Yard Act do seem like a band with many bold opinions and ability to talk and anyone who ever saw them live can confirm. And we do like people with bold opinions. And we love asking them some bad questions. As you’ll see, James Smith (vocalist) and Sam Shjipstone (guitarist) even have an opinion about having an opinion on other artist’s music. And that’s of course among the usual – bad food, being a musician, plans for next 5 years and… cosplay. Have fun!
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Your biggest musical hero
James Smith (vocals): Neil Young. I love Neil Young. I love him because he’s still, you know… At least probably almost double figures of his albums I haven’t yet heard. So I am still falling in love with him. As well as creating several of my favorite albums of all time, I love his approach to music. I love his willingness to throw himself out there and to try stuff and to change course if he gets too comfortable. And I think, you know, out of all the rock stars that have gone past 70s, retained a very true and beautiful stance on humanity and politics. That’s really nice. Yeah, he’s great.
Sam Shjipstone (guitar): I’d say my favorite musical artist, if that was the question is Fela Kuti, but I’m thinking of, like, whether I admire him in my own personal life. I just think of him as being a singular person that doesn’t really have a lot of relevance to what I’m doing so much. But yeah, incredible music. Yeah. It’s completely single minded and a difficult person to think about in some aspects, but yeah, probably him. Yeah.
The best thing about being a musician
James: Making music! I mean, that’s boring.
Sam: I guess the fact that I don’t have a quick answer to this shows that I’m not thankful enough. I should be able to say many things that are really good about this style of life.
James: I think being a musician is like being in a secret club that people who aren’t musicians think they can’t get into. But I am purely in the camp of letting everyone know that the secret is that it is actually quite easy. It’s quite easy to get into the club. It’s very hard to become amazing at it. It’s an ongoing journey. But the illusion of how hard it is to make music or play an instrument is a myth. And I feel like it’s a club that musicians have built to keep the secrets to themselves. The best thing about it is being able to give that secret to people who don’t play music and letting them know that everyone else has been having them on. It’s easy. Do it. Start a band. Pick up any instrument and start a band. Make noise.
The worst thing about being a musician
Sam: I can really offload. What’s the worst thing? I don’t know. There’s a sort of precariousness to it. Yes. It’s one of those things that many, many people do, but very few people are, you know what I mean? The precariousness of it, maybe. What do you reckon? I don’t know.
James: Having an opinion on everyone else’s music, cause you make it. You can pick up a guitar and do this at the same time. What can excite other people, you can be quite numb by, because you know how easy that is to do. Yeah, but that in itself is maybe what’s most exciting about it. When something hits you and you don’t know why, and you’ve been waiting for it. I can go a long time without hearing anything new that I like and being very much like: „I’ve heard this. I know how they’re doing that. I’ve heard this. I know what influences they have, I know what they’re getting at here.” When something hits you, you go: „Bang! Why do I love this again? Because it still has that shot through my brain, like that rush through my body like a tingle, that’s exciting. So, yeah, the worst thing is that you’re kind of desensitized to it a lot of those times. But the positive is that if you love it, you still get that weird feeling and that feeling is the best feeling you’ll ever feel when a song hits you in a way that you couldn’t comprehend. And you can’t chase those moments. I used to chase those moments for years, and now I just let them come to me, because they still do. I’ve learned that even if I go six months being bored of every new song I hear, being bored of albums I used to love, one day it just springs again and it’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever heard and I don’t know why.
Is there any album in particular, that gives you that feeling?
James: It’s probably Horses by Patti Smith.
Sam: Last time I had it, we were at the Mercury Prize in Britain. There was one person on there, a jazz pianist, and I’ve never heard him before and listened to him on the way back. And that was one of those moments where you’re like, god, music is so good. I was really excited. I felt changed after listening to that. It’s Fergus McCreadie.
If you weren't a musician, what would you do?
Sam: Who knows, what would have been? But I quit my job in November last year. It was a service called Citizens Advice. It’s like an advice service charity. Quite an old one in Britain, quite unique to Britain as well. That’s probably what I’d be doing right now if I wasn’t here.
James: I was a support worker and a music teacher.
What's your non-musical hobby?
Sam: I thought about this recently, that in all honesty, I don’t know if right now I have any hobbies. Well, I think anything I would say I haven’t done in well over a year, so it’s not really a thing anymore, is it?
James: Running. I called running a hobby, but I think that’s just something I have to do to blow off steam. Yeah. I do like going out into nature. I like being alone. Being alone is my hobby. Walking into the distance and turning my phone off.
The weirdest thing that happened during your concert
Sam: It’s been loads of weird things. There was a young boy that got on a stage dressed as James the other day. That was quite weird.
James: Yeah, yeah. That cosplay is probably the weirdest thing. There was a time that a Spanish lady got on stage in London and claimed she knew our song and then sang Cherry Bomb a capella by The Runaways.
Sam: Serious breakages. Things that break and then are fixed again. That’s doing my heading at the moment. Okay.
First album that you've bought with your own money
Sam: Oh, yes, it was oh, what was it? Can you remember yours?
James: Gorillaz by Gorillaz.
Sam: Wow. Because I remember my first three albums, but I didn’t buy them. It was Kylie Minouge, Pet Shop Boys and the Spice Girls, which is a very gay music taste.
Your song that you like the most
Sam: 100% Endurance has got depth.
James: Yeah. 100% Endurance.
Sam: I like playing Dead Horse. I like playing Land Of The Blind…
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Sam: I don’t know. I don’t give that any thought at all.
James: We’re working on other stuff that isn’t just touring and albums. I see us having our own studio that’s fully functioning and that we can just create financial freedom in five years time. That’s what I aspire to.
Sam: Right. Yeah. That’s cool, man. I do see that.
The worst food that you've got on tour
Sam: Just today. I ordered fried sauerkraut and there was, like, bacon in it. That was pretty awful, I have to say. I love sauerkraut. But this was wet. I shouldn’t say that (laughs). That’s terrible. It’s not the worst. Just because it was today it’s very fresh in my memory. That’s not the worst thing I ate that was terribly edible. I’m trying to think. Catering can sometimes be really good at these festivals. I feel very blessed.
James: It looks good tonight. I’m pretty excited about eating after we play.
Sam: British festivals, when I was a teenager, the food was awful and now it’s really posh.
James: Yeah. We played a festival in the UK last week. I’m not going to name it because I love the festival, but the catering crew were really grumpy and rude and they’d ran out of all the stuff that sounded really nice. And basically I got a plate of broccoli that was raw. It was like undercooked broccoli and just plain noodles with no flavor. It was fine, but the problem was that it was sold, all the menu! When we saw the sign, there was like deep fried cauliflower tacos and loaded mac and cheese. I was like: „This sounds right on my stream”. We got there and they’re like: „We’ve got broccoli and plain noodles”.
Sam: And it isn’t even that late. There’s about four bands still to play on three stages.
James: And a bad meal is good to remind you of the good ones. Sometimes even a bad meal has it’s place in the universe.
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Photo: James Brown