Polly and the Billets Doux bring country sounds to the South Downs

Polly and the Billets Doux. Picture: Alick Cotterill

Polly and the Billets Doux. Picture: Alick Cotterill - Credit: Archant

Polly Perry talks to Alex Bellotti ahead of the four piece’s show at Camden Green Note.

The latest record from Polly and the Billets Doux may sound like a warm, fuzzy slize of folksy Americana, but over the last six years, it’s been the South Downs rather than South Carolina that’s influenced their trademark sound.

Comprised of Polly Perry (lead vocals), Andrew ‘Steeny’ Steen (lead guitar) Dan Everett (double bass) and Ben Perry (percussion), the Winchester group released their second album, Money Tree, at the end of last year. A rawer, more expansive follow up to their 2010 debut, Fiction, Half-Truths and Downright Lies, it will be the centrepiece of their show at Camden Green Note on June 4.

“We found that the thought album sounded a bit polite,” says Perry, “so thought we’d go a little bit heavier this time around.”

It certainly seems to have struck a note with the band’s fans, who were happy enough to fund the record through the website PledgeMusic. As Perry explains, this grassroots approach to recording is not just a way to take back control from overly-commercial record labels, but also to reconnect with a fanbase in the digital age through special giveaways such as a signed lyric sheet or even a bass lesson with Everett.

“I guess in the olden days when people would get in with the band, they’d buy vinyl and know who produced it, whereas with more modern things like iTunes, people seem to buy individual songs rather than albums.

“What’s nice with Pledge is that it encourages fans to become involved with the band again and join in themselves.”

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With their rootsy, rockabilly sound, Polly and the Billets Doux naturally come alive on stage. While the songs still fizz on record, the immediacy of having “an audience to respond to, with a lot riding on it” brings out the best in the four piece.

As for their influences, alongside the understandable touch of groups like Big Star, there are also ranging appreciations within the band for heavy metal, post-punk and gospel. Quite how this translates into such an identifiable sound is testament to the chemistry evident in each song, but Perry believes there’s still an English base beneath the tones of American South.

“I guess the Americana sound comes from our influences, but when writing songs I wouldn’t sing with an American accent.

“I haven’t spent that much time in America and I like to write about things I know about, like the South Downs, which I know inside out. It would seem really false if I started wearing a straw hat and checked shirt.”

Polly and the Billets Doux play Camden Green Note on June 6.