Stalwarts of York’s live music scene, Percy formed back in 1996. With a colorful history through the years, they’ve stuck to what they do best. Turning out rawboned post-punk that, while variable in output over the years, has been consistent in attitude. Founded by ever-present members principal songwriter and guitarist Colin Howard and bass player Andrew Wiles Percy were notorious for featuring the incognito, ex-Housemartins drummer Hugh Whittaker for eight years. The band’s first general release West Yorkshire Super Heroes was well received in both regional press and fanzines and saw them support The Fall.
Securing a distribution deal, they formed their own label, Tenfoot Records and released the West Yorkshire Super Heroes EP nationwide in 1998. Signing to Mook Records in 1999, first single Donny Rednecks was well received. An eccentric tale about a country and western evening in Doncaster, it begins as a joyous celebration of the genre before breaking down into an atonal punch up, before circling back to a Country theme. The single earned plays by John Peel, Vic Galloway and Steve Lamacq named it his single of the week. With the Radio tastemaker describing Donny Rednecks as:
“A toe tapping jaw dropper: Life in a northern town on viciously beaten guitars. Think Half Man Half Biscuit meets the Housemartins”Steve Lamacq
After changes in both name and line up, Percy are now back. Releasing their new album Sleeper’s Wake on Mook Records. We spoke to the new line-up of Colin, Andy, keyboard player Paula Druck and drummer Jason Wilson. Beginning with what drives them to devote their time and energy to the music game, long after most have thrown in the towel.
“There are times when we’ve run out of energy, but I think you’ve just got to keep the faith. Like Colin writes songs on the bus going along and that gives you the impetus to get in a room and try it out really” Andy told us. “We’ve had bursts of activity and long burst of inactivity. Even to the point where we’ve changed the band name and a lot of line up changes. At one point, Andy was playing drums and I was on Bass. So there was a lot of tinkering about. A bit like The Blue Nile really. We have seven years of nothing, then we suddenly these spurts of activity. This is the most recent one, but I think this feels a lot more sorted because our kids are all grown up. So there’s a lot more time amongst all of us to devote to doing something a little more solid” added Colin.
“I also think with the lineup we’ve got at the moment, we’ve always been conscious of the music before. But I think since we met up with Jason, he understands it. Where as a lot of drummers we’ve played with before, it seems like…It’s too precise. You know??”
“He’s saying I’m sloppy” slips in Wilson. “Well I think it’s more about taking chances really. Hugh, the original drummer was just kind of great because he was a bit of showman as well. We’d come through the same route, but if he missed the boat, he didn’t quite understand that sense of creating like soundscapes or painting pictures” clarifies Andy.
Turning attention to previous drum stool incumbent Hugh Whittaker, did they know his real identity from the start? “No! I remember thinking; you’re good, you should be doing this for a living. Not realizing he’d been on Top of The Pops 10 years previously. It was a couple of days later, Andy says, I’m sure I recognize this guy. So we look it up on the back of London 0 Hull 4, and there’s this bloke that’s been calling himself Keith.”
After spending so long on the fringes of success and picking up consistent play from influential DJ’s, is the buzz still there? Jason tells us “For me, any time we get any airplay. Tomorrow, Tom Robinson on BBC is going to be playing us. What’s great is that with every new thing, we’re still getting the interest and still getting the airplay. Any positive review we get is just great. I wouldn’t say that’s the impetus that keeps us going, what keeps us going is playing new ideas. I don’t do it for the acclaim”
With Andy expanding on their prolific bursts”We do have a massive work rate. We’re playing a 20-minute set this week and we’re doing two new songs. We’re promoting something, and these songs aren’t even on what we’re promoting’ adds Andy. You’ve got to at least try and promote what you’ve got! Rather than keep coming up with new stuff. I mean, we’ve got 12, 15 songs in the last nine months, something like that. The previous drummer, you could see he wasn’t into it and he killed the songs. I watch a lot of live music, and there’s nothing worse than going to see and band for third or fourth time and hearing a relatively mediocre song all time. You think is that all you’ve got?”
“I don’t think we’ve ever played the same set twice. Ever” Jason emphasizes. So did he find it difficult moving into a band that has such an enduring dynamic? “I’d seen them live a few times. They’d played around York for years. But when we sat down together, within 5 minutes it felt like home. No issues, tI thought his is working, I’ll go with that. I’m too old to give a shit about worrying like that anymore. It’s just, it works. I saw the smile on Col’s face after one song” “The chemistry just works. It’s great” Paula adds.
New offering Sleeper’s Wake kicks off with Why Are You Still Here, which bristles with early Fall sneer over a chugging guitar riff. It’s delivered with a raw intensity and is perfect for a single release. There’s North Yorkshire dub on Alice Stone, which bends and melts around minimalist lyrics of kitchen sink drama. Mixed along by underground Avant-electro / techno legend Tim Wright, along with the brilliant Wiresque track It Is Time . Elsewhere on the record, Going Off On One’s rough hewn delivery carries a wonderfully catchy melody. Ballad to straying from prescriptions Off The Meds sways with the romanticism of 50’s doo-wop. While Exploding Heads sounds like the love child of Mark E. Smith and the Brian Setzer Orchestra and Enlightened bounds with a tongue in charm akin to Half Man, Half Biscuit.
Sleeper’s Wake is a delightful album where the enjoyment is palpable. It pulls off the delicate trick of running thick with influences while channeling its own bed. Asking how they themselves would they describe their sound, Andy told us;
“Well, it’s trying to get that happy medium where it makes your ears prick up but its not being different just for the sake of it. Structurally it’s quite conservative really. But most of what’s on the record we did in the second or third take. It was very much about the there and then. Literally what we did is for six months or nine months, we mic’d everything up just in case we stumbled across a song kind of just not trying not to take away that sort of and the immediacy of what was recorded”
Sleepers Wake is out now on Mook Records and can be purchased here.
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