LEEDS! Are you with us, ask Yard Act on Twitter as the spiky Leeds post-punk band chase the top spot with their debut album, The Overload.
“If half of all of you (pop.521,148) download The Overload for just £4.99 by midnight tonight we’ll be number one EASY!”, the Tweet urges, then adding yardact.lnk.to/TheOverloadTW/…All Leeds Aren’t We to their #YardActForNumber1 campaign.
Should Yard Act pull off the feat, they will be the first album chart toppers from Leeds since Kaiser Chiefs’ second number one, Education, Education, Education & War, in 2014.
“Who knows if we’ll make it but we’ve had a laugh trying to get to number one,” say Yard Act. “If we do become the first Leeds band in a generation to get a number one album, it’ll be down to the support of the city, its venues, its culture that’s made us the band and people we are.”
Recorded in the pandemic, The Overload knits together observations from all walks of modern British life in deadpan storytelling songs, delivered with coruscating, dark humour and knowing cynicism by frontman James Smith on such singles as The Trapper’s Pelts, Fixer Upper, Peanuts and Dark Days with echoes of both The Fall and Arctic Monkeys.
Their January 16 gig at The Crescent, York, had to be postponed, but Yard Act are set to play home-city shows at Belgrave Music Hall on February 1, Leeds Brudenell Social Club on February 26 and Leeds Irish Centre on May 20.
The Overload was released on January 21 on Zen F.C./Island Records. “Lyrically, I think it’s a record about the things that we all do,” says Smith. “We’re all so wired into the system of day to day that we don’t really stop and think about the constructs that define us.
“But beyond that, it’s kind of exciting, because there’s still so much we don’t understand; how a hive mindset is forged, how information spreads, how we agree and presume things without thinking. Some people think more than others, but a lot of this sloganeering – ‘I’m on the left, I’m not wrong’ – doesn’t achieve anything. Gammons, Karens, Snowflakes, whatever – I find it all so boring. I’m just not into that.”
Latest single The Overload serves as an overture to the album. “It’s written from the perspective of someone sitting in a pub overhearing snippets of all these different conversations from different characters and acting as a vessel, a medium even, for their own thoughts and opinions,” says Smith.
“That cut-and-paste approach means it’s hard to decipher where one person’s musings end and another’s statement begins, and that feels like a fairer representation of why human existence is at the point it is right now. Society doesn’t prevail because of the absolute, it struggles on in spite of it. It’s our ability to compromise which helps us to co-exist.”
The title track also sees the return of fictional narrator Graham, the cocksure home renovator from Fixer Upper. “The second verse is dominated entirely by this character called Graham, a man more sure of himself than most,” says Smith. “Maybe it’s both a blessing and a burden that the rest of us can learn to compromise with the Grahams of the world which allows society to stumble on.
“I’ve defended Graham as a harmless relic of the past, struggling to stay relevant in the modern world, but this Graham is a little more vicious than the Graham from Fixer Upper. Maybe it’s the heightened paranoia that’s come with two years living through the pandemic that’s given him a little more edge. He’s still like the rest of us though, no matter how tough he acts.”
Smith adds: “We all succumb to fear most of the time, and it explains a lot about why we make the decisions we do. I imagine the chorus delivered by a Greek chorus; omnipresent, and encompassing the themes of not only this song, but the whole album. That’s what The Overload is essentially. It’s everything happening at once, and it’s our tiny, feeble minds trying to process and cope with it. Good luck.”
If you have read this story all the way to the end, why? Yard Act want you to have bought The Overload by now.