Mod-punk favourites The Spitfires fly in for Picturedrome gig

The Spitfires
The Spitfires

The Spitfires headline Northampton for the first time when they play at the Picturedrome on Friday night (February 17), and frontman and songwriter Billy Sullivan can’t wait.

The Watford “mod-punk” quartet play their first UK date of 2017 at the Kettering Road venue, the gig having been switched from the Charles Bradlaugh pub due to demand, and it is on course to be a sell-out.

The Picturedrome is larger than the Bradlaugh, but is still one of those venues where the crowd are able to get up close and personal, and that is something Sullivan thrives on.

“These are the best places to play, especially if it’s rammed out, which it will be,” he said. “They are good fun.

"We’ve not done a headline in Northampton before so we don’t really know what the crowd is going to be like, and it’s our first gig of the year as well in the UK, so we are definitely up for it.”

The Spitfires are Sullivan (guitar, vocals), Sam Long (bass), Matt Johnson (drums) and Chris Chanell (keyboard) and their fanbase has been steadily growing over the past two years.

They are renowned for an electrifying live set, and have played support slots for the likes of The Specials and Paul Weller, as well as releasing two critically-acclaimed albums called Response and A Thousand Times on Catch 22 Records, the latter reaching number six in the independent and vinyl charts.

Citing influences such as The Clash, The Jam and The Specials, as well as genres such as dub, reggae and ska, Sullivan is the songwriter and is currently writing material for the as yet untitled album number three.

The frontman has confirmed the band will debut some new songs at the Picturedrome, and that fans can expect a mixed bag of material on the night.

“It’s an exciting time for us,” said Sullivan. “We have progressed a lot in a couple of years, and our sound has changed.

The Spitfires

The Spitfires

“We are producing different types of music, we are not restricted, the writing has got better, the playing has got better and that’s about it really. It’s all better!

“We will play a couple of new tracks in Northampton on the tour, and the best of both albums as well.”

The date in Northampton is the first on what is a fairly well spread out Under Surveillance 2017 tour that will see the band play London, Dublin, Cambridge, Brighton as well as other towns over the next few months.

And Sullivan says the band have been hard at work in the rehearsal studio to make sure they hit the ground running.

The Spitfires

The Spitfires

"We rehearse as much as we can," said the frontman. "We do it at least once a week, because we want to keep things on the ball."

Sullivan had originally scheduled a quiet year in terms of hitting the road, but he and his band-mates can’t resist the thrill of a live performance, and it looks like they are going to be busy boys anyway.

“We are musicians and we like playing live,” says the frontman. “I don’t think anybody joins a band just to go into a recording studio. We are looking forward to it.

"The plan was to have a quieter year, as in the last year and a half we have released two albums, toured about three or four times, so we are aiming to approach this year a little bit differently.

"We have set up a few gigs going up towards April, and then we'll have some bigger gigs in the summer, and do it that way.

"But it has been going really well, and the ticket sales on this tour have taken a bigger leap than the ones last year, so it is an exciting time."

The Spitfires on stage

The Spitfires on stage

The Spitfires are a band that very much do things their own way.

With radio airplay an issue for all up and coming musicians, Sullivan and his crew have got out and hit the road hard to get themselves heard, and have been rewarded with that record deal and a burgeoning fanbase, that in return will buy their music which will, hopefully, see that radio airplay grow, and so on, and so forth.

"I can't speak for other bands, but for us we do what we do, and if people like then great, and if they don't well so what?," he said.

"We are going to carry on doing it anyway, and doing things the way we want to do it, and that way has been sort of proved right so far.

"I might be regret in a year or whatever if things don't go so well, but up until now it has all gone all right."

The band all grew up in Watford, and although songwriter Sullivan is definitely the leader of the pack, he says his band-mates share a similar taste in music to his own.

"We are all fans of similar music," reveals Sullivan. "We all have our individual tastes, but it all comes down to the same sort of stuff really."

So what are the influences behind The Spitfires' music?

"There's all the music that I grew up with, which was really introduced to me by my dad, but as I've got older my tastes have changed," admits Sullivan.

"I am finding new stuff, and there are things that I didn't like when I was younger that I do like now, because tastes change."

Another big change in music from just a few years ago is the way it is bought, and the way it is listened to, with downloads and streaming services the method of choice for a whole new generation.

It isn't that long ago that you physically had to go to a shop to buy a record, cassette or CD, never mind even order one online, and Sullivan says: "It's frightening now.

"You can hear a record on the radio, or read about a record, and you can find it instantly online.

"A few years ago you had to get out and find it to get hold of it, but you don't have to do that any more."

But if it's live music you want, then you still do actually have to get out of your armchair and head out for what is the most rewarding music experience of them all.

And I doubt anybody who does that and heads down to see The Spitfires The Picturedrome on Friday will be disappointed.

All tickets for the original venue are still valid, and some tickets are still available, priced £10. Go to

The Spitfires' latest album cover

The Spitfires' latest album cover