Interview: Yard Act On Debut Album ‘The Overload’ And Breaking Into America

Amrit Virdi

Following the surreal success of their debut album reaching Number 2 in the UK charts after the intense graft the band have put in playing shows all over the world to put their name on the map, Yard Act are well and truly making their, very British, mark on the industry. As they embark on tour following the announcement of their 2022 Coachella set, Amrit Virdi caught up with the band for Impact.

“I love the backdrop,” guitarist Sam Shjipstone muses as I tune into the Zoom call with my fairy-lights in the background. Both he and bassist Ryan Needham appear to be in their respective homes, as the band catch a break from relentless touring their recently released album, ‘The Overload’.

“It’s been pretty surreal, everything’s been a bit of a whirlwind”

“It’s been pretty surreal, everything’s been a bit of a whirlwind,” Needham reveals as he reflects on the release of their debut album and their subsequent run of shows. After its commercial success, which the band defined as “crazy”, Shjipstone reflects on the love it or hate it nature of the punk rock genre. “I honestly thought this album would be received like marmite and really split opinion. I could see things in it that really worked and things that might really grate. But so far, it’s been alright. I’m chuffed as hell.”

With the album being recorded in lockdown, the musicians expressed an excitement to get back on the road and play together again. “Because of the pandemic we never got in a room and jammed really,” Needham states in relation to the remote recording of their debut, as he shares stories of himself and lead vocalist James Smith creating the album in the backroom of his workplace. “It’s just sort of loads of fast ideas, and then I’d leave him in there with four different songs and I’d go continue working. I could hear him shouting these lyrics out and stuff, and I just remember laughing loads. I remember hearing stuff like Fixer Upper and laughing my head off. Which is weird because I’ve never really been in a band like that – if someone was laughing usually it means something has gone wrong!”

Their musical talents and personalities seamlessly integrate to create the “chaotic” madness which is Yard Act

If anything is clear from this interview, it is definitely the unique and hardworking yet light-hearted dynamic of the band, as their musical talents and personalities seamlessly integrate to create the “chaotic” madness which is Yard Act. With the stream-of-consciousness social commentary style of lyricism that defines their music, they admit that whilst remote recording was a “snapshot” of covid-times, it works well for their style, allowing Smith’s ideas to live a life of their own.

Eminem and Nas are stated as some inspirations, as well as “punk and psych-rock”

After a humorous quip about the band’s “chaotic madness” as labelled by Shjipstone, revelations about their influences can offer an explanation for their genre-blending sound. Eminem and Nas are stated as some inspirations, as well as “punk and psych-rock.” While Smith wasn’t present for the interview, Needham wastes no time in admiring his talents. “He’s got a f***ing amazing flow,” Smith gushes. “The hip-hop element happens through that. I think the main thing throughout all this was creating space for James’ lyrics to weave in and out, and we kind of all work around that a little bit. Then live we don’t, we just put distortion pedals on and run around like idiots but it’s great!”

Being lucky enough to see Yard Act take to the Bodega stage in September, I witnessed first-hand how they can captivate a room, especially in an intimate setting. Whilst they recognise the benefits of such small stages to build a connection with fans, Shjipstone humorously and accurately notes that “people are quite flipping hands on! They’re like pigeons or whatever – like to take things from you. A guy tried to take one of my picks the other day, and that was on the floor so if I drop this one, I can use it, leave it! On a big stage we never have these problems.” This probably explains why he states he’s “undecided” as to which size venue he prefers in this band. Needham comments that he likes the bigger shows. Rich and Land Of The Blind are given special credit as songs the band are particularly fond of playing live, as they never play the same set twice and switch it up for fans every night.

On track to spread their quintessentially English punk-rock sound across the globe, the band are set to play Coachella, as the world is opening up to this British-led genre. Shjipstone credits America and France for loving the music both lyrically and sonically, but notes that in “some parts of Europe the lyrics do not matter at all, which is weird because it’s such a lyrically based album,” when discussing its reception. “I’m not sure they have PoundShop terracotta frogs in South Carolina, they probably do, but everyone has their equivalent of that I suppose. I think the energy carries and is universal,” Needham acknowledges.

On their plans for the future, desires to play Villette Sonique and Fuji Rock are expressed, specifically as Needham admits “I’m still in the mode where festivals abroad are a free holiday rather than work. Anywhere sunny!” Yet as a set of individuals who clearly thrive from playing live, both Shjipstone and Needham agree that they “just want to put on really good shows and good variation, exploring the performance part onstage.” Yard Act definitely won’t last for just one act, as they grow even more in popularity, having just announced an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in America. If you haven’t listened to ‘The Overload’ yet, then give it a spin – you won’t regret it.

Amrit Virdi

Featured image courtesy of Phoebe Fox. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @yardactband via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.

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