Billow Cloud is the dream pop project led by talented melody-maker Billy Lash, a UK native with strong roots in the United States. Those roots are reflected in the debut single “Smokestack City,” a love letter to the industrial city of Gary, Indiana — which was independently released today!
In celebration of the new single (which you can find in the usual places, like Spotfiy), Billy fielded our questions on the song, its meaning, working with Zoe Mead of Wyldest, the London gig scene and more in our latest GOODQUESTIONS Q&A. Before you read it, be sure to listen to “Smokestack City” directly below.
SOMETHINGGOOD: So correct me if I’m wrong — you were born and raised in the UK, but your parents are from Chicago. I believe you also spent a lot of time in the U.S. as a child. Do you think this had any effect on your musical sensibilities? Does it show itself in your music?
Billy Lash: You’ve got that right. My Chicagoan parents moved to the UK about 40 years ago! I used to spend a couple of weeks every summer in the States visiting my grandma in Chicago and my mum, who moved back to the US, in Arizona and upstate New York. It’s very possible that it’s had an effect on my musical tastes. You can definitely hear the influence of a lot of American artists in my music, the likes of Beach House and Wild Nothing for example. I feel that my track, Smokestack City, is a slice of Americana filtered through my British sensibilities. All-American steelworks through the eyes of a young English kid on his summer holidays.
SG: You’ve spent more than a year gigging on the London music scene. What is that like for a young artist? Have you changed as an artist because of the experience?
BL: London has a reputation for having a very competitive gigging scene. There are, however, quite a few cool promoters willing to give young artists a shot and a lot of friendly, supportive bands too. The experience of the last year has been great because I’ve gained confidence. I’ve always thought of myself as more of a songwriter than a performer but I recognise now that playing live is an important and enriching part of being a musician.
SOMETHINGGOOD: Your debut single “Smokestack City” — in addition to being a recent Song of the Day — is about Gary, Indiana, USA. Can you explain? What does the city mean to you?
BL: Yes, Gary [Editor’s note: I’m Gary]. Smokestack City is about your namesake Gary, Indiana. As far as I’m aware, it’s a much-maligned town over your side of the pond as it’s seen as an industrial hellhole. My experience of it is very different. Every summer my family would drive from Chicago to the beaches at Warren Dunes, Michigan. Midway through the journey you pass the smokestacks of the Gary steelworks. In that moment, when you’re a kid on your way to the beach, the sun is out and you’re speeding along the freeway in the back of your Dad’s rental car, Gary is beautiful.
SOMETHINGGOOD: “Smokestack City” was produced by Zoe Mead of Wyldest. How did the song come together? How was it working with Zoe?
BL: I actually got in contact with Zoe through an ad she posted on Gumtree, which is like the UK version of Craigslist. I had self-produced a demo of Smokestack City that she really liked and we decided to develop the track together. It was cool to work with Zoe. She’s full of energy and ideas and she’s got a great voice, which you can hear in the backing vocals on the recording.
SOMETHINGGOOD: The single comes/came out on March 6. What else can we expect from you in 2018? Any plans you can divulge?
BL: 2018 is gonna be pretty busy. I’m just about to shoot a video for my next single, Dahlia. I’m planning to release that in April. I’m also gonna be back in the studio in the next couple of months so you should be hearing even more Billow Cloud tracks later in the year.
SOMETHINGGOOD: Last question is the same as always — what you listening to these days?
BL: Prefab Sprout! I had them down as one hit wonders with ‘The King of Rock and Roll’ but have found it pretty rewarding to discover their back catalogue. Coincidentally, the same thing happened recently with The B52s. There’s more to them than “Love Shack!” Who knew?! Also been listening to some more current acts like Snail Mail, Khruangbin and The War on Drugs.
You can find Billow Cloud on: