Sweet Billy Pilgrim return with new single Skywriting

Sweet Billy Pilgrim duo shot in b/w
(Image credit: Press)

Sweet Billy Pilgrim have teased their first material in four years with new single, Skywriting. The band, now a duo comprising multi-instrumentalists Jana Carpenter and Tim Elsenburg, will release a new album, Somapolis on November 4 via Republic of Music.

Skywriting is the final track on what the British prog-poppers describe as a concept album. "It begins with two people looking out over a nameless metropolis," say the duo. "They are artists, their job being to observe, curate and commemorate the world around them. The first song explores the experience of creating before we swoop down into the individual stories of the people living in the city; a sort-of Wings Of Desire, but with artists instead of angels. Then, towards the end, the album zooms back out to the observers for the final two songs, finishing – depending on the listener – on either a note of hope or resignation.

"Skywriting sees us singing a hymn to the city, in the (possibly vain) hope that we’ll be heard and that something can be learned from simply bearing witness."

The pair recorded the new songs at Elsenburg's house in Buckinghamshire and by the sea in Eastbourne. It saw them collaborating with additional musicians including a one-woman folk choir, a horn section and Brandon Flowers’ drummer, Darren Beckett. Musically, it takes inspiration from Prefab Sprout, Steely Dan and Peter Gabriel, as well as St Vincent, Prince and Jon Hopkins. 

“Over the years – in terms of critical perception – we’ve been edging towards some kind of progressive art-pop thing," says Elsenburg. "I want Somapolis to be more than that: it feels like a culmination of all our skills, obsessions, neuro-divergence/convergence, insecurities, ambitions and love.  So, yes, it’s a concept album, and there’s plenty to unravel for post-lockdown brains, but it also feels a bit more physical. People might not be able to actually dance to it, but for the first time, they might be able to imagine dancing to it.”

Sweet Billy Pilgrim signed to Kscope in 2015 to release Motorcade Amnesiacs, which was followed by Wapentak on Deco Audio in 2018. The duo also popped up on Spirit of Talk Talk's 2020 charity single, I Don’t Believe In You.

Listen to Skywriting below.

Natasha Scharf
Deputy Editor, Prog

Contributing to Prog since the very first issue, writer and broadcaster Natasha Scharf was the magazine’s News Editor before she took up her current role of Deputy Editor, and has interviewed some of the best-known acts in the progressive music world from ELP, Yes and Marillion to Nightwish, Dream Theater and TesseracT. Starting young, she set up her first music fanzine in the late 80s and became a regular contributor to local newspapers and magazines over the next decade. The 00s would see her running the dark music magazine, Meltdown, as well as contributing to Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, Terrorizer and Artrocker. Author of music subculture books The Art Of Gothic and Worldwide Gothic, she’s since written album sleeve notes for Cherry Red, and also co-wrote Tarja Turunen’s memoirs, Singing In My Blood. Beyond the written word, Natasha has spent several decades as a club DJ, spinning tunes at aftershow parties for Metallica, Motörhead and Nine Inch Nails. She’s currently the only member of the Prog team to have appeared on the magazine’s cover.