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Yard Act on recording their new version of ‘100% Endurance’ with Elton John

Elton. Yard Act. The most unexpected collab of 2022.

By Nick Reilly

Yard Act and Elton John
Yard Act and Elton John (Picture: Press)

Yard Act have teamed up with Elton John on a new version of recent single ‘100% Endurance’, after the music veteran admitted he was a fan of the band.

It’s the latest milestone in a huge year for the Leeds outfit, whose debut album The Overload went straight to number two in the UK album charts upon release in January.

The track is one of the band’s most contemplative efforts and sees them using the guise of an alien invasion to reflect the idea that there’s beauty in knowing how insignificant our lives are.

But, with Elton on board, it’s transformed into a whole new beast. There’s a fresh string arrangement from The Coral’s Bill Ryder-Jones and new lyrics to mark the occasion.

You can check out our whole interview with singer James Smith below.

We’re speaking the day that Glastonbury finishes. I managed to catch you on the William’s Green stage, which seemed like a huge moment.

James Smith: Ah, did you catch it? We had a really good weekend. Friday was great and Saturday was, y’know, I’m not trying to make you feel like you missed out, but Saturday was maybe a bit better. It was good fun and we spent the same whole weekend there. I get it now, I’d never been before now and I just get it. It’s different to other festivals.

And now, you’re casually gearing up to release a re-recorded version of ‘100% Endurance’ with Elton John.

James Smith: It’s a re-recorded version featuring Elton bloody John! I can’t believe it. We knew there was a slight chance he might say yeah, but you can’t comprehend it really. He had been very kind to us and continued to say kind things and was calling us up a bit more, so it became like this something he might go for. Management sent out the request and he rang me up within a day to say that he was definitely up for it. I asked him what he wanted to do and he just said ‘Whatever you want. It’s your track and I’m at your disposal. I just wanna be a part of it’. I was like ‘Fucking hell, cool! We’re gonna get Elton to play.’

The recording process – how was that day with Elton at Metropolis Studios?

James Smith: We actually did a new backing track the day before at Parlour Studios in Kettering, which is run by our drummer Jay’s dad. And that was nice too, Jay got to work with his dad who engineered the drums, bass and guitars. Bill Ryder-Jones did the string arrangement too, which was laid over the top of the track and sounded absolutely gorgeous. Ali Chant who produced our album too was overseeing it, so there was all these moving parts that fell into place.

Then Elton came in for four hours in the afternoon. He sat at the piano, took direction and we got it where we wanted it. It was amazing, he was completely devoted to the song and there was no ego at all. He just wanted to do the best job possible for our song and that was like, it’s fucking amazing when anyone does that, let alone Elton John.

There’s some great lyrical changes too. Elton sings of having “more hits than I’ve had hot dinners.”

James Smith: I thought if we were to do a new version, it needed to capture everything from the original track but also have these new flourishes and new changes that hint at it being adaptable but the same song. I wanted to change the second verse, because I thought nothing would be funnier than Elton John being self-referential about the fact that we’ve managed to get Elton John on a fucking Yard Act track. I thought we needed to be as blunt as possible about that and I wondered how we could tie that in whilst keeping the theme and message of the song as similar to the original. I actually think the new lyrics work better in that sense. Elton just fucking did it, he supported it in our decision and he was wicked.

When you weren’t recording, what did you chat to Elton about?

James Smith: He’s just so easy to talk to. We talked about music and our families and he chatted about football and being the Watford chairman before, but none of us were much use in that department. But mainly it was music and he loves new music. He was talking about The Chats, Nova Twins and Wet Leg. He was getting the engineer to put Nova Twins videos on YouTube videos and stuff. He was dead easy to talk to!

Why ‘100 %Endurance’ to re-record with Elton?

James Smith: I think we just wanted to shine a light on another side of the band that steps out of what people expect from us. We knew that track did that anyway, but it was released at the end of a campaign that saw five singles come out over the space of six months. We knew that if anyone hadn’t heard us and knew what we were about, or anyone who had heard us and realised we were doing that, it was the one that showed we can go more places and are more interested in doing something new. The last track is a gateway into where we can go and it was good to say that we didn’t have to do it in one way. We could, y’know, add Elton’s incredible piano, and this gorgeous string section and it wouldn’t sound out of place. When people hear the track they’ll realise what we’re capable of, beyond what we’ve done already. It shows how versatile we can be I think.

And finally, how’s album two looking?

James Smith: It’s shaping up well! We’re kicking ideas around and I’m working out the story of album two at the moment. It’s not going to be about politics or Britain because I feel like I’ve said enough about that for the time being and I’m not going to tread the same ground. I’m looking at more personal themes this time, probably a lot to do with having a kid and looking at fatherhood and the different aspects of that.

Musically it’s a completely different beast, because we’re a band now. We weren’t a band when we did album one and we’ve been playing live a lot, so it sounds powerful as fuck. The band sounds really muscular, they’re weaving in and out of each other and completely in each other’s pockets. I think it’s gonna be a lot more powerful and I think we’ll push out a new direction.

Ryan read Jah Wobble’s autobiography and he’s liking dub basslines at the moment and it changes the sound when Jay and Sam put their parts on it. Yeah, I think it’s gonna be a clever record and we’re going to explore new things. We’re not going to repeat ourselves.