Just weeks after releasing their recent single ‘Enough is Enough’, ICM caught up with The Spitfires frontman, Billy Sullivan to talk about experimenting with a new sound and having the freedom to challenge themselves as musicians. This month the single is coming out on vinyl, so keep your eyes peeled.
So, Billy, you released ‘Enough is Enough’ a few weeks back, how have you found the reaction so far?
It’s been a mixed reaction! It’s quite a departure from what we’ve done before. The imagery and everything to do with it is brand new and forward thinking – so it’s been mixed. I don’t expect everyone to like it but I think we’ll gain enough new fans on the way to make up for it.
It’s definitely different but personally, it still feels familiar and rooted in the sound of The Spitfires that we’ve heard already.
Yeah, I mean those elements have always been in our music – just sometimes they come to the forefront, I think is the best way of explaining it. There’s little bits and pieces in the past in the background but they’ve come to forefront with ‘Enough is Enough’.
Is there anything in particular that sparked the change in direction? Was it something you all wanted to do or did it just happen?
This was the first track I wrote after the last album and it was sort of the main riff that I had done. I did a home demo of it and it sounded good and different but that’s not how its ended up. It wasn’t until we started working with our new producer Simon Dine, who really turned it on its head.
He got the best elements of what I was doing but brought them to the front and got rid of anything that was shit to be honest. It wasn’t a conscious thing – it was just working with someone new and having someone else’s ideas and input. It didn’t feel like we were doing anything drastically different.
Can we expect a lot new music in this sound or do you think you’ll mix things up again?
I think the stuff we’ve been working on at the moment is all to do with the individual song itself rather than an overall sound – it’s like bringing the best out of each individual song rather than concentrating on how we’ll group the songs into ‘the sound’ or whatever. But I mean, I don’t know really – it’s not like we’ll be saying ‘Right, we only do funk records now. Or disco!’. But maybe other songs could have a similar vein.
You mentioned earlier about having fan-base and changing up your sound. Did you ever see the new single as a risk or was it worth it to be able to experiment?
I don’t think we thought of it as a risk – we all knew it was really good so we couldn’t wait for people to hear it really. But again, we were aware that some people might not like it – but that’s the way things are sometimes. You can’t just make music all the time that you think your fan-base is going to like. You have to do things that you think is best.
In the past, we’ve been stuck in a genre or a certain look and after a while it starts to weigh you down. People can’t see past a haircut or certain guitars or certain clothes. It gets to the point where it doesn’t matter what you do, it gets labelled a certain thing. It feels good that we’re breaking out of that now.
There’s some people who still can’t see past that and will be like ‘They’re a rock band!’. But I think we’ve broken out of that now and we can do whatever we want. And it’s been made achievable by working with Simon as a producer and we’re now back as a three-piece with additional musicians that work with us both live and in the studio. It’s just a bit more freedom to do what we want.
I think we’re definitely in the era of mixing things up a few albums in and speaking of other artists, has there been any other outside ands or artists who have influenced the record?
Not really – I’ve always been a fan of the funk and disco 12 inch records from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and I’ve always wanted to do something like it but I’ve never really gotten it together. Or if I’ve attempted it, it’s not been very good. But this one’s sort of written itself, it wasn’t anything in particular. I didn’t hear a record and go ‘Right, we’ll do something like that’, they’ve always been in the background and it’s always been something that I wanted to do. But I find that when you try to do these things they always fall on their arse but if it happens naturally, then normally it works.
Yeah absolutely, I agree. When you’ve got something that comes naturally – you know that you’ve got it right and you’ve got something special that’s going to work.
Yeah, I mean there’s nothing worse than a band trying to force something – a new sound, or a new look, because it just looks false to me. And I think you can tell those bands a mile off. Whereas if it naturally develops, then the band are going to be a lot more comfortable doing it. And that’s how it happened, it developed in the studio while we were there over the space of a few days – very naturally. And I think that’s why it sounds so good afterwards.
You’ve announced a tour for later this year – are you excited to bring the new stuff on tour and see how it feels live?
Yeah definitely – the new stuff is so different so it’s a little more demanding on the live set, which is good because I think we’ve become really good musicians over the last few years.
I mean, this interview sounds like I’m just blowing smoke up my own arse – but I think we’ve really improved as musicians and as a band. And I think it’s good to set ourselves more challenges when it comes to that. There are far too many bands that play the same stuff every tour and go through the same motions. Whereas we like to keep improving and pushing ourselves and we like to believe everything we do is a step-up from what we’ve done previously.
It’s always good to get back on the road. We’ve done bits and pieces this summer but it’s always good to get back in your own setting in a venue with your own fans, just to see how things go really.
Yes absolutely – and it’ll be interesting to see how fans take to the new stuff when it’s performed live in that atmosphere
Yeah, I mean we’ve been playing ‘Enough is Enough’ since April time and it’s quite funny because some situations, we see half the crowd staring at the ceiling – not really knowing what they’re doing. But we play a festival and there’s a crowd who have never seen us before and they love it! They get involved and start dancing, so it’ll be interesting to see how people react to it. But that’s all part of it I think – people have got to listen to it a few times to appreciate it. It’s not something you do once and go ‘Oh that’s great!’, it’s something you’ve got to get into a bit.
I agree. Songs that you listen to a few times and they grow on you are very special.
Yeah! And I think the best music is like that. My favourite music is the ones that take a few listens to get into and after a while you’re like ‘Fucking Hell- That’s Great’. It’s the great thing about music – one thing that sounds rubbish, six months later blows your head off. But they’re the songs that stay at you and nip away at you until they get you. And that’s the best sort of song for me.