The Kaje talks band dynamics to Billy Vincent

Fronted by long time compatriots and best friends, Billy Barratt and David Vincent, Billy Vincent are in fact a multi-talented, multi-genre band who have crafted a collection of songs that are as lyrically stimulating as they are musically. With their debut album “She” finally available for purchase, the band have kicked off proceedings with the irressistible lead single “Bottle Top”. Known for the defining harmonies and kick-ass live shows, the line-up is completed by Matt Woodward (fiddle), Jack Blenkinsop (drums) and last but not least bassist Joe Kinsey, who has kindly taken time out of their increasingly hectic schedule to fill us in on band dynamics…

Billy Vincent is a name that could be mistaken for a solo project-how did you decide on the name?

Billy (Barratt) & David (Vincent) have been in bands since they could play, always working towards something. It seems Billy Vincent is that something, the culmination of their work, so it’s fitting that it’s a culmination of their names.

You are in fact a quintet, how did you get together?

Bill & David, since childhood, were always in bands together, while I played in other bands and on my own for a bit. When their last band, who I was a big fan of, folded I just put my hat in the ring and was chuffed to strap on the bass guitar. We knew we wanted a fiddle player and drew the ace on Matt. And a solid drummer is the backbone of any band…Jack came highly recommended and we haven’t looked back since!

Your sound takes in a variety of styles-who brings what ingredients to the table?

Well, essentially it’s about the songs, and Bill & David bring them in abundance. It’s great with two songwriters, you always tend to have something new on the table. Often they’ll come in with a fair idea of where it’s headed, sometimes fully demoed, and we’ll wrap our parts around it. We’re all fairly creative so we’ll bat a few ideas around and wander through a few different versions and take a bit from each. Matt likes to call it the ‘Billy Vincent treatment’ – though there are inevitably occasions where we’ll go through all that and return to the first version!

You are essentially a band with two frontmen-how do you decide which vocal works best when?

Probably one for Bill & David but I think they tend to know by the time it comes to the rehearsal room who’s singing it, for whatever reason. Of course, with such strong harmonies the options are there for a number of approaches, and they could sing in tandem. Then there are songs like Prairie Wolves where it just sounds so right to have the two voices attack a verse each.

If you had to define your own sound, what would you call it? Who would you feel are obvious comparisons?

Only if we had to? Does that mean we can choose not to?

We like the broad spectrum of Americana. Via London of course. Comparisons are often fairly subjective so I suppose we can only point to a few touchstones…raised on The Beatles, Kinks, Springsteen, Tom Waits, Dylan…. discovering Nirvana, The Clash, Tracy Chapman, Bright Eyes, Nick Cave, Ryan Adams… The list goes on but it’s all played a part.

Are there any comparisons you are trying to avoid?

Haha. Well, assuming comparisons are subjective then I guess not. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and I know I’ve compared bands to others in the past and it’s been laughed off, so essentially no. Lazy comparisons can sometimes be a bugbear – you know, where one person assumes another’s opinion, and that feeds another, etc. We’ve had pretty healthy comparisons in the main though, so we’ve no room for complaints… a favourite being “Dexy’s meets Rolling Thunder Revue”!

Your debut album “She” has just been released-can you tell us what to expect?

The reviews can. We’re pretty pleased so far! It’s a great collection of songs – tender ballads, dark & dirty ballads, jigs and sing-alongs. It’s very lyrically driven, which given our influences probably isn’t surprising. Musically we took the live setup and just added a few bits. There was no need to go all out on it, but we supplemented our sound with pedal steel & piano, a bit of accordion, brass, hammond and some additional percussion.

What is the best flip to track, for an immediate introduction?

‘The Ballad Of Billy Vincent’ is picking up a lot of attention in the reviews & ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ is pretty instant – it opens the album and will be our next single. I wouldn’t say there’s necessarily a song that defines us but if pushed, I’d go for ‘Ballad Of Billy Vincent’.

Is there a band favourite-if so which? And why?

Maybe ‘Prairie Wolves’… It may actually have also been worthy of a mention as a ‘flip to’. It’s an older song off an earlier EP that just won’t go away – a lot of people, including us, seem to have a lot of love for it.

Which track goes down best in the live forum?

Depending on the night, the venue, or the mood it could be any. ‘Prairie Wolves’ of course, but ‘Feathers’ is also picked up on quite a lot. I think the full intensity of it is best captured live.

How do you alter your sound for the live shows?

We’ll try to tailor our show to the setting, and we like to change the set up as much as possible so no night is ever the same, so I guess that drives the sound – there’s never quite the same approach. We did have Martin Rossiter join us on keys for our album launch though, which was great. It allowed us to show the songs off in a new light.

What has been your live highlight to date?

I don’t think we could pick an individual moment. Tours, festivals, meeting new people, sharing stages, each show has its highlights, but to find yourselves sharing a bill with the people you’ve spent years listening to just doesn’t tire! If we’d have been told in January that we’d play with Danny & The Champs, The Sadies & Ben Kweller in the next 5 months, I doubt we’d have believed you!

And the lowlight?

Low light? It was a low hung monitor at our show in Winchester that I cracked me head on! Or maybe having a porcelain Pluto fall & crack me on the head in Brighton. Not sure how many lives I’ve got left!

Is there any stage you hope to conquer by the end of 2012?

There’s plenty left to conquer and we can’t do them quick enough! There are a few festivals we’re hoping on and we’re looking to get started on the next album as soon as possible, so with all other aims in sight I guess that’s next on the agenda.

Any other goals for this year?

Hopefully a few more from Robin Van Persie. For Arsenal of course…he’s going nowhere!

www.billyvincent.com

Interview and Photograph by Jeremy Williams

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