Former lead guitarist and founding member of Catfish and the Bottlemen, Billy Bibby left the band in 2014. After being a major part of Catfish’s success with The Balcony and touring all over the UK, he made the decision to venture out on his own. Billy is now back and eager to make a comeback with a new band, EP and tour.
Taking a new direction isn’t always easy, but the release of the catchy single “Waitin’ for You” has had the positive response Billy was hoping for. “It’s had a decent radio play and has done everything we wanted it to do by making people aware of what is going on”, he says, which gave the band momentum to push on with the February release of the EP entitled Bide Your Time. “The EP was recorded with Russ who we did the early demos with Catfish, we went back to him – for someone that’s not a critically acclaimed producer, he is an unbelievable musician and he squeezed the best out of our talents.”
Getting a band together was an important part of Billy’s new venture and he divulges that a friend put him in touch with The Verve’s bassist Simon Jones who helped him out. “He has a studio just outside Chester, so I gave him a ring, we had a chat and I asked if he had any musicians. He set me up with some that had gone through the studio; we had a few auditions and picked the ones that fit the bill. We’ve been together for a few months, really nice lads, really good musicians and we just want to enjoy it as well as making some progress.” The band decided on the name Billy Bibby and the Wry Smiles.
“Throughout life my biggest musical influence was Elvis Presley… I’ve watched every performance, listened to every song.”
Moving on to Billy’s musical influences, it is clear that Elvis has had a huge impact on him, which is evident from his video for “Waitin’ For You”. “Throughout life my biggest musical influence was Elvis Presley, I was brought up by my parents who were massive Elvis fans – I’ve watched every performance, listened to every song.” Billy also reveals he is a James Bay fan and rates his recent success. “In terms of recent inspiration he is definitely at the forefront. I think he’s a really genuine guy. Really hard-working and what he’s doing is brilliant. I think my stuff is a bit more guitar heavy than his but I definitely take inspiration from him.” Last Shadow Puppets and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds are also favourites of his; we establish that we are both team Noel, the one with “the brains behind the music.”
It’s inevitable that Catfish and the Bottlemen are going to get a mention, as they were an integral part of his life and career. I ask how being in the band has helped him with going out on his own and he confesses that at twenty-five he probably wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for the band. “Picking up all the experience when you are on the road constantly like we were with Catfish, playing over 200 shows a year. Then writing songs with the lads, I’ve just taken all into the next process.” As mentioned, Catfish were notorious for their relentless gigging and Billy confirms he will be doing the same with his EP. “I don’t want to take any breaks as such from touring, there will obviously be months where it wont be a touring month, but I’ll be looking to get sporadic gigs in there just to keep things ticking over and keep fans coming to gigs, so definitely taking the same mind-set about gigging.”
“maybe we will bump into each other in the future when we do festivals”
Delving a bit deeper into Billy’s relationship with Catfish, his song “Believe Me”, which is on the EP, is said to be a reflection of his time with the band. “It’s just one of those songs that I fell in love with when I started writing it. Yeah it’s based on Catfish and stuff like that, in a positive light, not in a negative light, about experiences, leaving and how it felt. It’s probably still my favourite song to play.” Intrigued, I pry further and ask how he thinks Catfish would feel about his venture. Billy laughs – which puts me at ease slightly, “I’ve not been asked that question, I’m sure they would be fine with it, there’s no reason why not, maybe we will bump into each other in the future when we do festivals, nothing wrong there should be all nice.”
On a lighter, less awkward note – looking forward to 2016, Billy is hoping for a busy year. “First and foremost get through the tour, as I haven’t toured for eighteen months so I’m going to be a bit rusty a first, once we get through the first few we will be fine. Then try and release another single, get another song recorded that’s not on the EP and release that to keep the momentum going.” Billy confirms they’ve got plenty of material written and in the tour set there will be songs he is considering for the next single.
With festival season on the horizon, the band have been busy applying and are hoping to play a few festivals this summer, with the dream being Reading and Leeds. “I’ve always liked Reading and Leeds Fest, so it would be nice to get on the BBC Introducing stage this year. I’ve played that stage before and even though its only small stage, it’s a great festival. So that would be the dream one.” If you can’t wait until then, Billy Bibby and the Wry Smiles are playing Exeter’s Cavern tomorrow.