My special guest on this episode of Desperately Seeking Paul – The Paul Weller Fan Podcast is the hugely talented singer, songwriter and musician – Billy Sullivan.
His story takes us from a love of music as a child through to the formation of The Spitfires in 2012 and building a cult fan base on their own terms through hundreds of highly energetic and powerful live performances and 5 brilliant studio albums.
It’s no surprise that the band came to the attention of Paul Weller and The Specials who both personally invited the band along for support slots.
The four-piece from Watford carved out a niche for themselves, blending elements of punk, ska, and rock to create their unique sound.
A Young Mod with a Passion for Music
Billy Sullivan’s journey in music began at a really young age. Growing up in a music-loving household, he was introduced to the sounds of The Beatles, The Who, Small Faces, and, of course, Paul Weller and The Jam. The band, and particularly the songwriting of Paul Weller, left an indelible mark on Billy’s musical sensibilities.
It was the band’s music that first sparked Billy’s interest in playing the guitar.
Paul’s sharp lyrics and distinctive guitar work resonated with him deeply, and he set out to learn how to play those iconic riffs.
Supporting on Live Dates: The Spitfires and Paul Weller
One of the most remarkable chapters in Billy Sullivan’s music career came when The Spitfires were invited to support Paul Weller on tour. The invitation to share the stage with a musical hero was a testament to The Spitfires’ rising profile and their authentic sound, image and outlook.
Billy has spoken fondly of Paul Weller’s influence on his songwriting, citing his ability to craft insightful, socially conscious lyrics as a driving force behind his own work.
Billy called time on The Spitfires in December 2021, going on to release an outstanding solo debut album Paper Dreams in March 2023. Recorded over just three days in Coastal Sound recording studios in Liverpool, the album was produced by one-time Weller collaborator Simon Dine.
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EP163 – Billy Sullivan – Singer, Songwriter & Musician – Paper Dreams Solo, The Spitfires – Paul Weller Fan Podcast : Desperately Seeking Paul
2023 – Paper Dreams – Billy Sullivan’s Debut Solo Album
Paper Dreams is Billy Sullivan’s first collection of songs since the demise of his former band The Spitfires.
It was February 2022 when Billy headed back into the studio with a stripped back team of Simon Dine (Producer and Co-Writer) and Euan Crawford-McKee on drums. “Simon and I have worked together for over four years now and we were able to just click back into what we’d always done – get on with the job with the songs being the only focus. I’m lucky to have Euan too as he’s a fantastic drummer – it was an incredibly creative and liberating few days for me.”
At the time of release, the singer / songwriter said – “I can only really compare each album to the previous one. The last Spitfires LP ‘Play For Today’ was so thought out, from the sound concept to the lyrical subject matters. Every tiny detail planned and poured over and then of course debated. ‘Paper Dreams’ was the opposite – completely natural and a collection of songs that myself and Simon Dine just wrote for fun, without us particularly working towards anything in particular. I lost my way towards the latter part of 2021 and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I believe these new songs paved the way to make the decision for me to split the band.”
2022 – The Spitfires – Play for Today
After an impressive journey spanning four albums and an extensive tour schedule that saw them rock stages across the UK and Europe, The Spitfires embarked on their ultimate musical voyage with a heartfelt farewell album.
The band played their final gig on the day after the album’s release.
On this LP, Billy and the band masterfully weave together a tapestry of influences from the realms of New Wave, 2 Tone, and Britpop, infusing them with electrifying hooks and monumental choruses. The album transports the listener deep into the heart of quintessential British suburbia, vividly portraying the lives and tales of disenchanted housewives, tight-knit local pubs, and the high-flying, cocaine-fueled world of businessmen.
You can buy the album here
2015 – The Spitfires – Response
The Spitfires burst onto the scene with their debut album, Response in 2015. The band’s first briliant few singles are included – Tell Me, Words To Say, Spark To Start, Sirens, I’m Holdin’ On and Relapse. All were recorded at Paul Weller HQ – Black Barn Studio with Charles Rees producing.
The album reached number 6 in the UK independent album charts and immediately garnered attention for its revival of the mod sound, infused with punk sensibilities. These early songs already showcased Billy Sullivan’s songwriting prowess and the band’s ability to create catchy, anthemic tracks.
2016 – The Spitfires – A Thousand Times
Following the success of their debut, The Spitfires returned in 2016 with A Thousand Times. This album displayed a more mature and diverse approach to their music. Tracks like So Long (a national UK number 1 vinyl single), Day to Day and Move On (a number 2 vinyl single) demonstrated their growth as musicians.
The album also reached number 6 in the UK independent album charts. Critics appreciated the band’s evolution, noting that they were carving out their unique niche in the indie rock world, and their music was becoming more introspective.
You can buy the album here
2018 – The Spitfires – Year Zero
Year Zero marked a turning point in The Spitfires’ career. Released in 2018, this album showcased a more experimental side of the band. They incorporated elements of reggae, ska, and soul into their music, resulting in tracks like Remains The Same, Move On and The New Age.
2020 – The Spitfires – Life Worth Living
In 2020, The Spitfires released their fourth studio album Life Worth Living, a super LP that reflected the tumultuous times of the year. The album’s themes revolved around social and political issues, with songs like Start All Over Again, It Can’t Be Done and Life Worth Living.
At its core, this album carries a profound sense of hope, a beacon of optimism that things can indeed improve – a sentiment aptly encapsulated by its very title.
The album, meticulously produced by Simon Dine, renowned for his work on Paul Weller’s acclaimed albums “22 Dreams” and “Wake Up The Nation,” among a diverse portfolio, adeptly harnesses the raw vibrancy and charismatic swagger that define the band’s electrifying live performances.
Each track on this album is a masterful stroke on the canvas of musical storytelling, creating a rich and immersive experience that resonates deeply with listeners across eras and genres.
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