Yorkshire super heroes have a new album “Seaside Donkeys” coming out soon. I spoke to Colin and Andy from Percy about it.
Have a listen to this while you’re reading.
Where did you record the album and who else was involved?
Andy: It was recorded at Crooked Room studios in York
in Nov 2019. We took time looking at studios as we wanted somewhere with good facilities and reputation. Isaac Minnis is head honcho at Crooked Room and has helped get young bands The Howl and The Hum
and Avalanche Party
get on the map in 2018 and 2019. It was fitted out like being in someone’s front room with table lamps and an old piano. Sound was really good in the room and we recorded all live but at a modest volume so there was no need for heavy separation. Voice, violin and acoustic guitars were all overdubbed. All members of the band had an input in production agreeing form and sound template but I was probably ‘executive producer’ as I did the initial reference mixes for Isaac and sifted the versions. Isaac did the final mix and master.
Were the songs written & rehearsed before you went into the studio?
Colin: The tracks have a varied history, to be honest. “Big Lils” dates from Summer 2018 but was too late for the last album “Sleepers Wake.” We also recorded another track from the same period called “Unicorns” (Brexit related) which didn’t make the final track listing. The other tracks were written throughout 2019, some of which we’d dropped from the live set but were resurrected to give the album more balance. “Rubbernecking” and “Will of the People” were introduced in the Autumn of last year and went down a storm, whereas “Seaside Donkeys” and “Better Life” were recorded before they had a live outing, and before the lyrics were completed. The recording of “The People Who Drank themselves to Death” is a live rehearsal idea from early 2019 I’d forgotten about and is actually the first time we’d ever played it. I overdubbed vocals over the top later. We haven’t played it again since.
Where did you get the photos for the album artwork?
Andy: Paula Duck (synths) is also a professional photographer and has done many documentary projects in the past. The intention was to catch the the inherent bleak loneliness of the seaside in winter (most of the shots were taken on Boxing Day). Also the sense of the coast being ‘left behind’ by history / prosperity and the irony of the locals thinking that Brexit was the answer.
The title track has a great singalong chorus but the verses seem to tell an altogether more unhappy story. The topic of alcohol abuse comes up in several songs doesn’t it.
Colin: We’d originally booked the studio to record a handful of disparate tracks as a “work in progress.” However once we’d heard that Vinyl Eddie
were keen to bring out an album with us, I focused on having a set of songs that had a common theme. In this case my upbringing in Sunderland, the drinking culture, Brexit and how the people had voted for it out of sheer desperation in order to try and improve things.
“Seaside Donkey” is Sunderland slang for an alcoholic (alky – plonky – seaside donkey) usually shortened to “Seaside” and the song refers to alcoholism that’s passed on through generations. It was written as a sort of pastiche of an Irish drinking song. “The People Who Drank Themselves To Death” is an observation of groups of blokes who I’ve seen slowly deteriorate due to the drink. I visit Sunderland pretty regularly as my family still live there and the sight of someone in the grip of really heavy drinking is miserable to behold. It’s probably why we’ve never played the song live as the subject matter is too difficult and close to home.
“Little Trouble in Big Lils “is an amazing song. Somehow accidentally ending up in a dodgy boozer is a feeling we all recognise, can’t believe more songs haven’t been written about this before! Is Big Lils a real place?
Colin: Big Lils was a pub on the Headrow in Leeds, that I used to walk past every day on my work in the 90s. It had a reputation as being the biggest cesspit on earth and made the General Eliot (another Leeds rough house) look tame in comparison. It certainly did have mock saloon-style swinging doors, with sticky carpets dotted with fag burns and the whole place stank of shit. I went there only once, on the back end of works night out with another lad “for a dare” and it 100% matched its reputation. I was propositioned by a Barbara Cartland lookalike in her 60s, which didn’t make the final lyric – perhaps I missed a trick there. The place itself was closed down about 20 years ago and is now the site of Headrow House, which sells a variety of cocktails in a comfortable setting.
Some great lines and another catchy chorus on the ode to credit cards Carpe Diem.
Colin: It’s based on a true story of someone I used to work with – he would book tables at Gordon Ramsay restaurants, fly to exotic locations, buy suits to measure etc. all on credit. He was a “bon vivant” who took advantage of the early 2000s credit card boom with no intention of paying them back. He was another one, sadly who let the booze get the better of him and he did actually end up writing porn for a living before dying in his sleep whilst living at his Mum’s house. The reference to the bejewelled tortoise is taken from JK Huysman’s book “Against Nature” which plots the life of a similar character.
On “Will Of The People” I like how each time you get to the title of the song you sound more deranged than the last. Very fitting. especially considering the kind of people who like to use this phrase.
Colin: It could have been called “Take Back Control” or “Leave Means Leave” or any other of the meaningless, vacuous nonsense churned out at the time.
Have you had any backlash when playing that one live?
