Yorkshire based Percy gained notoriety in the early nineties when their home brand of left-field post-punk led to a record deal with legendary Leeds label Mook Records and consequently airplay from John Peel & Steve Lamacq. They made ‘single of the week’ in Melody Maker and rode the wave of minor indie celebrity status.
Songwriter/lyricist Colin Howard (Vox / Guitars) and Andy Wiles (Bass) have continued to operate as ‘Percy’ since, undergoing several line-up changes over the years, most notably with ex-Housemartins’ Hugh Whitaker joining them on drums between 1997-2004. Whilst Colin and Andy have been together such a long time developing an almost telepathic connection, they both agree that there has never been as much energy and eclectic productivity in the band since they were joined three years ago by Jason Wilson on drums and Paula Duck on synths.
A lover of improvisation, Jason brings some real hammer to the tracks when required and amazing subtlety when space is needed. Paula’s synths bring a flourish and depth that, while commonplace in the proto-indie bands of the eighties, has all been swept away by the standard modern band set-up of guitar, bass and drums.
The process for new album ‘Seaside Donkeys’ (Out May 8th) started with the invitation from Vinyl Eddie Records of York to release an album on 12” vinyl. The band were inspired with the prospect of a vinyl album as this was something that had eluded them to date. There was a conscious intent to team up with a top level engineer and studio sympathetic to the band’s sound so they recruited Isaac Minnis at Crooked Room Studios in York, who has also recently been involved with breakthrough recordings by The Howl and The Hum and Avalanche Party.
True to the band’s punk ethos the album was recorded with the full band in a live room, with minimal separation and minimal overdubs. The recording included a number of songs so fresh the band were sight-reading as they were being recorded. In some cases, the final lyrics were yet to be written and the lyrics simply improvised on the day. This purposefully delivers that fresh and immediate sound to the recording, creating a white-knuckle ride for the band and listener alike at times.
First single from the album was double A-side ‘Seaside Donkey’ and ‘Love Song’. Out now, they are poignant and relevant to a country and planet on the brink of unchartered waters, choc-full of slang from the north-east, and clearly showcasing the depth of style and quality among the band, whilst ‘Will Of The People’, which has just dropped in video form, with its in-your-face riff and swirling synths offers an ageless rage of being dragged off into isolation in a future that obsesses over the good old days, prophetically in the UK’s recent trials.
Elsewhere on the album ‘The People Who Drank Themselves to Death’ is a witness to decades of decay in the North of England. A memento mori to larger than life characters cut down to size by a culture that expects a daily excess of alcohol. ‘Big Lil’s’ is a fanciful story of a visit to the fabled pub of the same name on the Headrow in Leeds with its mock-saloon doors and a crowd that goes quiet when you enter the room.
The whole collection represents the gritty realism of the 2020s. There are big issues out there to wrestle with, and maybe this album just says: You are not alone out there. The album photography by Paula Duck, shot over multiple visits to Scarborough on the north-east coast is a witness document of the place before the impact of CV-19 and what Brexit will become.