BILK on band names, finding band mates, and the feeling of success

By Charlie Fenton

25 May 2024

For Sol, BILK is nine years in the making. Hard work and graft. Its consumed him from aged 16. Now at 24, Sol and BILK are finally getting the recognition they deserve. “We had no leg up from no one you see, we got this far off our own back,” said Sol with his poised slight cockney accent. If you didn’t know he was from Essex, Manchester probably would be your chanced guess. “We ain’t no industry plant, we are BILK, do you know what I mean.” Before there now drummer Harry Gray, six had been and gone. “I don’t know what it is about drummers,” he said. The bassist had also changed, to now Luke Hare which he met during an early gig.

Yet, to land BILK’s birth have to go way back to 2016. Sol explained the “idea of a band” stirred in his mind at age 16, as he was leaving high school. “At the time I was listening to the Sex Pistols and Nirvana and that and liked the idea of being part of that sound.” The first members were two schoolmates Liam and Dan. To decide their name, they took the first letter of their own names and came up with ‘LSD’, “not that we fucking did it or anything” Sol says.

The band “had the sound of BILK now”, with the Nirvana and Green Day influences, and he would sing and rap over it, “it just a different name”. They would hit up local pubs asking to play, whatever they could find and get hold of. But they found little success; their name didn’t help much. He said: “Looking back, no wonder we couldn’t get any gigs in our scene, people just thought we were hippies. “Whatever you do don’t name your band fucking LSD.”

Sol has always been a creative type. He said: “When I was younger, I was always fucking drawing, I liked art in school. “I loved doing magic and other shit, I remember wanting to be a magician too as a kid.” Sol says he “still messes around with it sometimes to this day”. But that idea of magic left him as a teenager. “I moved to music when I lost my virginity.”

But for Sol school was a burden. He didn’t like it, “I hated school, I didn’t quite fit in (…) I would just mess around all day.” He also dropped out of college. Following an unsuccessful schooling, he believes he “honestly” wouldn’t know what he would be doing without music. To put it how he sees it, his dad has a sayig he repeats to him often. “My Dad still says to me, it’s a good job your good at music as your crap at everything else.”

“It might sound harsh,” Sol explains, but he says his dad “isn’t wrong”. He said one time his dad took him to a building site to get some experience and a bit of cash in his back pocket, but he said he was “fucking useless” there too, “I just found my feet in this world of music.”

From practicing in his shed, which they still do to this day, “we are always getting noise complaints from the neighbours”, to now playing sold out shows across the UK, the rise of Bilk has been immense. Yet they also had to play shows to just their parents and the bar staff. “The gig is Newcastle is one of them,” Sol explains. “We travelled all the way up to Newcastle from Essex which is 4-5 hours on the road to play to my dad, the sound guy, his dog, and the bar staff.” For Bilk though, this didn’t matter. Sol said: “If that happens, you’ve just got to have fun with it you know, you get up there and have fun.

“I’m in a band because I love doing it, making music, making noise, living life on my own terms you know. In my head I was like, yeh no one’s watching but we are here, you know it was probably one of our best earlier gigs in the end, we just got on stage and fucked about.”

It’s mental strength is vital in situations like this. “Don’t get me wrong, when you turn up to venues and no one has turned up you can get bummed out, but I always had a strong sense of self belief. “It’s taken Bilk years to get to where it is now, I just always believed in us you know.”

RNR – Bilk music video

Quite a few more gigs down the line and they ended up in Sheffield. This was the show which made Sol realise BILK were getting somewhere. “We played in Sheffield for an EP we had released called Allow it. We had never played in Sheffield before but what happened was just mad.” They had sold out the venue Sydney & Matilda a month in advance.

“We just looked at it like we had to grow your fanbase like we normally have in locations by just playing there over and over, but we got their and it was packed like full, it was mental. But there was a moment when it really clicked for him. “After the gig when we were signing shit at the merch stand there were floods of people shouting my name, wanting to talk, have a picture we had never experience that before. He remembers looking over to his dad and think “shit its really happening”.

Sol also has a lot to thank his dad for, first the band name which he got after his dad came in after work one day and said the work. “I asked what Bilk meant and he explained it to me, when someone jumps out the can and doesn’t play, and I thought I’m having that.” His dad also put in work to get BILK early gigs around London. “My dad has a crazy knowledge of all the streets in London, he’s a black cab driver, you have too, so he knew where all these venues were.

“He would go in and ask if we could play, blag us in essentially to an extent, but it fucking worked, and we would be here without it you know.”

BILK have a long future ahead of them, sitting at a healthy 193,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. They have played many shows to no one and been banned from a venue, but it’s their attitude and noise that people love. “We played shows where kids are now turning up with snails tattooed on their legs, its mental.” For Sol, “I’ve cried and defiantly fucking moaned, but I’ve always believed it was gonna happen.”  Sol said the most important thing in making good music is to be “cool with it”. He said: “If you are writing good music, and getting people involved, you are on for a winner.”

You can find out more about BILK here.

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