Interview Public Practice: “I’m interested in doing something more than four people with guitars looking bored on stage“

Public Practice: “I’m interested in doing something more than four people with guitars looking bored on stage“
Photo: Alexandria Foot

Born from the ashes of short-lived NYC post-punks WALL, Sam York and her band have evolved into a disco-inflected, danceable force to be reckoned with.

When hyper-buzzy New Yorkers WALL split shortly before the release of their 2017 debut LP, there was a feeling that they’d combusted with a whole heap of potential untapped. However, speaking to Public Practice’s Sam York-– frontwoman and chief songwriter in both outfits alongside bandmate Vince McClelland - the decision to draw a line in the sand and reconfigure seems a simple one: away from the post-punk framework they’d previously set up for themselves, now they could set their sights on something more joyful, more uplifting, that just in general gave them more. “I learned a lot from WALL, but now I’m more interested in leaning into the positive aspects of life,” says Sam. “I think dancing really brings people together and I’d like to be a part of contributing to that. There’s still plenty to be upset about, but I’m finding more eloquent ways to express it.”

Drawing influence from the more dancefloor-inclined end of the city’s classic canon, it’s artists like ESG, Liquid Liquid and Blondie that permeate through to Public Practice’s self-proclaimed “dark disco”. And from their first singles back in summer 2018, they’ve presented the kind of sharp, stylish package that’s like a modern-day take on a night down CBGBs: chic yet sweaty, aspirational yet hedonistic at the same time. “I’m interested in doing something more than four people with guitars looking bored on stage; I feel like we can make something more interesting than that, and we really strive to,” enthuses the singer. “But it’s also about trying not to take ourselves too seriously. Public Practice is about having fun, not just looking cool. Like duh, we’re fucking cool, but we’re also having a good time!”

The first sizeable document of their celebratory mantra comes in the form of this month’s debut ‘Gentle Grip’ - 12 tracks of streamlined, shoulder-shimmying earworms that strut with equal nods to punk, funk and a host of ideas in between. There are real, fallible questions contained within its wares - “I think the subject matter is really human, and about the moral gymnastics of existing in modern society,” nods Sam. “All the songs fall under the idea of what it takes to be a good person in the world we live in” - but there’s unlikely grooves and nighttime sass built in equally at its core.

“I’m always more prone to speak about the things that we’re for than the things we’re against, which is a big difference between post-punk and disco,” she explains. “We want this to be fun and inclusive, because what else is the point? Everything is so upside down in the world, the least we can do is try and make something that brings people together.”

As featured in the May 2020 issue of DIY, out now.

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