was formed.” With Ryan and James, forming the “core of the band,” their guitarist Sam Shipstone and drummer, George Townend, soon joined too.
Yard Act haven’t had a chance to play a gig together with their current line-up as Sam joined in early 2020. “It’s all pretty low key at the moment as a live band,” James said. In terms of songwriting, ideas are constantly being exchanged - mostly via voice notes. “All of a sudden, everything was written online and that was how we - in the first lockdown – me and Ryan were really prolific and he just kept sending music through and I just kept writing lyrics.”
“It wasn’t really written like a band. We had a bit of a chance over summer to get some practice in and play a bit before Leeds closed down again…Most of the writing’s done remotely and collaboratively…Just adapting to the situation we’re in,” James describing Yard Act’s songwriting process.
Previous single ‘Fixer Upper’ sees James embody a character and sing through the character’s eyes. Is writing this way something he prefers to do? He answers, “Yeah, I think everything that I do is told through characters and through story and narrative, even though it incorporates themes…my own experiences.” He adds that looking at things from another person’s perspective makes it easier to “humanise” and understand them.
Current single ‘Dark Days’ is set in a post-apocalyptic world. “It’s set in a dystopian future, 100 years from now, in West Yorkshire. The idea stemmed from our first single, ‘The Trapper’s Pelts’ and then the next two songs were related to that and, by the fourth one, I’d realised I could weave them all into one thing,” James explains.
The recognition Yard Act are receiving is “nice” but it’s a long time coming. “I think to some people, on the outside, it might feel like it’s just come out of nowhere and…people can sometimes get a bit funny when you start to get quite a bit of attention really fast, especially because this project has only been going a year, but – beyond that – we’ve all been doing it for 10 years so it’s…For us, even though it’s a new name and we’ve not worked together before this, separately, we’d all just been doing bands for so long that it feels like the hard work’s finally paying off”. James and his band mates are enjoying the attention and are “really grateful for it”.
The band are working on their debut album and have decided not to include any of their previous singles on it so it will all be brand new material. They also have a sold out socially distanced show in Leeds, scheduled for next month, with a London date in June. It appears that they’re only just getting started.
It’s an exciting time for Yard Act. They seem to be on the precipice of becoming hugely successful and have the talent and creative minds to back that up. “So far in my life, I’ve never run out of steam or excitement for creating music and writing words,” James enthuses.
The stage awaits them and, with this passion and excitement, let’s hope it won’t be long before we see them perform together.
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Words: Narzra Ahmed
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