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Quick route to success via Extra round

Billy Wears Dresses – their single has been inspired by a paper round. Picture: Andy Payton pd1409596
Billy Wears Dresses – their single has been inspired by a paper round. Picture: Andy Payton pd1409596

FORGET love and heartbreak – the Kent Messenger is inspiration enough to pen a hit single.

At least it is for Maidstone foursome Billy Wears Dresses, whose debut single Derek Don’t Deliver is out next week.

It has already reached number two in a download chart and is being tipped to sell well.

As Socrates was to Plato and an apple was to Isaac Newton, so our sister paper the Maidstone Extra was to guitarist and lead singer Nick Spink, who penned the lyrics based on his experiences of an elderly gentleman delivering the free newspaper to houses in his neighbourhood.

Unbeknown to Mr Spink, the newspaper might also have been responsible for the group getting together – band member Ian Snowball used the proceeds from his Extra paper round in 1985 to fund his first drum kit.

The band, who started by doing covers, got their first break after catching the ear of a representative from Formant Records, one of the judges in kmfm’s Battle of the Bands last year.

Billy Wears Dresses found themselves in the final six out of more than 600 bands.

Mr Snowball, 38, said: “Even though we didn’t win he came up to us afterwards and said ‘I like what you’re doing and I’m going to give you a record contract.’

“We were completely shocked. We’re no spring chickens, but he appreciated what we were doing.”

The foursome, which also includes Martin Loft, 38, from Bearsted, on guitar, mandolin and keyboards, and Maidstone-born bass player Paul Moss, 39, who now lives in Canterbury, then went from strength to strength.

That success was also thanks partly to the support of kmfm DJ Spencer James, who has championed the band from the start.

Mr Snowball said the interest in them still comes as a surprise to the quirky pop-rock group, who got together to “have a bit of fun.”

He said: “It’s happened without our intervention in a really short space of time; we’ve only been together 18 months.

They describe their music as somewhere between Squeeze, Blur and The Kinks, with songs influenced by “sights, sounds and smells” around Kent”.

Mr Snowball said they are keen to emphasise their strong connection to the county – Kent Street features on the single cover and another song of theirs, Head For The Sunshine, is about having a bad day at work and then going to Margate beach. The original version of Derek Don’t Deliver mentioned the KM specifically but it was edited to make it more generic.

The single is out on Monday, but is available to download now. Details are on their website www.billywearsdresses.com

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