Billie Bottle’s Temple of Shibboleth is the brainchild of singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and artist Billie Bottle. A heritage and new-found project made from previous members of Billie Bottle & The Multiple, Billie is a visionary whose journey is unlike many, from busking on the streets in her youth and performing in indie bands and circuses, to finding her musical calling within the Canterbury music scene; she toured with prog legend Dave Sinclair from cult Canterbury band Caravan, as well as establishing a long standing musical relationship with key jazz figures Kate and Mike Westbrook.
In the pandemic stricken year of 2020, Billie started to find solace in the caring of others in deepest Devon. A wise old woman taught her many things in a short space of time, namely the ancient art of traditional housekeeping. Billie was therefore led to musically reflect and look inwards, thus combining her mythical prog and jazz with a pop underbelly that spans the range of music we hear today.
The band’s upcoming self-titled album (available March 31st, 2023) is a 12-track exploration into their one-of-a-kind craft, which tells the story of The Week. Lead single ‘In The Temple’ perfectly exemplifies their unique offering. Produced by George Shilling (Blur, Primal Scream), the album takes the deepest dive into sonic experimentation, blending nuances of psychedelic folk and prog music that ebbs and flows with spiritual embodiment.
The pop-woven melodies from Billie intertwined with the transcendent synth pads and bassoon lines find that balance between folk, jazz and prog, a combination that only this wondrous outfit seems to execute to perfection.
This five-piece female band all bring their own individualistic styles to the sound you hear in the album, with Viv Goodwin-Darke being a longtime playing partner of Billie’s since 2010 who is a flautist, singer and composer. Roz Harding is a consummate improviser on alto saxophone, with talented Anna Batson on bassoon and vocals alongside in-demand Devon drummer Emma Holbrook. Together, they create something truly transformative, and their debut album will truly be something to behold, enjoy and simmer its way through your mind and delve deep into your musical psyche.
The band are going on tour in April, playing in various locations throughout the South of England to perform the album in full, which is sure to be a memorable run of shows to celebrate this tremendous prog-folk album – certainly one to keep an eye on in 2023.
“In The Temple” feels like mini songs throughout its duration, especially the different styles it goes through. What was the process of arranging it?
Thanks for noticing this! The song is a mini-version of the entire album: both follow traditional days of housekeeping: Washing, Ironing, Mending, Brewing, Churning/Cleaning, Baking and Rest. This sequence, I named the Temple of Shibboleth (which is also the name of the Shetland pony who represents Rest).
It started life in deepest lockdown as a kind of mantra on guitar, using Kepler’s system where he ascribed a different frequency to each planet. During the song and album, these too follow the forms of the planets of the days of the Week.
The whole thing comes together to connect the housekeeping realm to the planetary. It both invites us to think small and earthbound but to feel big and beyond ourselves as mere mechanical beings.
“In The Temple” is a single off your upcoming album. Anything you would like to tell us about the album?
The album tells the story of The Week. In 2020, I started caring for a wise woman in deepest England; the very same day my grandma died. In grief, I asked the question ‘what is left?’. I realized that the days of the week is perhaps the oldest and most commonly shared mantra around the world and in time. It started to help me practically and then spiritually and creatively.
It is my hope too that this can help us all with the grief at the mess we’re in, especially the depth of the climate emergency.
Who would you cite as musical influences?
The Shamen, Soft Machine, Deee-Lite, Magma, Steely Dan, Field Music, Mike Westbrook, birds and ticking clocks.
Tell us a bit more about how the group came together.
We met variously in a cabaret act, a big band, a Sufjan Stevens Christmas songs project and on the Bristol jazz scene. This incarnation started life in lockdown as a Temple of Shibboleth facebook group with around a hundred members, some of whom appear on the album.
How would you describe the Canterbury music scene?
The so-called Canterbury scene started in the 1960s with a psychedelic soul group called the Wilde Flowers, it featured members who went on to found the bands Soft Machine, Gong, Caravan and in turn Egg, Hatfield & The North and National Health to name a few. This music is internationally legendary and was exceedingly influential on me and I am blessed to have been able to work with many of its luminaries.
What are the group’s plans for the rest of 2023?
We are about to go on tour in the south of England with folktronica duo, Solarference. The summer sees a few festival appearances and in the Autumn we are keen to get on with writing the next installment…