Billie Joe Armstrong calls Bad Nerves "the best new band in England right now" but they're ready to take on the world - even if it means living at home with mum

Bads Nerves studio portrait
(Image credit: Ryan Jay)

It’s 4pm on a Thursday. We’re sitting outside at The Starman, a David Bowie-themed watering hole in central London, tucked away from the shopping bags and tourist streams of Regent Street. It’s a cool spot, for an ostensibly cool band. Across the table, Bobby Bird – shades off, shandy in hand – is expounding on a subject close to his heart. 

“Most people are afraid to be cheesy, you know?” the Bad Nerves frontman exclaims between swigs. “But cheesy melodies, if you package them right, they’re the best ones because you remember them. There’s loads of bands now that I really like, they have a nice vibe, but I don’t remember the songs. I like having something stuck in my head. It’s like, how catchy can you go, before it becomes almost annoying?” 

The 35-year-old doesn’t fuck around with songs. His band have a scrappy aesthetic, but at heart it’s on-point power pop; fun yet tender, fizzing with the intoxication of love, lust and living. And most of it comes in two-minute packages, although their second album Still Nervous has some longer moments. 

Lately Bad Nerves have enjoyed the sort of hot streak nailed by few rock bands these days. Corey Taylor is a fan. Radio 1 are fans. Billie Joe Armstrong called them “the best new band in England right now”. In the past six months they picked up virtually every desirable support slot going, including The Hives, The Struts, Royal Blood, Nothing But Thieves, The Darkness on their Permission To Land tour, and Guns N’ Roses in Hyde Park. They played pretty much every city in the UK, theatres across America, enormodomes in Europe, festivals left right and centre. 

“It’s not an enviable life for our girlfriends,” Bird says, laughing nervously, “because we’re not there, ever. We got home December 23. Me and Mike, our producer, went straight from the tour bus to the studio, had Christmas Day off, the next day I went to his and didn’t leave until January 28… And then we went on tour for another month.”


Part pop junkie, part punk rocker, Bird is friendly company, more chatty Essex boy than aloof London hipster in his black coat, earrings and ‘Hellraiser’ T-shirt (the latter nicked from his girlfriend). Not to mention fresh-faced for someone who’s been touring solidly since September 2023. 

Our location today feels fitting. Back home in Colchester, Bird grew up listening to his father’s Bowie records in the car on the way to school. As a teenager he fell in love with the fiery heaviness of Slipknot. Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit made him want to play drums. All the while, pop music – from The Beatles to Andrew Lloyd Webber – was never far away. 

“My mum’s a secondary-school music teacher, and I used to go to loads of musicals with her,” he enthuses, “Starlight Express, all of them. I’ve seen Les Mis about five times in the West End.” 

After various doomed metal and indie bands, Bird decided to bottle this adolescent diet of sugar and spittle. Joined by guitarists Will Phillipson and George Berry, drummer Sam Thompson and bassist Jon Poulton (all from other Essex and East London bands) around 2016, he ditched the drums and took up singing. They clicked over pop and punk stars like Ramones and The Clash, The Beatles and early Supergrass. 

Chiefly it’s the punk side that shines through their ‘branding’. It gives them an edge, an allure. People want to wear their T-shirts as well as binge on their songs. Until recently this came with a fast, furious but essentially wordless stage show. All that changed when Bird watched The Hives’ Pelle Almvqvist and The Darkness’ Justin Hawkins in action. 

“I’m watching and thinking: ‘God, this is so much more fun,’” he says. “For the first years, we’d go on stage, deadpan, doing this whole serious thing. When I see bands doing that now, I see how much it doesn’t work. People want to connect with you.” 

Inspired by the on-stage and off-stage conduct of their headliners (some of them recovering addicts), Bad Nerves resolved to keep themselves as consistently match-fit as possible. They drank sparingly. They all quit smoking. The shows got better and better.

Watch On

In the beginning, conversely, Bad Nerves were a party band. Having formed in their twenties, they gigged in pubs. Hazes of booze and substances hung over them, often not lifting for days. The music came second, Bird admits. 

“You start partying with friends, and then if you have an addictive personality you just want to do it on your own. Before you know it, you’re sitting in a room for days straight. Like when we did [debut LP] Bad Nerves, most of the music videos we did, we were fucked up. It was a party. It was a laugh. But then you get to nearly thirty and go: ‘Fucking hell, what have I done? I’ve forgotten how to have fun without it being something where I can’t function for days after.’” 

For Bird, who grew up with addicts among his friends and relatives, it was all a bit close to home. “Half my family are alcoholics. I see what it does, and it fucks people up so badly. You do it without thinking. My mum and dad are lucky, they’ve been very clean living, but I lived with my uncle [at one point] and he was just a tortured soul.” 

In the end, lockdown forced them all to concentrate on music. Bird found himself having fun, real fun, writing songs. Bad Nerves released their self-titled debut album in 2020, and gathered waves of fans who wondered why more people hadn’t heard these absurdly catchy, life-affirming songs. As restrictions eased, the band played their first headline tour. Everything started to go right. 

With Still Nervous now out, their gig calendar is still filling up. Bird dreams of writing with metal bands. He’s done video work for Suzi Quatro, and now for Justin Hawkins’s popular YouTube channel. Out of financial necessity, he moved back in with his mum. He hasn’t looked back. 

“I will never do anything else. Life is brief. You’ve got to do what you want to do, even if you have to live at your mum’s house. There is a satisfaction in pursuing things you enjoy, even if it’s a struggle. It’s part of the adventure.” Still Nervous is out on

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.