“I just hope people venture out from behind a computer screen” – An Interview with The Spitfires
It would come as no surprise to those that have heard The Spitfires’ music that a chunk of their influences come from the late 70’s and early 80’s, but the band’s attitude and youth make them very much a band with both feet firmly planted in the present.
After making waves with some energetic live shows that impressed the likes of Paul Weller and The Specials, both of whom took them out on tour, they have built up an impressive fanbase. Now they’re heading out on a lengthy tour of the UK, and their debut album Response is just around the corner, so 2015 is set to be a big year for these four lads from Watford.
Pure Rawk caught up with front man Billy Sullivan to ask about the new album, new members and tempting people away from their computers…
Let’s get right to it – tell us about the album. What are you singing about, what inspired you musically and how proud are you of the finished product?
I’m singing about my own observations or my own experiences of everyday living. They all explore different themes like the education system, unemployment, drug use, but they all come under the same category of ‘growing up’. I was inspired by the records I grew up listening to like The Jam, The Clash, The Specials when I was writing it, and when we were in the studio I was listening to stuff like Dexys, The Ruts and a lot of reggae and soul, everything I’ve ever listened to has been mixed in with this album really. I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved – we never intended to go into the studio and record 11 singles, it needed to be a whole piece really.
Response is being released via your own Catch 22 label. Why did you decide to release the album yourselves?
To have total control really. We’ve done everything ourselves up until now, so it just felt right to release it ourselves too. I’ve also always admired Jerry Dammers and him creating ‘Two Tone’, so I suppose there’s a bit of that in it.
You’re now a four piece, what was behind the decision to bring Chris Chanell and his keyboard into the band?
It wasn’t really thought about if I’m honest. We always recorded keys on any previous recordings as a 3 piece, and one day I just decided I wanted something else to expand the sound, add a different edge. I’ve known Chris since I was young so he was the first person I turned to.
You’ve been on tours with Paul Weller and The Specials. What was it like playing with music legends like that, and any stories to tell?
It was great because we love their music, and I suppose they see the way music has to carry on and has to change and come through with a new generation, so maybe they respect us for that? I don’t know. All I know is that they couldn’t have been more encouraging and genuinely interested in what we were doing. We have the utmost respect for them as people and as musicians.
You’re setting out on a big old tour in support of Response, where do you look forward to playing? Is there anywhere you look forward to winning over?
I look forward to playing everywhere if I’m honest, we’re very much a live band, it’s where we are at our best. I just hope people venture out from behind a computer screen to come and see us.
You are always going to get comparisons to The Jam and Paul Weller, both because of vocal similarity and image. Does this bother you, or does it fire you on to make a definite musical identity for yourselves?
It really bothered me at first, I’m not trying to make music off anyone else’s back, you know what I mean? But I can’t separate my influences or my roots from my music, and nor would I want to. It does bother me though when people won’t delve into it or open their minds a little to see that there’s far more to us than that. I was born in 1994, I have no interest in reviving or reliving a time I never experienced.
So with a big tour on the go and an album in the bag, what’s the next big thing for The Spitfires? What’s your ambition as a band?
Next I suppose will be more recording. We don’t want to stop at the moment, we’re already rehearsing new material. Our ambition is to make music, and for people to love it and to come see us live. I suppose we’re already achieving it really, so we just want it to get bigger and bigger.
If you want to help Billy achieve his ambition, The Spitfires are giving you plenty of chances in the next few months so check out the tour dates below. You can pre-order ‘Response’ from their website and keep up to date with them on Facebook and Twitter
29/08/15 – The Prince Albert, Brighton
30/08/15 – The Prince Albert, Brighton
05/09/15 – The Lomax, Liverpool
11/09/15 – The 100 Club, London
18/09/15 – The Flapper, Birmingham
25/09/15 – The Georgian Theatre, Stockton
26/06/15 – Think Tank, Newcastle
03/10/15 – Rayleigh Arts Centre
31/10/15 – The Spa, Bridlington
06/11/15 – The Bassment Bar, Chelmsford
14/11/15 – The Thunderbolt, Bristol
20/11/15 – Audio, Glasgow
21/11/15 – Pj Malloys, Dunfermline
27/11/15 – The Rifle Club, Portsmouth
28/11/15 – The Boiler Room, Guildford