Colin: Our audience tends to be of the Guardian persuasion so it’s had a sympathetic hearing up to now. I certainly haven’t been cornered by any angry Brexiters wanting to discuss the benefits of trading on WTO terms (probably because there aren’t any)
Andy: By the way there is a truly amazing animated video for that song which will come out in May. Let’s say Boris plays a big role in it.
There’s some excellent use of road names in “Rubbernecking In The UK.” Can I have your favourite motorways and A roads please?
Colin: The title’s based on “Anarchy in the UK”, with anarchy substituted for slowing down on a motorway to gawp at some nearby twisted metal carnage. I later discovered that “Rubberneckin'” is actually the title of an Elvis song but The King doesn’t namedrop the A19 in his lyrics which is my personal favourite A road when travelling to Sunderland. I’m also particularly fond of the M62 going East towards Hull, it feels like you’re heading for the edge of the world where you suddenly drop off a cliff “Thelma and Louise” style.
Go motoring on the A19. Possibly approaching the Billy Mill roundabout?
Talking of The King, you mention “Elvis at the NBC” on “Back In The Swing.” If Elvis was still around today which of your songs would you like him to cover and which era of Elvis?
Colin: He would be great at doing “Love Song” from the album. I deliberately did it in the style of a crooner, specifically Carl Puttnam of Cud but I could see Vegas Elvis doing a much better job.
You couldn’t have known this when you recorded it but Back in the Swing seems to me to be the perfect song for the lockdown (or maybe for when it’s over?) Lots of lyrics about wasting time on internet, being lonely, pondering mortality, “wasting time, not really doing anything.”
The opening line though: “I’ve been spending far too long playing online pool.”
Wait a minute, you can play pool online? That sounds GREAT! Where and how please?
Colin: There’s a game called 8 Ball Pool” on the site miniclip.com
which you can play on your phone. It’s great and I’m spending far too much time on it. The line “Getting thrashed on Red Hot Pawn” refers to a chess site as opposed to wanking material.
I’ll take your word for that because I’m certainly not going to Google it.
If you could magic yourself into any band past or present who would you choose and why?
Andy: Spiders from Mars (I’ve got the right accent coming from Hull and all that) . I once bought a guitar off Trevor Bolder but had no idea who he was when i was age 15.
Colin: I once dreamt I was in The Fall and it was fucking awful! I’d have loved to have been in the backing band for Sparks at the time of “Kimono My House” – Ron Mael at rehearsals saying “OK I’ve got this idea for a song called This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us, it goes like this.”
If you could magically recruit any other musician alive or dead and add them to the existing Percy lineup who would you choose and why?
Colin: I can’t play lead guitar for toffee so would love to have some atonal axe licks going on above my chugging, Thurston Moore would be nice.
You had some gigs planned around the album release in April / May. Any idea what’s happening with those?
Andy: It is too early to say really. One small festival has been re-scheduled. The summer has been dead for gigs in the past but maybe this tear will be different??
Where can people buy the album?
Andy: The singles are digital releases but the album is initially coming out only on vinyl with a download code through Vinyl Eddie https://www.vinyleddie.co.uk
They are a small shop in York selling second hand Vinyl and obsessed with the ‘concept’ of the vinyl release. For a couple of years they have been getting new vinyl manufactured for local bands and distributing online and to other independent record stores. They have enjoyed us live and we were lucky to bump into them with the full album demo before Xmas. They were keen to have the product out for RSD 2020 which would have been 18th April. They are in lock down at the mo as a shop so you can also buy it here.
We may bring the album out on a full digital release in later Summer but want the vinyl album to be the way people encounter the ‘work’ with the music and the full colour sleeve insert so it is a full sound and vision package.
Any particular recommendations for keeping yourself entertained during lockdown? My recommendation for you is the live broadcast every day at www.facebook.com/stevenieveofficial
Andy: I seem to spend all my time planning the next shopping trip and waiting for the point when it seems reasonable to start drinking. Bad I know…
Colin: I saw Elvis Costello’s lockdown video on Youtube the other day and he referred to Steve Nieve’s broadcast, I’ll have to check it out. I’m still busy doing the day job from my PC at home, interspersed with upgrading my Legendary Pool Cue for £4.99 and failing to spot checkmate in 3 moves
Any other local bands we should be checking out?
Colin: What he said.
You’re in a caff ordering breakfast. You can have toast and your choice of tea or coffee. Then you’re allowed 4 more items. What do you choose?
Andy: Bacon Butty and 3 more cups of coffee…
Colin: Fried egg, bacon, beans and hash browns.
Lastly the controversial question that we ask everyone we interview…..
Cricket. Is it any good or is it just bollocks?
Andy: Bollocks. Sorry
Colin: I love cricket just behind football, at the weekend I was listening to the replay of the Headingley test match from last year and was jumping around like a lunatic even though I already knew what was going to happen at the end. A bit like having sex.
Other Q&As on our website:
Colin is my favourite. Can you be a Yorkshireman and hate cricket? Don’t think that’s allowed.
[…] Seaside Donkeys by Percy [interview] […]