On Saturday 20th August, Blackfest returned for its 7th consecutive year to the Blacksmiths Arms in Harworth. The single day live music festival hosted by Ginger Beard, a Doncaster promotor, featured a line-up of 15 artists coming from all over the UK to perform, a mixture of cover artists and original, making sure there was plenty for everyone, some acts playing other big festivals such as Leeds and Reading. The festival this year supported the charity Help for Heroes and was successfully busy, with a bar, food stall, and merchandise tent alongside the live music, making it great not only for music lovers, but a family day out, especially as U16s and OAPs were free to go in.
The people behind this fantastic event are the owners of Ginger Beard promotions, whose main aim is to help bands however they can. Through this fantastic event featuring more than just music, it is certain that the up and coming artists who played at the festival will have left with more fans as the place was full of people, showing testament to the savvy promotion of the event. A great day for music, and a great day for Doncaster, it would seem.
One of the bands who were on the Blackfest VII line up are Billy Bibby & The Wry Smiles, a band that originated in Llandudno and came together after lead singer Billy Bibby had been playing gigs as a solo artist, following his departure from Catfish and the Bottlemen. It is safe to say that members Billy, Matt, Rob and Mike have achieved amazing things in the year since formation, with the release of their EP Bide your time and singles ‘Waitin’ for You’ and ‘Are You Ready’ including an impressive 30+ gigs in 2016 already under their belt. Billy and Matt sat down for a pre-gig chat to give us an insight into Billy Bibby & The Wry Smiles.
What did the band coming together feel like?
Billy: It felt right. It felt like it was meant to be. We get on like a house on fire and it’s like we’ve known each other since daddy day care. The lads are top, top musicians.
Matt: Bill had been doing solo gigs for a while and after following him for a bit I saw he was after getting a band together. I’d just come off a solo tour and thought that being in a band again would be fun, so went along to meet him. Instantly hit it off with all three of the guys and it’s been good since then.
So once the band was formed, naming is the next step. I understand the Billy Bibby part, but why did you pick ‘The Wry Smiles’?
Billy: Matt came up with the name as he’s a big fan of Frank Turner and in a song called ‘Vital Signs’ he says a ‘Whiskey and a wry smile’ so yeah. Thanks Frank. And Matt.
Matt: A few names had been thrown around, but one thing that Bill wanted was his name to be the main part – he’s got a bit of an ego like that like. Anyway, we came up with some really shite ones – ‘The Flower Friends’, ‘The Busy Bee’s’, ‘The Knees’ to name a few. I came up with ‘The Wry Smiles’ though and it seemed to stick. It’s a lyric from a Frank Turner song and I had been listening to it on the way to practice one day. Funny how things work out.
How did you write the EP?
Matt: The EP was written by Bill and we sort of wrote our own parts over it. Bill wanted me to play the sitar on ‘Believe Me’ and the synth of ‘Don’t Fall’ but I politely declined doing either.
Billy: I wrote it after I left Catfish and then when I got the band together we all learnt our parts and then bang it was ready within a few weeks to record and it’s now on Spotify and the likes. All happened quite quickly really.
Overall, as a band, what are you hoping to achieve?
Billy: I think we can achieve big things together. We’ve already progressed massively in the year we’ve been together. As long as we’re all full-time musicians for a long, long time we’ll be happy. Anything else is a bonus.
Matt: I think we all have different ambitions. Personally, I’d be happy if after a gig even one person went away from it saying they had a good time. Music has a great way of being able to help people through tough times, and I’d love it if our music helped with that. That alone would make me feel like I’ve achieved everything.
What’s the best gig you’ve played as a band so far?
Billy: I think Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh was all of our fave so far, a small dingy venue and a great Scottish atmosphere, it was amazing. Some guy who we met there from Canada called us cunts but he looked like he was enjoying the gig so we didn’t set the bear (Mike, drummer) on him.
Matt: There’s been loads, but Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh was brilliant! I’d never even been to Scotland before, let alone play a gig, and the place was rammed. It’s one of those venues that’s really small, dark, has a bit of a smell to it – the best kind of venue! And the crowd was class, Scottish people really know how to let loose and have a good time.
If you could cover any other songs, what would they be?
Billy: I think we’d cover a classic pop song from either Hear’Say or Blue. All rise?
Matt: Pure and Simple – Hear’Say
You’ve played Doncaster a few times and are planning on coming back. Is this a place you feel particularly close to?
Billy: Not really no! No I joke. It’s a banging place to gig. Had many a great gig in Donny and its full of classic music lovers, promoters, and local radio stations and Djs so yeah it’s got it all happening.
Matt: I feel particularly close to Doncaster when we’re driving down the M18. In all seriousness, it’s been great to us so far. A lot of that has to do with a guy called Jimmy Mac. The term “legend” is used lightly these days but he really is one of the best guys we’ve ever met. He’s 100% the nicest person I’ve ever met in the music business, and he promotes a load of ace shows at The Leopard in Donny. So whenever we come to Doncaster we know it’s gonna be good because 95% of the time he’ll be there. Love you Jimmy x
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