Indie Mixtape 20: Yard Act Make Post Punk With A Message On ‘Where’s My Utopia?’

Leeds quartet Yard Act are having a moment. The band, composed of vocalist James Smith, bassist Ryan Needham, guitarist Sam Shjipstone, and drummer Jay Russell, have been releasing music as a band since 2020 before being catapulted into critical acclaim. Their debut album, 2022’s Overload, earned them a Mercury Prize nomination and co-sign from Elton John. Now, the group have returned with a new album and a new message.

Where’s My Utopia? is jam-packed with witty and wry lyrics that take aim at the modern condition and the state of the music industry (they literally call out their label subsidiary on “We Make Hits”). The 11-track record infuses upbeat rhythms with post-punk sensibilities, proving Yard Act are in a lane of their own.

To celebrate the release of Where’s My Utopia? Yard Act sit down with Uproxx to talk awesome catering at Coachella, non-alcoholic Guinness, and being addicted to social media in our latest Q&A.

What are four words you would use to describe your music?

Alright overall, I suppose.

It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?

Remembered by reminding. You can guarantee we’ll be on some nostalgia-heaped anniversary tour cashing in. Probably with some of our less successful contemporaries from the time supporting to really make it a trip down memory lane (and great value for money too if you don’t mind me saying so).

Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?

For compassion, resilience and graft, my mum. For shaping my view of the world, my dad.

Where did you eat the best meal of your life and what was it?

I think the catering tent at Coachella. It was like Red Hot World Buffet but better. I ate an edible beforehand and had two savory plates piled high and a few pudding’s worth to boot. There was root beer on draft and I was sat next to the singer from Papa Roach. Top that!

Tell us about the best concert you’ve ever attended.

I’m really bad at this stuff, my experiences are never really that definitive. Maybe Sharon Van Etten at the Brudenell or Gil Scott Heron at Bestival.

What song never fails to make you emotional?

“To Love Somebody” by The Beegees.

What’s the last thing you Googled?

Glasses Direct.

Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever crashed while on tour?

Slept in the boot of a Ford Fiesta after a gig in Salford once.

What’s your favorite city in the world to perform and what’s the city you hope to perform in for the first time?

Glasgow Barrowlands currently holds the title for number one, Hong Kong Clockenflap is number two and Manchester Ritz is number three

What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?

Remember that no one is solely defined by their best or worst moments in this life, yourself included.

What’s one of your hidden talents?

Being pleasant with people I can’t stand.

If you had a million dollars to donate to charity, what cause would you support and why?

I’d support any creative space providing disadvantaged young people with an outlet and the opportunity to learn and develop whatever skills they want in any art form, preferably in my local area.

What are your thoughts about AI and the future of music?

I think it’ll decimate and erase the need for artists and musicians within the music industry. I think it’s a bad thing for humans making money from art but it won’t stop humans from making art, and even though we all have to survive in this world somehow, ultimately making art always trumps making money from art – though it doesn’t trump making money unfortunately. I hope it’ll bring smaller communities closer together, and I think there will be some interesting collaborations to come between humans and AI.

You are throwing a music festival. Give us the dream lineup of 5 artists that will perform with you and the location where it would be held.

Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who, Oasis. Paul Weller’s House.

Who’s your favorite person to follow on social media?

I haven’t had it for nearly a year now and I never enjoyed it when I did — though I was addicted to it and still am. When I see my wife scrolling I want to know what’s going on? Why? It’s all nonsense, but not innocent nonsense. It’s dark. I’m not tryna be some old ok boomer luddite guy about it, nor some pretentious high brow thinker with a superiority complex, but I think it turns everyone into, at best, a slightly less likeable version of themselves and at worst, absolutely insufferable. There are bands I quite liked before I had social media that I can’t listen to anymore because I’ve seen how they act on there, and I’d say it’s completely fair if people have that impression of us as well, because the slivers of wit you slip in there always gets buried beneath the mountains of insufferable faux humble, blatantly smug self-promotion you have to do on it to get people’s attention. It’s all a load of shite designed to waste our time, inflate our egos and misdirect our very valid anger back on itself and keep us scrolling. The only cure is to delete your account. All of you. I also don’t need to know about your memes. Stop sending me your memes and telling me about your memes when I see you. Actually, Bob Mortimer was quite enjoyable doing train guy.

What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?

My son’s name on my wrist, matching with my wife’s. But we haven’t got round to getting them done yet.

What is your pre-show ritual?

A run and a non-alcoholic Guinness.

Who was your first celebrity crush?

Leanne Battersby.

You have a month off and the resources to take a dream vacation. Where are you going and who is coming with you?

Wild camping on my own in the Scottish Highlands.

What is your biggest fear?

My son’s future.

Where’s My Utopia? is out now via Island Records/Universal. Find more information here.