“We try and provide escapism for people through our music.”
Bristol-based Yard Arms, comprised of Noah Villeneuve and Billy Golding, formed in 2018. Taking influence from acts such as Radiohead and American Football, the duo released accidental isolation anthem ‘These Four Walls’ on the 5th of June. Their third EP, ‘Sanctuary Lines’, comes out this Friday, reflecting themes of existentialism, mortality, and reflection. FUZZY chats to Noah about Radiohead, the Bristol music scene, and releasing music during a pandemic.
FUZZY: Describe your music in three words!
Transatlantic, melancholic bops.
FUZZY: 'Sanctuary Lines', is coming out on the 26th of June. Could you talk a little bit about it?
It's our third EP in a year and a half. It's four tracks, and it explores themes leading on from the last two. It's kind of autobiographical. It's songs about people in my life, it's a lot of acceptance regarding the flaws of humans, not seeing the bad side of anxiety or depression, but kind of embracing it. I don't want to over romanticise or glorify those traits, but I do talk about that a lot in these songs, and kind of some existentialism. There are tracks that I certainly wrote about one thing at the time, which then took on new meanings a few months later and now we're putting it out in the middle of a lockdown, a pandemic, they mean a whole other thing, so it's a time capsule to represent what we're all going through currently, unintentionally.
FUZZY: How does it feel to be releasing music during a pandemic?
It’s the most uniting, unique experience ever because everyone is experiencing this in their own way but we're all experiencing the same thing. There are no musicians who are able to play right now, so in that sense, it's got a communal feel to it. We thought about postponing things or not releasing things. We try and provide escapism for people through our music, so I think that was something that we had to hold on to. Everything is ongoing and it's a continual learning process for everyone. It feels like a very important time in all of our lives, and we're lucky to be able to put something out.
FUZZY: You’re based in Bristol, which has great historical ties to artists like Massive Attack, Portishead, and Tricky. How do you find the music scene? Any favourite venues?
The Bristol music scene has always been extremely strong, vast and supportive. It's one of the most creative hubs in the UK for all arts, music especially. It's been providing artists space to freely create since forever. I guess there are two sides to Bristol. A lot of artists move to Bristol and never leave because it has such a relaxed and nurturing vibe. You can get kind of get complacent. You don't drive yourself as fast or as hard as you possibly maybe would if you were somewhere that didn't have such a prevalent art scene, so you kind of have to work a lot harder, especially when you're an indie guitar band.
The trip-hop still gets kind of carried along in certain commentaries about Bristol music, but every year we have so many incredible breakout artists, like IDLES and Giant Swan. The Louisiana - that's a legendary venue, everyone's played there, from Coldplay to The White Stripes, Amy Winehouse to The Strokes - Thekla, which is a boat, so that's fucking cool, great sound system. Those are our favourites to play, and the city is filled with so many venues, places like Fleece, or The Gallimaufry, or Mr Wolf's, and our favourite dive bar in the city is The Mother's Ruin.
FUZZY: Just going off of that, you spoke about IDLES and other great acts. What are your main musical influences?
It's an extremely long list of people and it changes all the time. Between Billy and I, we've got quite differing tastes at times, and somewhere on the Venn diagram, we have a good chunk where we agree on things. Bands like The National, Death Cab For Cutie, more kind of emo-leaning like American Football, Manchester Orchestra, Radiohead.
FUZZY: I’m a massive Radiohead fan. Absolutely essential.
I saw them headline Glastonbury in 2017. Hands down the best show I've ever seen.
FUZZY: What's next for you guys? Have you got any gigs in the works for 2021?
We had a tour booked for July, which then got postponed to October, and then we've cancelled it, so there are no shows for us in 2020. 2021 we'll be making up for it, we'll be playing lots of shows, but as far as 2020 goes, it's just going to be promoting 'Sanctuary Lines' and a lot more writing and recording because that seems to be the best use of our time, really.
FUZZY: You're a duo. What's the dynamic like with that?
We are a duo in terms of writing and recording. It's a different pattern every time, but we polish things off in the rehearsal room, and then Billy records the drums and I record everything else. Live, we have more musicians join us, so there are four of us live at the moment just to make those songs sound the way they do live. When we started this project, we'd been playing together for fourteen years in a variety of different projects and we got to this point and realised that the best system for us now is just us two. This seems to be the least painful, most productive, most organic process that we've ever done. It's proving effective.
FUZZY: If you could travel back in time to attend any gig from any era, what would it be?
Live Aid. Mainly for Queen, those fifteen minutes.
Words by Eleanor Noyce.
20th June 2020.