Live For Live Music had the opportunity to sit down with Percy Hill percussionist Yahuba Garcia to talk about the band’s latest musical release and upcoming concerts. With shows in rare form for the band over the past few years, they not only have two shows coming up this weekend but a brand new song “Great White Shark” for fans to boot. Read on to learn more about what Percy Hill has been up to and what to expect from the band over the summer.
Live For Live Music: Tell us a little about yourself as you are the “newest” addition to Percy Hill.
Yahuba Garcia: I’m around 2002 newish. When After All was getting recorded, I came in. I had met Nate [Wilson] and John [Leccese]. They were doing this gig under the alias of The JV Allstars at this festival in Vermont that went bust. I think they were supposed to do it with AOD [Assembly of Dust] but they couldn’t do it so they showed up anyway. It was basically AOD without Reid [Genauer]. They were playing The Meters and funk jazz covers. Now I used to see Percy Hill in the ’90’s years ago when they were the original version of the band with Jeremy Hill and Tom Powley and Dylan Haley on drums. Then I lost touch with Percy Hill and when Color In Bloom came out, I think I went to see them on Halloween in ’99 at Somerville Theatre. I want to say that Oteil and The Peacemakers opened. I went to see that and was expecting to see the Percy Hill that I remember with the original members of the band. I get there and there’s just four guys on stage and I was like ‘what is going on here?’ It was not the music that I remembered, it was totally different and they were playing all the Color In Bloom stuff. It was all new to me. I was waiting to hear “Sooner Or Later” or some of the tunes from Setting the Boat Adrift because that was the CD that I had. I didn’t even know about Color In Bloom. Somehow I had missed all of that.
Then I didn’t see them again for years and I want to say it was 2001 or 2002ish when I came out to this festival that went bust and I was just hanging out watching the JV Allstars play. I had played with the Boston Horns right before them and Nate came and asked me to sit in, so I sat in with those guys. I still hadn’t put together that Nate was the same kid that played the organ in Percy Hill.
Fast forward to later that summer, my now sister-in-law invited me to go see Assembly of Dust at The Paradise and I’m like “who’s that?” She said, “you’ve got to see them. They’re great. You should come with me to see them.” So I go without knowing who they are. That was also the first time I saw Ryan Montbleau because he opened for them with an acoustic. Then they’re playing and she was telling me about Assembly of Dust and who they are and she tells me that the bass player and the keyboard player are in this other band called Percy Hill. That’s when suddenly it all came together and I start putting two and two together. I realized who Nate was and it was funny because I didn’t realize when I had sat in with them as the JV Allstars.
Then, somehow, I talked to Nate again that same night and I think we exchanged numbers. He reached out to me about recording professionally on the After All record and doing some gigs. He put me in touch with Aaron Katz. He reached out to me and sent me all the music. I went up and met with him and spent the night at their headquarters up in New Hampshire. I went up there and ended up having this super bonding night with Aaron. We stayed up all night talking about religion and ethics and music. I spent the next two days recording all of the percussion on After All. Then I ended up doing a bunch of gigs with them around that time. So that’s how I started getting involved with those guys.
L4LM: A new album hasn’t been out since After All in 2005. Talk about why now with new music and where the inspiration came from.
YG: We started playing gigs again a couple years ago. Aaron, in the meantime, has been writing songs. Now I spent a good chunk of the last decade on the road with Montbleau who, for me personally as a musician, I come from a world where everything is at eleven and you’re taking big solos. It’s almost like street basketball where you’re trying to up the game on stage. I went from that competitive atmosphere of music to learning how to get behind a singer/songwriter and compliment his songs. That was a whole new and different musical journey for me. I started thinking more about songwriting. I know that Aaron has always been heavy into writing music so I started to hear that there was talk of recording some songs.
