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Billy Bibby and the Wry Smiles - Interview

  by Harry Sherriff

published: 10 / 4 / 2016

Billy Bibby and the Wry Smiles - Interview


Former Catfish and the Bottlemen lead guitarist Billy Bibby talks to Harry Sherriff about his new band the Wry Smiles, working as a front man for the first time and their debut EP, 'Bide Your Time'

Everyone was surprised when Billy Bibby parted ways with Catfish & the Bottlemen, a band he had played in for years, toured with relentlessly and therefore contributed greatly to their meteoric success. It was reminiscent of Andy Nicholson’s sudden departure after the success of Arctic Monkey’s era-defining ‘Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not’. Thankfully Billy hasn’t given up music and he’s jumped straight back in with his own band Billy Bibby and the Wry Smiles, a band he formed with help from Verve bassist Simon Jones. In a matter of months he’s recorded the strong debut E.P 'Bide Your Time', which was recorded in his hometown of Llandudno, he’s organised an intense tour, something his previous band was renowned for and he shows not sign of slowing down. I met up with Billy before his gig at the Night and Day Cafe, Manchester. He seemed relaxed and excited to play: PB: How many gigs have you done this year? BB: Not many. February is the main month. Pretty much one every other day and March is pretty busy now as well. PB: Is that how you want it to be? That intense? BB: Yeah. Not forever but when we’re touring I want to get to as many places as possible. It’s the way I've always done it. It worked with Catfish. PB: Something I think made a big difference for Catfish & the Bottlemen was not only the intense touring but the free CDs that you used to give away. Is that something you’re going to do? BB: I did it with early gigs and demos but with this EP I’ve got proper CDs made and it’s a cost thing. Most people now have Spotify so if they like the show they can go home and have a listen. With the old band you didn’t have that back then. PB: Where did you record the EP? Was it a slick studio because of the contacts you’ve made over the years? BB: Not really. It’s a nice studio but it’s about twenty minutes down the road from where I live in Llandudno. It’s where we did the early Catfish stuff. He’s not renowned as a great producer because he hasn't had the opportunity but he’s a fantastic musician and he knows what he’s doing. PB: I don’t like it when young bands from small towns go out of their way to record in semi-famous studios because some big band recorded there five or ten years ago. It just sounds like them in a London studio. BB: Yeah, I think there was a bit of that with Catfish and a little spark was lost in recording but I am still pleased with what we did on that album - but me personally, I would have done it a little differently. It’s hard though because you’re under the influence of labels so first time round you sort have got to go with what they want. PB: What have you taken from the experience of being in a band like Catfish & the Bottlemen? What things have you thought: “Right I’m definitely doing that with this new band.” BB: Little things really. Venues is a big one. You know which venues work. Silly things like sound checking properly. Small things like that turn you into a professional touring act. PB: What about social media? Is that something you’re going to use? BB: Yeah, I try to respond to people but I’m not on it straight away. Ste my brother helps me out with it. PB: These days I think you’ve got to be an amazing band to get away with not using it. BB: You do, that’s what it goes by now. They classify you as a big band by how many followers you’ve got on Twitter and Facebook, which might not necessarily be the case. If I could avoid it I would but you’ve got to keep with the times. PB: How long did the EP take? Was there a transitional period? Did you have some time off? BB: I think I had one or two songs written. I was concentrating on being a band so I wasn’t writing songs for myself. A few months after the band I went and did some acoustic shows just to see if they worked., to see if people liked them and they went down pretty well. Then I wanted to do them justice. The next step was getting a band. BB: Was that nerve-wracking? Going from lead guitarist to I’ve got to sing on stage? BB: Yeah, it was a little bit but I’ve always sang and it’s never bothered me singing in front of people. Even when I was in Catfish I’d still do the odd gig at home for a bit of pocket money. A big reason why I did the acoustic shows was to get confident in front of people and now it feels comfortable. PB: The choosing of the band must have been a huge decision because you’re choosing 3 guys that you’re going to be on the road with for years. How did that happen? BB: We had some auditions in the studio which didn’t go well. Some people had come in and they hadn’t even learned the songs. At one point I was thinking is this even going to happen? By chance a friend of a friend knows Simon Jones (Verve bassist -Ed) and she was talking about me and he said, “Tell him to give me a ring!” - I had no idea what he wanted to talk about but I gave him call. I asked him, "Do you know any musicians?" and he said. “I know loads of people, I’ll get in touch when I’ve got a list of people.” A few weeks later through his auditionees I got the drummer and the bassist and through them I found the guitarist. PB: How long after that was the EP? BB: We had a few months rehearsing , getting six, seven, eight songs nailed solid so they were ready to record and tour. Then I got booked in with Russ in Llandudno. A few weeks later the record was done. Justine, my booking agent, got a tour organised soon after that so it all fell into place. PB: It seems easy! BB: It seems easy saying it now! (Laughs) PB: Do you look at the year as a whole? Or do you play it month by month? You don’t want to be known as Billy Bibby former Catfish guitarist forever but presumably that can get you some nice festival slots? BB: I have plans for the year but they’re sort of drafts. I’ll come to them when I get there, not at the moment because it’s too late then but my brother manages me and he does a lot of work on that bigger picture. I’m taking each day as it comes. You never know what will happen in a few months. That’s why I’ve called the EP 'Bide Your Time' because it’s suitable for what’s happening. I’ve been patient with things over the years. With this business you have to bide your time. PB: I was pleasantly surprised with the sound of 'Bide Your Time'. It’s definitely a more mature sound and I mean that as a compliment. Can you hear your influences in there? BB: I love Fleetwood Mac and I believe they had that balance of rock and great pop tunes as well that are timeless. I love the harmonies. The lads are fortunately good singers so we can do harmonies live. There are loads of influences. Sometimes I’ll pick a song, I won’t rip it off but I’ll try and get that feeling across. PB: What about recent bands? I speak to a lot of bands and they are happy to say they don’t listen to anything from the last thirty years. BB: In general I prefer older music but I’ve said in a few interviews James Bay is a big influence on me at the moment. I’d love to be in that rock/pop category. I’m not afraid of having a Pop record. Something that will go to the masses. Noel Gallagher is great at doing that. He had an appreciation for tock music but the songs always did well in the charts. PB: What annoys you about the music industry? BB: (Laughs) A few things but I can’t go into them. We’d be here all day. I’d prefer it if physical sales were still the thing. I’m not going to rant about Spotify because it gets people listening to your music, I’m guilty of it but, yeah, definitely physical copies. PB: Do you even think about an album at this point or is that way too early? BB: I have a draft of plans for this year and that is definitely not on this year’s plan. It’s going to be all about EPs, singles, keeping the momentum going… build up the fanbase. Exactly what we did with Catfish & the Bottlemen. I’ll know when the time is right. PB: Thank you. Photographs by Marie Hazelwood http://mariehazelwood.tumblr.com

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Billy Bibby and the Wry Smiles - Interview

Billy Bibby and the Wry Smiles - Interview

Billy Bibby and the Wry Smiles - Interview

Billy Bibby and the Wry Smiles - Interview

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Billy Bibby and the Wry Smiles - Interview
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