I had the pleasure of catching up with Billy Nomates just after she released her debut single ‘No‘ – her music made a huge impression on me and I’ve been an avid fan ever since.
She is one of those rare and refreshing artists that operates in her own little world. Her music is raw, edgy and truly unique. Her live performances are equally electrifying. I am delighted that she answered my bleeps on Skype back in early April and had a chat with me about all things music. Here is how that went.
How did Billy Nomates start? Have you always been doing music?
I’ve been in bands and done various bits and pieces since I was sixteen. I was in a band in Bristol in my early twenties for a few years. Before, I was always involved in projects or bands that weren’t mine and was just either fronting them or playing smaller roles. We were always on the fringes, never really took off. We had snippets of success but it always seemed to be ruined by someone getting married or breaking a leg.
I’ve always been involved in music but had a whole year away about two years ago. I found myself doing nothing musically, through no fault of my own really. Things just hadn’t worked and I had a year of a break. I moved down to the south coast and that’s where it started.
When will we get to hear the debut album?
The album was due to be released by Invada Records in May but it has been pushed back now. I’m not 100% sure on the release date just yet.
Your live performances and bedroom productions are wonderfully LoFi – Your debut single ‘No’ was quite polished in it’s sound. What can we expect from the album?
I did everything myself at home but I have really minimal equipment. The producer at invada was Geoff Barrow (of Portishead) and Stu Matthews. Working with invada was really intresting. I really respect the studio and the people that worked on it. We made minimal tweaks but they knew what they’re doing! I think it’s so unintentionally LoFi, that its got its own thing to it.
The album has a couple of songs in there that are a bit wildcard and a couple more polished like ‘No’. Invada were great, the producers just did that thing that only producers can do, where there’s a magic button they can press to make you go, ‘shit, that sounds good’. I don’t have that button in my bedroom.
It certainly sounds like this project is something you’ve been brewing for a while. Have you always intended on creating music in this style?
I’d like to think so, again, it’s not a conscious process. I think actually being on the other side of it now, I can kind of say yeah, you are probably right. It genuinely wasn’t a thing where I was like – I’ve got a little pent up emotion and I’m going to write an album. It was just a case of selling my guitar amp, buying a laptop and thinking, I can record something on it. That was the actual thought process. It’s cool that it ended up here.
What software do you use? I’m no musician and am always intrigued by how musicians go about making music in their rooms. Can you fill me in on a bit of the process?
It’s nothing fancy at all, I partly used ‘Garage Band’ because it was a free app on the laptop I bought off Gumtree. I also used a program called ‘Acid’ which is like from the nineties but it enables you to record and do very basic things – it retains that LoFi feel. You cannot do anything that fancy so I liked it. Back in my band days we would always make this perfectly produced music that I just didn’t like. There was something about almost having no tools that appealed to me.
‘No’ has gotten a great reaction thus far. As debut singles go, it’s right up there. How have you felt about this positive publicity coming your way?
Yeah it’s been great; I’ve been getting some BBC Radio 6 play with it as well – which has been brilliant. It feels amazing to get something from my little bedroom work-station onto BBC 6 Music. Genuinely, when I hear it on the radio I feel like someone is going to come for me and rumble me.
It seems you have picked up a couple of influential supporters already. I noticed the Sleaford Mods were fans. How did that come about?
I am a huge fan of Sleaford Mods, they are great guys. Them being early supporters of mine has been incredible. It’s amazing what that kind of gravitas does for you. They have been absolutely excellent at doing that – above and beyond and genuinely just been really kind about it too. I think they genuinely really like my music which still shocks me.
You have a very active social presence online now. Your Instagram is filled with lovely, peculiar tidbits. How would you access the importance of social media in today’s music scene?
I was very dismissive of social media and only got into it last year. I felt like we were all slaves to it. The minute I got it and started getting some motion going with it, I thought ‘Oh Shit’. It was kind of annoying how well it went as I was always a big naysayer. It’s just another avenue to put out art and your message. I try to have fun with it and not take any of it seriously. I only got a smartphone last year.
Social media is now an important way of keeping alive as an artist. One thing I’ve kind of learnt recently is that as long as posts are in line with something that is genuine or genuinely silly – it’s ok. If I take a photograph of a bin outside a gig that I like, I’ll post that.
I really enjoyed watching your first ever live performance at ‘Longwell Records’ in Bristol back in September. It was epic. How did you come about that gig and did you enjoy it?
Thank you, I didn’t realise how small the shop was and hadn’t really thought about it. I ran out the gate and once you are out, you can’t stop, you are either in or you are out – I just ran in. My performances make a little more sense on a bigger stage, as I found out when I did some London shows and that.
Ian, the guy who runs the shop is the nicest guy ever by the way. That first gig was a great lesson for me. No matter how small the space you are in, you have to just go for it as if you are on the John Peel stage.
What is next for Billy Nomates?
Well hopefully the album will be out soon. We will know more when everything settles. There was also due to be a mini UK & Ireland tour in July too but it has now been rescheduled also. Fingers crossed that still happens – we’ve got London, Dublin, Belfast and a couple more – which will be pretty cool because I haven’t done that kind of thing yet. The aim is to do that and see how it goes – I don’t know what to expect but I’m really excited. The tour will be just me and my laptop on stage – over time it might extend to having a live drummer or something but for now, it’s going to be just me and the laptop.
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I caught up with New York’s Ollie Chanin last week. If you still have some reading left in your eyes, check that one here.
About ‘The Sound Sniffer’
The Sound Sniffer is a music blog which is still only a baby – Founded and run by Kevin Coakley in early 2019. He is a music writer and autobiographical ghostwriter. ‘The Sound Sniffer’ has also run showcases in London since Oct 2019. The showcases are picked from artists we find in our submissions inbox.