Aaron had sent an email with some new songs that he had written and sent the demo for “Great White Shark.” The cool thing is that we are all scattered around in different places so we started collaborating the parts to this over email. We all have something to record with at home. If I can work at home in my underwear, I’d be very excited. When I got this demo I went in and added a bunch of percussion parts. I heard the melody in my head so I recorded it and they liked it. Joe [Farrell] added a bunch of guitar parts from his house. Suddenly we had this Google shared folder with different renditions of the song using Aaron’s demo. Next thing we knew we had this complete song with all of these additional parts so when we went into the studio we banged it all out in two days.
That was a year ago so it’s slow progress. At the same time, the fact that we’re all able to live our lives and do what we have to do with work and our families and still be creative with each other, even in this limited space, we still came out with this really awesome tune. There’s another one coming that’s pretty freaking great and Aaron’s got other songs he sent us that we haven’t even messed around with yet. We live in an era right now that we are really lucky that we can do that. If you think about it, Prince built a studio in his house and he would hire musicians that would just come to his house and track on songs that he never even released. It cost him a fortune to do that.
L4LM: You had two shows last year for the Color In Bloom anniversary. Now you’ve got shows coming up in Portland, Maine, and Burlington, Vermont. You are also on the Jerry Jam line-up. What can fans expect at these shows?
YG: They can definitely expect to hear this new song. Percy Hill has been around for so long and we know there’s a lot of fans that want to hear the old tunes. We are dusting that off because there’s a long catalogue. John sent the song list for the run and when I put all of those songs into a playlist, it was six hours and 45 minutes long. You can expect that there’s going to be a lot of songs. There’s no guarantee we will get to them all though. We are going to at least try.
L4LM: Now that fans know there are at least three shows coming up, is Percy Hill expecting to get out there a lot more this summer?
YG: Yes. I think there’s another festival that we will be playing as well – Strangecreek. Does Strangefolk even headline that festival anymore? It’s named after Strangefolk and Max Creek who would headline both nights which is why it’s called Strangecreek, but I don’t think Strangefolk even plays it anymore.
L4LM: What is the band doing to prepare for the upcoming shows?
YG: At home, we’ve all been going through the potential set list on our own. There’s going to be a lot of stuff we have kept heavy in the rotation that we just feel super comfortable about playing. One of the interesting things is there was a period when those guys were really getting nerdy about writing music and there’s a lot of chords. When we started playing again, even Nate who wrote some of these tunes was making comments like “Jesus, we were just going through the chord library with these songs. There’s a lot of chords!” For some musicians, it’s somewhat sophisticated music. It’s not your standard blues rock and roll. It’s influenced by a lot of heavy musicality so there’s a lot of different rhythms and different influences that come from jazz, rock and psychedelic mustache rock. People will ask, “how do you describe Percy Hill’s music?” and it’s hard to describe. Maybe cosmic yacht rock? For me, it’s music you can dance to, that’s for sure.
I remember when I started playing with them in ’02 and ’03, one of the first things I noticed about Percy Hill was that they were one of the only “jam bands” that had girls coming to their concerts. It was because you could dance to their music and sing along to coherent lyrics. Girls want to dance! They cast a wide net of people who are interested in their music. Even this new song, “Great White Shark,” starts with a latin chill kind of vibe and ends up in this trance dance four on the floor. It’s a dance song. By the end of it, you should be. I feel like we’re bridging some generational stuff right now.
L4LM: You have a new website in the works. You have a new song. You have some new shows coming up. Does that mean a new album is in the works?
YG: We hope so, but we’ll see. We are kind of taking it step by step. We have two songs that we recorded. We’re putting one out now. We’re putting another one down I think later this summer. We have to wrap up and tidy up a couple things with that recording. We’ll see what happens. One thing we’re trying not to do is put too much pressure on ourselves. We’re all doing other work whether it’s music or our lives. I would love to put another record out but it’s also in an era where you can put a record out if you want or you can put a song out here or there.
L4LM: Is there anything you would like to say to the fans out there?
YG: I can’t wait to see you dance. My entire purpose in life is to make you dance so please come so that I can see you dance. Otherwise, I don’t know what I’m doing this for.
Check out their brand new single “Great White Shark” below. In the meantime, head over to their official website for show dates, tickets and more.
[Words by Sarah Bourque]