Rocker Billy Tibballs draws on his influences and introduces a bombastic and riveting British-inspired attitude with his debut record, Stay Teenage. RIYL: Bowie, Sparks, Milk 'N' Cookies, Uni Boys, Car Seat Headrest, Foxygen.
Billy Tibbals’ Stay Teenage is the perfect kind of debut record: bold and full of twists, brimming with hooks, and utterly timeless-sounding on first contact. Across these six songs, the 21-year-old Tibbals shows tons of prodigious skill when it comes to songwriting, recalling the spiky art-pop of classic musicians like Sparks and David Bowie as well as indie-genius contemporaries like Car Seat Headrest and Foxygen. It’s so rare to hear an artist come out of the gate with music that packs such an immediate punch, but Stay Teenage isn’t your typical rock record either. It’s eccentric in all the right ways, to the point where you’re bound to replay the whole thing the moment the needle hits the run-out groove.
Stay Teenage is the literal culmination of Tibbals’ life so far, its music bearing the mark of his cross-continental upbringing: he was born and raised in London until his family moved to L.A. in 2014, where he immediately fell in with a crowd that expanded his own interests. “I found a group of friends who were already very into music and collecting records, so I caught the bug and started recording at home,” he recalls. By the time sophomore year of high school rolled around, Tibbals was home-recording on Garageband and through a cassette tape recorder, multi-tracking and playing every instrument like a one-man band in his garage.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tibbals committed himself to songwriting more than ever before, which resulted in the six bursts of energy contained on Stay Teenage. The tracks represent the culmination of the music Tibbals has loved his entire life to this point - the Beatles’ psychedelic pop sweep, the spangled attitude of glam, and power-pop’s brawny hooks and melodies - all filtered through his unique, youthful perspective.
“When I write songs, I’m never trying to consciously draw from my influences,” Tibbals explains. “It’s all just a mix of everything I’ve gotten into over the years, and it comes out as a hodgepodge of everything I love.” Tibbals describes Stay Teenage as representing “a transitional point in my life, where I’m going from being a kid doing teenage things to figuring out what my next step is as someone who’s more grown-up.” He began work on the album while finishing high school, and as a result his lyrics reflect how it feels to come of age, looking at the world around you and discovering fresh pressures amidst new freedoms.
In between the Strokes-y hookiness of “Hurt So Bad” and the epic pomp of “Hollywood Baby,” there’s the supercharged anthem “The Best Day I Ever Had,” which captures the breadth of teenage emotion through the lens of one seriously massive day out. “It goes through a series of emotions in a day out,” Tibbals explains while talking about the song’s thematic aims. “It starts out as the best day ever, then the best night of my life, and then the worst day I’ve ever had. That reflects the teen angst that sometimes happens during the course of one day - you can go from being on top of the world to feeling distraught, anxious, and upset.”
The gorgeous jangle of “Foreverland,” meanwhile, perfectly captures the ideal of youthful abandon that Tibbals is channeling through his ebullient music. “It’s about imagining a place where you can go and stay a kid forever, without worrying about any of the pressures and expectations that come with adult life,” Tibbals says about the song, before discussing his current musical aims at large. “You want to keep your childlike perspective on the world, as well as that sense of fun, and that’s what I want people to feel. A sense of youthfulness and a love of being alive.” Indeed, it’s hard not to walk away from Stay Teenage feeling totally energized, as well as excited for what’s next for Tibbals.
Moving from London to Hollywood back in 2014, Billy Tibbals quickly found a love for the city and its esoteric, debauched history. Combining this with his childhood obsession with British rock and roll, surrealist literature, and musicals from the 1940s, Billy’s music presents a unique and fantastical view of the world around us. As a part of the exciting new wave of rock and roll music emerging from Los Angeles, Billy hopes to inspire the youth to get off their phones and come join in with the fun.