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Billy Bibby and the Wry Smiles - Interview

  by Harry Sherriff

published: 8 / 11 / 2016

Billy Bibby and the Wry Smiles - Interview


Harry Sheriff chats to Billy Bibby and Matt Thomas of Billy Bibby and the Wry Smiles about touring and what direction the band wants to take

Billy Bibby is the former lead guitarist for Catfish & the Bottlemen. Billy was a major part of their success and now he’s looking to strike twice with his new band Billy Bibby & the Wry Smiles. The band only formed at the beginning of the year but are already sounding like they’ve played together for years. Their debut EP, 'Bide Your Time', was released to coincide with a tour at the start of 2016. With Billy already being a signed artist and having a few years in the industry behind him, I had high expectations but I was surprised to see them surpassed. It’s a very strong debut and I also believe their latest single ‘Are You Ready?’ is their strongest song yet. I was lucky enough to see Billy Bibby & the Wry Smiles play one of their first gigs back in February at Night & Day in Manchester. Six months later, crammed into his tour van at the back of the same venue, Billy, the Wry Smiles’ bassist Matt Thomas and myself discuss what’s been keeping them occupied in the interim. PB: When we last met you had just done your first tour, were there any stand out moments? Was that tour about finding you feet as a band? Matt: Besides Bill- Me, Rob (Jones, lead guitar) and Mike (Pearce, drums)had never toured before so it was more of an experience for us! Billy: They all picked up it so well and adapted to being on tour really quickly. PB: What about your endurance considering you’d never toured before? Matt: Well there was one point where I was like, "I could do without doing this", especially when we all got ill at one gig. You need shit things like that to happen though I think. It’s a learning curve. PB: What about attendances? You’re a new band were any of the dates one man and his dog? Billy: Our very first gig before Manchester was pretty much one man and his dog. Matt: I’ve played so many gigs to one person or nobody that having a few people feels like a bonus. PB: How did you get into the band, Matt? What was your experience before meeting Billy? Matt: I’d played in a lot of bands and I did my own solo tour. I saw that Bill was looking for members on his Facebook page and I thought it would be cool to be in a band. Then I listened to his songs and, although I don’t like to kiss his arse that much, they were really good. I thought these could go somewhere. Billy: He was solid and I realised after we’d gig that people would come up and say, “Your bass player is a good performer on stage”. Matt: I’ve realised that because I can’t play bass like Flea that I’ve got to make up for it by moving about. Billy: For me, picking the band was about the connection on stage and we definitely have that. It’s not about virtuoso musicians. It’s about how you come together as a band. PB: How do the other guys influence the songwriting? Do you get a song finished, show it to them and ask “what can you add to this?” Billy: Yeah. I demo’d a lot of the tracks before so I had written a lot of the parts myself. On some songs they have taken what I’ve done and put their own twist on it. There are also tracks I didn't demo. I just brought them in and they put their parts on, which I genuinely prefer, because then it’s us putting our own stamp on what we’re about as a band. Now I’ll just bring in a song and play it acoustically. PB: I listened to your latest single ‘Are You Ready?’ and it sounds very different to your EP that you toured six months ago. Billy: Yeah. That’s the aim. PB: It feels very retro and at the end it almost feels like stadium rock! Billy: Yeah, that’s what we’re trying to do. I see us like Stereophonics because we’ve got some acoustic tracks and then other, bigger sounding stuff. PB: I feel like stadium rock has almost become an insult. Billy: If you’re chasing it, it can be terrible. A lot of bands now write like they’re playing stadiums when they’re not. PB: It must be hard as a band to write like that. Matt: To be fair to Bill, he actually writes his own songs and they sound the way he wants them to sound. When you first sit down to write a song you just want to write. You don’t analyse what 50,000 people might sing. Plus for me, it’s not about the amount of people but it’s about how connected they are to the music. PB: How often are you writing at the moment? You must want to write all the time? Billy: Yeah. I do. I don’t have any other job so it is all I want to do but I’m really picky. It’s bad because I should sit there until it’s done but I’ll sit there, write a part and I’ll go away. I won't go back to it for weeks. Then, when I come back to it, it’s fresh and I know the second part I write will be as strong if not stronger than the part before. PB: Do you ever write a song in, say, an hour? Billy: Yeah. The key for me is not firing a song. That never works and you end up writing crap lyrics. PB: What about the discipline of the routine? Billy: I’m not a routine kind of person really. That’s why my brother is so good. He’s the manager and he gives me direction. You need that. I’ve got discipline but I don't like to be stuck in my ways. I write a song when I have something to write about; I went to Germany for four days the other week purely for some inspiration to write music. Matt: We’ve got about eight songs now about German lager. (Billy laughs) PB: Is there a new EP out soon? Billy: We’re going to release another single soon and another intense tour before the year is out. Matt: We’re constantly gigging. You have to or people will forget about you! PB: Have you noticed a difference in the attendance or atmosphere of the gigs since the EP was released and the subsequent tour? Billy: Yeah. It’s progressing. Matt: I always find it unbelievable when people sing the words. That’s mindblowing. That’s starting to happen. PB: You’ve started to do Facebook Live videos, which is an innovative use of social media. Is that something you’re going to keep up? Billy: I did it mainly for feedback on some new songs and to keep people interested. You’d be surprised at how many views you can get because we got a couple of thousand just off those videos. I just don't want to overdo that side of things. 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

Billy Bibby and the Wry Smiles - Interview

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Interview (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'

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