Peggy Sue is a British band who combines folk music with a variety of other influences and sounds through a multitude of instruments. Their debut album, Fossils and Other Phantoms, was released stateside earlier this month to critical acclaim and the band recently wrapped up a U.S. tour. I recently spoke to vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Katy Young via e-mail to discuss the band's origins, recording with members of Blood Red Shoes and Mumford and Sons and the band's sound. Thanks to Marni at Sneak Attack and Yep Roc for setting up the interview.
Hightower and Jones: How did the band form? What were you musical experiences prior to the
Katy Young: Rosa and I have been friends for years and formed the band kind of by accident a few
years ago when I was offered a gig and asked her to play with me. Both of us had
been writing songs in our rooms for a long time and had been in bands that nothing
really came of. Olly joined just over 2 years ago when we decided we wanted a
drummer, he used to come to our shows and when we first asked him his reaction was
'no don't get a drummer its great how it is' but then he emailed us saying 'if anyone's
going to do it it's going to be me.'
HJ: Who and what are some of your influences and what currently is influencing your music?
KY: We have a huge range of musical influences between us a band – Olly loves old rock and roll
like The Rolling Stones and The Band, Rosa grew up listening to lots of Riot Grrl and Sleater-
Kinney and bands like that and I had a big R'n'B phase when I was younger. We've been on
the road for good few months so we've accumulated some good van listening some favourites
are Timber Timbre, Peter Wolf Crier, Villagers, Pixies, She Keeps Bees, The Black Keys,
The Antlers, Neil Young.
HJ: The band has been around for a couple of years. Besides the addition of Olly on drums, in
what other ways has the band's sound grown and changed since the beginning?
KY: When we first started Rosa and I could barely play the guitar – we were really into anti-folk
stuff like Regina Spektor, Jeffrey Lewis and Moldy Peaches so it didn't matter because that
aesthetic is just about doing whatever you can so we used our voices and just played bass lines
on one string on the guitar most of the time. Since then we've picked up lots more instruments
– accordian, mandolin and ukelele and we do quite a lot of drumming as well and we are both
much better at the guitar. The two voices and the harmonies are still one of the main parts of
our sound though, thats stayed from the very beginning.
HJ: Fossils and Other Phantoms deals a lot with the end of a relationship and, to a degree, with
moving ahead afterward. With that said, was there any particular song that was the hardest to
write in terms of lyrical content and why?
KY: I think we both use songwriting as a cathartic experience most of the time so if a song is hard
to write it usually means we're not ready to write it yet.
HJ: Which song, in general, was the easiest and the hardest to write. What caused them to be more
so than the other songs?
KY: As a band, Yo Mama was probably the easiest, Rosa played it to us and Olly and I wrote our
parts really quickly and they just seemed to be right. Fossils was probably the hardest just
because we struggled with the arrangement for a while because there were so many
possibilities of where to take the song.
HJ: The album was recorded with members of Blood Red Shoes and Mumford and Sons assisting
for a couple of the tracks. What the members contribute to the recording process and did being
in the studio with friends and peers make the recording process easier?
KY: Steve Ansell from Blood Red Shoes produced two songs on the album. They are quite drum
heavy songs and he has an amazing understanding of how to get interesting drum sounds so
we knew he would get something great out of the songs. He also is really good and telling us
when to stop and when we can get something better which definitely comes from being friends
for long time. Ben Lovett is the keyboard player in Mumford and Sons he helped us rerecord a
song that we hadn't got quite right the first time – he had produced our Lover Gone EP for us
in a barn in Devon, England earlier in the year. He also played a bit of organ on the song.
HJ: Were there any songs that you wish made it onto the album?
KY: We always love our newest songs the most but at some point we just had to say that's it, this
album is done. That said theres a song called Hat Stand Blues that became a B side in the UK
which we recorded during the session with Steve that I wish made it because it comes from
that time the rest of the songs come from.
HJ: The album has a lot of interesting sounds and instrumentation. What can one expect when
they see the band live?
KY: The interaction between the two sets of percussion and the two vocals are the main ideas both
in the live show and on the album. Olly pretty much sticks to his drumkit but Rosa and I play
a bit of everything. There is usually a guitar going and then there will be floors toms and
washboards or accordians and ukeleles. Most of the songs came about in a live form first and
we stayed pretty true to them on the recordings – sometimes we have a string section of our
friends, Emma and Becca, which is always great.
HJ: You've recorded sessions for Daytrotter and Indie Ghetto. How did you enjoy the sessions and
what made you choose those particular songs to record to represent the band?
KY: The Daytrotter session we did quite a while ago so we followed our rule of playing the newest
songs that we're most excited about – at the time we hadn't even recorded Watchman for the
album yet. All in My Grill which we recorded for Indie Ghetto is just a great song and a
chance for us to do an interesting arrangement that shows what we're about a little bit and
also show off our R'n'B roots a little bit – I don't think Rosa or I would ever write vocal lines
like that but they are really fun to sing.
HJ: Now that Fossils and Other Phantoms has made its way stateside and is quickly becoming a
favorite of the press here and in the U.K., what else can fans expect from Peggy Sue in the
KY: We are playing some festivals over the summer and then we have a big show in London but
after that I think we're going to take a break from touring and start our second album as soon
as possible, we're pretty excited to get back in a practise room and work out new songs.
Hopefully we'll get something new out by the beginning of next year.
Watchman from Peggy Sue on Vimeo.
The Shape We Made: Live In London at the Old Queens Head from Peggy Sue on Vimeo.
Yo Mama from Peggy Sue on Vimeo.