DozenQ – Polly and the Billets Doux

This entry is part 13 of 20 in the series DozenQ 2

Polly And The Billets Doux are something quiet different. The genre-defiant quartet began life in the middle of a smoky Winchester venue’s backroom in 2006, performing totally unamplified to a full-capacity audience. Their distinctive sound combines elements of blues, country, folk, soul and gospel to create a sumptuous and totally unique sound with a quintessentially English twist.

01 How did you get started in music?

I have been singing for as long as I can remember. But never had any formal music training. Just listening to my parents records and singing along. Which was anything from Ian Dury to Nina Simone. My first public performance was singing the opening latin Hymn ‘veni veni’ with the school choir Christmas concert in the Winchester cathedral! I then went to the open mic night each week and sung a cappella. Then decided I wanted to accompany myself with an instrument and chose the double bass (Following in my Mothers footsteps). Booked a gig, having not quite learned any songs on it and then had to just go for it! I then lived with Dan, Steeny and Ben, brilliant musicians that I had known for a long time and we ended up playing together.

02 Where did your direction come from?

I would say that my direction springs from my early musical interests in Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and gospel singers such as Mahalia Jackson. As a band we have an eclectic music taste so the sound of the band will have been influenced from metal to jazz. Though we have never been too concerned with creating a ‘fusion’. I enjoy the element of the changing dynamic in a live set.

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03 Who were your major influences and inspirations and who do you despise?

Speaking on behalf of the band, I think much of the music from the 60’s and 70’s have proved to be major influences. Such as Pentangle, particularly Bert Jansch, whom we had the great pleasure to meet outside the backstage toilet of the Cambridge Folk festival. I also really love Led Zeppelin and The MC5. In terms of female vocalists, I hugely admire Jolie Holland.

In terms if bands that I am not so fond of I guess, I don’t like The Beautiful South (particularly their later stuff). Many people have argued that the early stuff is pretty good. And I am not really into pop punk, or modern boy bands. Bands that have choreographed dance moves that involve a ‘reach and pull’.

04 What inspires you to make your current type of songs and sound?

All sorts. Inspiration can cone from anything. If it was just one, the songs might get a little boring by the end if the album!

I make up melodies and lyrics whilst I am out walking. But I tend to forget them! (I have just bought myself a Roland recording device to take everywhere with me). Steeny and Dan write the songs for the billets doux. Steeny tends to write stories about hardworking sorts and sailors.

05 What can someone who has never seen you live before expect from your live shows then & possibly even now?

One could expect that it is a show of variety, sensational guitar playing. Dab is a hugely talented musician of many instruments. And we frequently swap them around. So the set up within one gig can go from a three part harmony a cappella folk song to complete electric sweaty set with harmonica solos, electric bass and hardcore riffs.

06 How do you begin your songs? What types of themes and subjects do you deal with?

As I said, Steeny writes well constructed songs about doing a hard graft, stories about sailors. Dan tends to write songs that have a ‘feel’ about them, rather than completed lyrics etc. He seems to focus on rhythms. Though I shouldn’t really answer on their behalf. I improvise melodies. By just starting to sing and play around. So my songs are very much melody led. I then see if I can remember any lyrics that I improvised.

07 How did your music evolved since you first began playing?

I guess when we started, we were a little softer. More jazz than we are today. The rhythms are getting sexier. We wrote more heavier electric songs. Now we are doing more complicated folk songs, more harmonies. The set is a varied hot box.

08 What has been your biggest challenge? Were you been able to overcome this? If so, how?

My biggest challenge is doing twitter! I am terrible with computers!! I am an outdoors sort of lass. I lead a super fun and adventurous life, which I could tweet about. But I am too busy living it to tweet about it! I will try harder. I must try harder. Sorry folks.

09 Do you play covers? If you could pick any song, which would you like to cover most and why?

Yes, I enjoy playing covers! Obviously it’s rare that one would do covers that are better than the original and we get more out of playing our own songs. However, I really enjoy playing them just for fun! There are some cracking songs out there there are just brilliant fun to play. We tend to cover Bo Diddley! I find those rhythms very sexy.

10 Where did you envisage being in five years time?

In a van. Travelling about. Having the time of my life.

11 Who would you most like to record with?

Answer coming soon.

12 What should we be expecting from you in the near future?

We have literally just released a new video ‘Hymn Song’ on YouTube. And we had a band practice yesterday in which two new songs were born. To add to the other 12 that are new and unrecorded. We wil be in the studio recording a new release over the next few months. Touring Europe with the Hold Fast EP. A summer of festivals. And then touring the UK with a new release at the end of the year.

Web Links:

Tour Dates 2013:

10/03 BRIGHTON The Hope
11/03 LONDON Wilmington Arms
14/03 BIRMINGHAM Café Ort
15/03 NEWCASTLE Cumberland Arms
16/03 KEIGHLEY Exchange Arts Centre
07/06 BRISTOL The Croft
22/06 DORCHESTER Dorchester Arts Centre
26/06 SOUTHAMPTON Talking Heads
27/06 MANCHESTER The Castle

Link to buy the current single –

Originally posted 2013-02-20 18:27:20. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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