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Interview: Polly and the Billets Doux

6 min read

Winchester based band Polly and the Billets Doux are quickly climbing out of obscurity with their stylish blend of country, jazz and gospel songs as portrayed on their debut record. With the bands debut release Fiction, Half-Truths & Downright Lies they have been going from strength to strength, gaining themselves an impressive following thanks to their energetic live performances and distinctive sound.

Brendon caught up with front woman Polly Perry to find out how the journey has been so far. Here’s what she had to say.

Brendon Veevers: How are you doing?

Polly Perry: Very well thank you, though damn cold! It is freezing!! I am doing a 10 mile run tomorrow and so I am trying to not get poorly!

BV: Where does this email Q&A find you?

PP: In the pub where I live and work. It is called The Black Boy in Winchester and is the best pub in the world. It is like a natural history museum/ antique warehouse/ friendly boozer! In a second I am going to my art Studio ‘The Yard’ just down the road to get even more cold and try and finish some drawings.

BV: This year has been a busy one for you. As well as a busy touring schedule you released your debut album, Fiction, Half-Truths & Downright Lies which has proven to be quite a successful release. Can you tell us a little about the album?

PP: The album is a collection of songs that we have written, played live then recorded live at Earth Terminal Studio’s – a beautiful Oast House in Odiham. The live room is a circular red brick building and the sound Engineer Lewis is an absolute legend! The front cover is taken from a three dimensional ceramic sculpture made by Steeny’s girlfriend (and one of my best friends from school) Sophie Wiltshire who has just begun her MA at the Royal college. It is a sculpture of the band operating on a crocodile to discover and retrieve a clock (an idea taken from Peter pan). Soph and myself also made all of the bands badges from ceramic…

BV: Do you have a favorite track on the record?

PP: No. I don’t think so. I like them for different reasons.

BV: For anyone who hasn’t heard of you, how would you describe your music?

PP: This is always the toughest question! people often describe it as a mixture of folk, country and blues. However that could be a little misleading. We are influenced by such a broad array of music and don’t intend to write within genres or rules…or try to create a fusion of any kind. we just write songs we like, most of which make a feature of three part harmonies and Dan’s incredible ability to sing so high! Our voices vary but compliment each other. We mix up the instruments a little.. but make use of two acoustic guitars, slide, electric guitar, double and electric bass, harmonica, drums and whatever percussion is left lying about.

BV: What’s the meaning behind the name of the band?

PP: Billets Doux means ‘love letter’. A secret one.

BV: We had a little poke around your official website this week and we have to say – its very impressive. Was the concept the bands idea?

PP: The concept, skill and design all came from one man. The brilliant Mr Paul Isaac. One of my favorite people in the whole world. He runs a company called ‘Threemuses’ and designs incredible websites. He is also the fastest worker in the South. I once had a coffee with him and discussed designs for badges and by the time I had got home he had emailed me some amazing designs. A legend in every way and a purveyor of tasty Greek treats. His house is never short of Baklava, some other suspicious almond coated nibbles (I hate almonds) or the finest Port.

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BV: Who inspired Polly and the Billets Doux growing up?

PP: I didn’t study music at school so I received all of my musical tuition from mix tapes made by friends and listening to my parents record collection. Again is was vast and varied and had everything from X ray Spex and Ian Dury.. The Beatles…Nina Simone…Bruce Springsteen…Led Zeppelin…I remember vividly my first loves dad, Julian giving me his copy of Billie Holiday and I played nothing else for months. That got me into the world of jazz and blues. I then got advised by a gent called Nigel to check out Mahalia Jackson. and ‘video Paddy’ down the pub- a collector of rare vinyl- introduces me to great music every week.

BV: Do you have any guilty musical pleasures within the band?

PP: Hell yes. Though some I just stand by with dignity and think ‘what of it if i like them!’. Ben’s Guilty pleasure is the worst. He likes baby cakes! Some of my guiltiest of pleasures were brief moments which I have got over but still hide the album at the back of my cd collection!

BV: Who are you listening to right now?

PP: In the background of me writing this interview I have got the film Kes on so am listening to lots of Northern speaking. If I were to pop on an album it would probably be ‘Al Green’. something with a male vocalist and a good bass line.

BV: What has been the most rewarding and the most enjoyable parts of your job at this point in your career?

PP: Well this past year has been quite busy doing things that I hadn’t anticipated doing. The most rewarding was perhaps the review in Uncut magazine., the most enjoyable has been playing the festivals and touring….I especially loved Scotland! The most terrifying was playing live on the radio but exciting listening to the radio and hearing presenters such as Terry Wogan and Cerys Matthews with such distinguishable voices say ‘Polly and the Billets Doux’ was very exciting. There is still much more I look forward to doing and working on achieving those life ambitions….

BV: When can we see Polly and the Billets Doux on the road?

PP: Our February tour is booked ***18th-26th ***Newcastle-Hull-York-Liverpool-Reading-London-Deal-Brighton and Winchester. We are currently booking the April Tour now and working on a tour of Ireland. We have also been offered a tour of Northern Germany and also a festival there.

BV: So what’s next for Polly and the Billets Doux?

PP: Keep on moving and a shaking. Having fun. Writing songs. Playing gigs. Touring. We are half way through recording the next album so finish that. Make T-shirts. We are looking to get our next release out for our February Tour.

BV: Thanks

Polly and the Billets’ debut album Fiction, Half-Truths & Downright Lies is out now.

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