Festival preview: Samuel S Parkes at Leeds Festival

Samuel S Parkes. Picture: Mike Powell/Glossy Onions Photography
Samuel S Parkes. Picture: Mike Powell/Glossy Onions Photography
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Mod and Northern Soul singer Samuel S Parkes will be among the acts flying the flag for West Yorkshire at Leeds Festival.

Winning a place on Sunday’s bill on the BBC Introducing stage via a Futuresound battle of the bands competition was a proud moment, admits the former frontman of Leeds band The Finnlys.

“We’ve had a mega year, to be fair,” he says. “It just keep getting better. There’s some more little bits to come as well so it’s sounding pretty good at the moment.”

Earlier in the summer Parkes and his band were asked to be last minute replacements for a headliner on one of the stages at the Isle of Wight Festival. “We ended up jumping in there and headlining on the Saturday night which was unbelievable,” he recalls. “It was packed out and it was a dream.”

Parkes began writing songs on his own 15 months ago then assembled a backing band. “This year we’ve had a bit of a plan and everything we’ve done seems to have come off – I suppose that’s just from learning from past mistakes,” he says. “We set the precedent when we supported Ocean Colour Scene on their UK tour in February and from there we’ve really gone for it.”

One of his favourite moments was playing with BBC 6 Music funk and soul DJ Craig Charles at Unity Works in Wakefield. He’s also supported Martha Reeves and the Vandellas in York. “We seem to be doing a good job for promoters at the moment,” Parkes smiles. “I think it’s worth them putting us on. There’s no one else really likes us around at the moment who plays this kind of music and when we’re live and we’ve got our Northern Soul dancers with the band it’s kind of impossible to ignore.”

Parkes says he’s always written soul music “in some sort of fashion”. “I got into it when I was 16 or 17, I started going to a lot of scooter rallies. I was really into the Mod thing. Through that, and looking at bands like the Small Faces which had a soul tinge to it, that pushed me towards soul music and Motown, which is staple diet, and from there I wanted something with a harder edge, which was Northern Soul. It kind of consumes you a little bit – I think because it’s not in the charts and never really has been it’s there for you to find rather than it being shoved down your throat, so you dig at it as far as you want to go.”

Parkes and his band caught the attention of Mod clothing shop Merc, who’ve used them in advertising. “It’s like 1967 Carnaby Street, London so it’s absolutely bang on the money for us,” the 26-year-old singer explains.

For an unsigned act, such things are important, he acknowledges. “We’re lucky that we’ve got the kind of image that a lot of clothing companies want – a Mod look, sort of souly, skinhead – we’ve got every subculture that you can think of in our band.”

Having self-released two EPs, Parkes and his band have also had interest from several record labels. “We’ve batted off a couple of record deals,” he reveals. “We’re just waiting for the right time and the right one to go for which is quite a difficult decision when you’ve got labels that you’ve dreamed about recording on and releasing on but because it’s not quite there we’re turning it down, which the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do. But we’re doing that well off the back of some demos it can only get better with a bit of luck if the recording’s any good.”

In the meantime they plan to release a single on their own label, called Let Me Go. “It’s a real Northern Soul dancer, really uptempo” Parkes says.

For details visit https://www.facebook.com/samuelsparkesmusic.

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