Billy Bibby played lead guitar with Catfish and The Bottlemen, a band that he also co-founded with the Welsh group’s frontman Van McCann. After contributing to the band’s success on their debut album The Balcony and gigging all over the UK, Bibby called it a day in 2014 and set off on his own musical venture. After a process of hunting for and auditioning potential band members (“It was nothing like X factor”, he tells me), Bibby believes he has found the ones. Matty Thomas, Mikey Pearce and Robbie Jones make up the Wry Smiles.
Now, Bottlemen’s Bibby is back and better than ever. On the day of Billy Bibby & The Wry Smiles’ eagerly anticipated EP launch (spoiler alert: it’s fab), I got the chance to catch up with Mr. Bibby himself.
What has been your favourite part of your solo journey so far?
I think just getting the band together really. That was what I wanted to do. It wasn’t the plan, but it became the plan after I wrote the songs. When I played them acoustically people liked them so I thought I needed to get a band together. Once I sorted that out, it was a bit better.
Did you always have solo aspirations?
I wouldn’t say so, no. I did enjoy doing it whilst playing songs and touring on my own but I think my heart is more in making a bit more noise than just playing the acoustic guitar. But I do enjoy it and I still play acoustic gigs but I had to get a band together for, you know, peace of mind. It was what I wanted to do.
So how did you actually get the band together?
It was just through chance really. I found a few people locally from where I’m from… let’s just say it didn’t work out. A friend who knows Simon Jones the bass player from The Verve mentioned me to him and he said tell him to give me a call! We had a bit of a chat and I asked if he knew any musicians. A few weeks later he came back to me and I went to a studio somewhere near Cheshire to audition a few people. It wasn’t too serious. I just told them to learn a few tunes and we jammed it out. I picked the ones which fit the bill and were willing to put the hard work in as well as having the talent. From there it all just sort of fell into place.
I read that you’ve been influenced by the likes of Elvis Presley and Noel Gallagher, who else do you listen to and how do you feel they’ve influenced you in any way?
To be honest its quite a broad spectrum really. Depends what I’m into at the time. Elvis has always stuck with me. My parents loved him, so that’s something that I’ve always listened to. I think Fleetwood Mac are a big influence on my stuff. Just the way they have those pop/rock timeless classics you know. There’s a little bit of a country vibe in my stuff as well so I think that more recently people like James Bay, I really appreciate his music. He’s been a big influence. People like Jake Bugg. To be honest there’s old and new. A good mix, really.
Are there any musicians you’ve worked with in the past that you feel have influenced your music?
I haven’t really worked with that many people [laughs]. When you’re with a band it’s the only thing you do so … it’s tough to answer that question really. It’s mainly been producers that have helped. I suppose Jim Abbiss who recorded the debut album with Catfish was a big influence.
So the EP is officially out today. How has the journey been to get to this point? How has recording and working with a new band been in general really?
Good yeah. I thought it was going to take longer so in a way that’s kind of why I named the EP ‘Bide Your Time’ because it’s a line in a song that I’ll be bringing out soon, so it’s kind of like a little taster of what’s to come. But also I thought it was suitable for this EP because of what has happened, and getting the band together. Just the general music industry in itself you have to be patient with things and it doesn’t happen overnight so you gotta get all these things planned and sorted. It came together pretty well, it only took a few months to get the EP recorded, get a band together and then get a tour booked. Within about 2 or 3 months it was all ready to go. It was the time before, getting the songs written myself, that’s the bit that took a while.
How much did you write of what’s on the EP and what you’ll be performing tonight?
I’ve done it all. All the songs that are in the set tonight as well. We’ve thrown a cover in there as well, which I didn’t write [laughs] yeah but those are all written by me. But the lads are great musicians and they’ve taken their own roles and twisted things to make it their own art as well. They’ve done a great job to be fair.
Have you got any clues as to when the EPs namesake will be released?
I’ve got no plans as such. I’m torn between bringing that one out and another one that we’re playing tonight called ‘Are You Ready’. But ‘Bide Your Time’ will be out hopefully this year sometime. If not as a single it’ll be on the next EP which I’m hoping to bring out the back-end of this year. Then not rush with an album just wait for things to hopefully get bigger with the fan base and then I’ll know when it’s ready to record an album. I know when the time is right and it’s not for a while. Like I said, bide your time, keep patient and it’ll happen. You’ll get bigger. It’s all good.
How long will you be touring for?
We’re playing ‘til the 20th March so we’ve got 26 dates spread out through a couple of months. It’s probably one of the biggest I’ve been on actually. Going up from Inverness down to Exeter. Doing a lot of travelling, getting around, seeing everywhere, playing everywhere. But it ends on the 20th March on my birthday so it’ll be a good way to end the tour.
Are you feeling nervous about any of the upcoming shows?
I think more so tonight really because of the EP launch and stuff, and I think it’s going to be quite busy. So yeah, a little bit. I’m always a bit nervous before gigs but I think its quite natural but as soon as you’re up there it only takes a song and it goes. I’m just looking forward to it all really. This is what I love doing and hopefully the lads enjoy it as well. [Laughs] But we’ll see.