Where on Earth did this kid come from? Just when you think it’s safe to get out of the water, here comes Melbourne’s Billy Davis, an absolute firebrand that leads an outfit of soul, R&B and rap with a debut album so accomplished that you’d be convinced it’s his fifth. With obvious parallels to Anderson .Paak and the Free Radicals and Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, there’s nonetheless something charmingly unique about Billy Davis, a liquid ten-piece that includes singers, MCs, brass and rhythm section. Like fellow Victorians Dorsal Fins and King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard, Billy Davis create their music in a live melting pot. You can hear it bubble through on their breakout viral hit ‘No Longer Lovers’, which flips it and reverses it like a classic Toni!Tone!Tone joint underwritten by Kaytranada. It’s difficult to go past that track, which is absolutely superb, but a lot of people are hopefully across it and there’s way more where that came from on A Family Portrait.
‘Goldfish’ deserves four and a half minutes of your time. It ticks every box that you’d need from a great band in 2017; a killer synth bass line, a stunner voice up top care of Khiarra Villalobos and a chorus that seemingly synthesises the best of ’80s R&B and ’90s neo-soul into four shape-shifting chords. Billy Davis wear many of their influences on their sleeve, but it’s more a garment that looks like things you know rather than feeling like you’ve worn it before. In reality, it’s closer in tone to some of the killer cross-genre work of Tuxedo (Mayer Hawthorne‘s side project) and even Classixx. At the base of it all is that excellent bass riff, a tight, sidechained motherfucker of a thing that manages to swing even though it’s straight. Combine it with the kick and some walking notes and you’ve got the makings of something Bootsy Collins would love to play out. It’s got a real Parliament vibe to it, and if I’m throwing in too many references, that’s a good thing, because it means these guys are impossible to pin down to any one genre.
Billy Davis could have very easily devolved into an exercise in style over substance. They clearly have the chops and the wherewithal to record music that sounds excellent. It’s a gift, then, that not only do they play great tunes, but they right great songs. ‘Goldfish’ is but one of many that have active melodies that could easily be given over to a mainstream pop star. That this is combined with the brilliant pastiche that the band is creating for itself, that you can have the cool and the commercial sensibilities in one means that Billy Davis are only at the beginning of what will inevitably be a very steep rollercoaster ascent to stardom.
Hopefully the carriage can fit all ten of them.