it's been just over a year and Percy Hill
is ready to get back on to the stage. Their last show was at the Redhook Brewery
Music Festival in September of last year and these guys are absolutely itching
to get out on the road. They have all been taking it easy the last year or so
and have spread out and are doing many different things. This month, Percy Hill
will be making their debut back on to the stage as a 12-piece, including a horn
section, backup singers and two percussionists. These shows should be legendary
and everyone seems to be real excited about them. I recently had the pleasure
of chatting with Nate Wilson, Percy's resident keyboard extraordinaire,
and found out the recent happenings of this funky foursome from New Hampshire.
SK: It's been a year since you've played on stage together as Percy Hill, what have you guys been doing in your off time?
NW: Well, we've all been doing different things. I've been in school,
trying to finish up my undergraduate degree at UNH in music performance. I've
been teaching a lot of piano lessons and I've also been playing with the Reid
Genauer Band. So I've been doing that and Aaron [Katz - drums,
vocals, songwriter] has his own group [Aaron
Katz Band] as you probably know. So he's been doing a lot with that. John
[Leccese - bass] was playing with Aaron's band for a while, but he's
not doing that anymore. Now he's playing with Reid Genauer, so both of us play
with that group. And he's also doing a lot of different stuff, some freelance
graphic design all sorts of stuff. And Joe [Farrell - guitar]
is up in Portland Maine, he's teaching music in the school system up there.
We all have our own little niches carved out and we're doing our thing.
So the first show back in over a year will be at Pearl Street in Northampton(MA).
And you guys now have a 12-piece ensemble?
NW: Actually, 13 at some times... at some points. (laughs)
SK: So, all the players are there, you guys are ready to go?
NW: Everything is there, we still have a fair amount of rehearsal left.
But all the players are there. One backup singer is a woman named Anastasia
Rene, who is from NYC and is just an amazing singer. The other backup singer
is Lauren Wool, we've got four wind players, two percussionists, and
an extra guitar player, Adam Terrell. He's in Reid's band as well. Adam's
been in the area, he's one of the first guys I played with down here, I've known
him for 10 years now. He's a really great guitar player, it's going to be great.
SK: As far as the horns go, who is doing all the arrangements?
NW: I wrote all the arrangements, which is sort of a new thing for me.
Part of the big reason I wanted to do this whole project was just to get the
learning experience of doing some of that. So that was fun, it was a lot of
work. Sitting at a computer, sort of pushing notes around. But it was really
good and I think the arrangements came out well. It would have been difficult
to have someone outside of the group do those. You never know what you get into,
and it's hard to say no to people once you get in. So that whole aspect has
gone really well.
SK: Are you going to be performing your classic songs, some tunes from Color
in Bloom, etc.?
NW: Yah, about half the material is from Color in Bloom, and
then the other half is newer stuff. Some stuff that we've played before, some
that we've never played. But all previously unrecorded. Should be about half
SK: Was any of the new stuff written with the horns in mind or the 13-piece
in mind, or was that all kind of added after the fact?
NW: It was all pretty much added after the fact, but what I think is
interesting about the way Aaron writes and the way I write, is that when we're
writing the songs - when we envision them - we sort of hear a larger arrangement
anyway. So there is tons of room for parts and things that we probably originally
heard when we wrote the song, but just wasn't there with the 4-piece. A lot
of the newer stuff has sort of a more orchestral angle anyway. So it really
works out. And everyone is playing great, everybody is playing just the right
amount, nobody is overplaying. That's important.
I wanted to get into your history briefly and kind of refresh everyone's memories,
as there obviously hasn't been too much press on Percy Hill recently. So you
started in 1993 at UNH, and it was a 6-piece then?
NW: Yah, it was a 6-piece band. It was all just friends and family who
met up at UNH, my brother was actually playing on those gigs too - he was the
percussionist. Joe and I are the original members still in the group. And then
we had three other guys. Basically there was a big changeover that happened
around 1997, I think, or '98. That's when Aaron and John joined and the other
members left. Basically it was typical stuff- everyone had different priorities
and different things pulling them in different directions and some of us wanted
to stay on the road and some of us didn't. So we just decided to revamp the
whole thing at that point and see what we could do with it. And it's been a
really great experience with Aaron and John. Aaron is just an amazing songwriter,
he added so much when he came to the group. Working with him has really changed
the whole direction of the group, which is great.
SK: Something I've always wondered is where did the name Percy Hill come
NW: Percy Hill is an actual guy that we named the band after. Our first
bass player, Jeremy Hill, who left the group in '95 ish, his father is
named Percy Hill. I think what happened is we were trying to come up with names
for the group when we first started and his dad was there helping us brainstorm
and then someone just said his name and was like whoa, wait a minute let's just
name the band Percy Hill and it worked, y'know?
SK: Color in Bloom, obviously a fantastic album, was honored at the
first annual Jammy's as Record of the Year, I believe. What was that like?
NW: Yah, that was such an honor to get that award and I think it spoke volumes
about what we were able to get done in the studio. And I think it's easy to
take your work for granted, y'know? By the time we won that Jammy, I probably
hadn't listened to that album for a while, so I was like eh, this is interesting,
and then it won the award and I was like whoa! I went back and listened to it
and I was pretty pleased with it. A lot of factors came together at the right
time. We were all just in the right mind set to be in the studio and make something
happen. And we all had a real cohesive, artistic idea as to how we wanted things
to come off. It really shows on that record.
SK: Do you have any plans for a new studio album anytime soon?
NW: If we get the opportunity, we'll be there in a second. It's hard
these days to make that... in some senses it's hard and in some senses easy
because the technology is so much better. We would absolutely love to get in
the studio and do that. It's just a matter of getting the right circumstances
together- the right funding and the right people to put it out and the right
way to go about it. These days we're about quality rather than quantity, so
we'll probably wind up holding off until we can make it happen the way we want
SK: What are your plans for the future? Will you be doing a full blown
tour after the mini-run?
NW: We've talked about making a live recording out of this run, hopefully
that will work out. If that happens we'll do some more shows in support of that.
We may end up doing some shows this winter. And then we're also looking into
festivals for next summer. That's sort of a pipe dream of mine - to get this
13-piece band on some of these bigger festivals. We're all really excited about
this group. It would be really fun. Basically, we've got four people all doing
different things, trying to balance all sorts of different projects. Aaron's
got his group, John and I have the Reid thing. So basically we're more about
trying to balance and make everyone involved happy and fulfilled rather than
trying to come up with something that is going to consume everybody in terms
of being on the road all the time, being in the studio and forcing yourself
too much. We got bummed out a little bit when we were on the road all the time.
So we are trying to take things on a totally different pace. We'll definitely
be playing shows, I think, into 2003 and beyond and hopefully whatever presents
itself we'll take advantage of.
Words to live by.
GO CHECK OUT ONE OF THESE SHOWS!!!
Thu 09.19 - Pearl Street Ballroom, Northampton, MA
Fri 09.20 - Paradise, Boston, MA
Sat 09.21 - Rochester Opera House, Rochester, NH
JamBase | Boston
Let's Go Red Sox!