This interview was originally published on Do More Magazine. I spoke to front-woman Polly Perry of Polly and the Billets Doux ahead of their UK tour.
I also reviewed their new album. It’s a good, soothing listen.
Yes, of course! Though I never studied music at school or college… One had to choose between art and music. I wanted to do both. I grew up listening to my parents massively eclectic record collection, anything from Ian Dury, Gong, Nina Simone, Fairport Convention, X Ray Spex, all sorts! My Nan was a singer in the War, so whenever I see her we duet 40’s sentimental songs.
What were your primary inspirations (lyrical or otherwise) when writing Money Tree?
Money Tree was inspired by the Northern Poet Tony Harrison. We tour a lot in the north of England which we love. The lyrics are inspired by the images and places we have been and also a book called the Sisters Brothers by Jonathan DeWitt.
Are there any specific themes or concepts behind the album? Or perhaps every song has a unique thought or story behind it?
I would say that we enjoy the diversity of the songs but there is generally a strong sense of struggle, death and travel. Money Tree features our first murder ballad in Calico Blankets, heavily story based, inspired by the weather. It was a truly freezing cold day and Steeny was feeling gloomy.
Do you have any favourite songs on the album?
That’s tough, but probably ‘Black Crow’ because I love the rhythm, the darkness and the birds. Steeny likes them all and can’t choose between them but loves playing ‘Black Crow’ live. Dan says they are all too different to select one favourite and loves all of them, particularly the driving energy of ‘My Father’s House’. And Ben loves ‘Old Virginia’, because after years of bringing the accordion to the recording studio, we finally buckled and allowed him to play it!
Are there any particular songs on Money Tree that you’re expecting to go down particularly well live? Or that you’re especially excited to perform live?
‘Black Crow’ – we love performing it! The rhythm bestrides four triplets and 3/4 straight so it’s super fun to play and great to dance to.
Between releasing your début album and EP you’ve toured extensively and performed at several UK festivals like Glastonbury, Green Man and The Big Chill. But if you could pick one highlight of the band’s career so far, what would it be and why?
Touring Ireland was a major highlight for us. We had never really been there before and had an incredible time! We met some of the warmest, most hospitable and fun people.
Touring can be tough for some. Do you enjoy the touring lifestyle?
I enjoy the parts where we visit new places and go to interesting museums. I am very much an outdoors girl and so I find sitting in the van for hours can drive me crazy. But if I get the opportunity to set off across a field for a walk and get a bit muddy I can keep relatively sane.
Have you played anywhere in the UK where the audience are particularly enthusiastic/appreciative of the band?
We haven’t yet had underwear thrown at us. But a gentleman once bought me a necklace and a man last night made us some personalised wooden toys! A man has also had some of our lyrics tattooed on his chest. In terms of whooping and hollering… The Ceilidh Place in Scotland.