Sighing, sleepy, sadly breathtaking, the lonely-minstrel music of London trio Sweet Billy Pilgrim is composed by singer/guitarist Tim Elsenburg. The act takes its name from Kurt Vonnegut's gentle and hapless nomad hero of Slaughterhouse 5, and the winsome, wistful, and just a bit precious music echoes its chosen moniker. Tender indie folk backgrounds slowly unfold into ethereally rich landscapes that often seem barely more than nothingness, as Elsenburg's unfulfilled protagonists howl at the moon, choke on their hopes, and wait for a savior who never seems to come.
Elsenburg, bassist/banjoist Anthony Bishop, and drummer Alistair Hamer met in England as youths in the early aughts, officially coming together as Sweet Billy Pilgrim in 2003. Undaunted by label rejection, the bandmembers took matters into their own hands, forging their own label and unique sound on a trio of laptops. When the band released its 2007 debut, We Just Did What Happened and No One Came, the title proved less than prophetic; reviews, if not spectacular, were numerous, and the album collected minor raves from Mojo and The Sunday Times. After a year or so focusing on remixing, the trio returned with the critically hailed Twice Born Men, which landed the group on the shortlist for the 2009 Mercury Prize.
Sweet Billy Pilgrim returned in 2012 boasting a fourth member, vocalist and guitarist Jana Carpenter, and their third album, Crown and Treaty. Carpenter added an extra dimension to the band's burgeoning sound, providing warmth and feeling to Elsenburg's introspective musings and taking on acoustic guitar duties when called upon. The intervening years saw the band touring throughout the U.K. before returning to the studio in 2014 to start work on its fourth record, Motorcade Amnesiacs. Released in 2015, the record was their first to be issued by the Kscope label, and presented a more accessible yet adventurous sound from the four-piece. ~ Jason Thurston