Between the devil and the deep blue(s) sea

They’re a Gold Coast blues band with a distinctly international flavour. BB Factory, featuring Harold Jackson (“just Jackson”) from the USA on Vocals, Pedro Verhoeven from the Netherlands on Guitar, Bevan Davison from New Zealand on Drums, and local lads Bruce Crouch on Keys and Craig Hamilton on Bass, will be well known to local live blues fans and those who frequent the city’s open mic and jam nights.

BB Factory play a mix of original material and classic blues, funk and rock’n’roll delivered in their own signature style. Since forming in 2015, the band has wowed audiences at well-known blues venues and night markets as well as corporate venues and sports bars.

Now the five-piece has a new single under their belt. Called ‘Save Me’, the track is a prelude to a full album due for release in 2018. We sat down for a chat with Pedro, Bruce and Jackson to find out more.

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Congratulations on the new single. Can you tell Blank readers about the song?

Jackson: Ah, well it’s a dream I had. I woke up and wrote it all down then they presented this music and it formulated into that song. It was more of a nightmare. I had a dream I was talking and walking with the devil and he was smoking cigars. He was telling me things and then I woke up anxious, heart palpitating, and that’s when I wrote it all down.

Pedro: When Jackson told me that, we already had some music and it just fit, that’s when the chorus came into being. I thought the song needed a little bit more, so we came up with a bridge that skewed away from strict traditional blues. ‘No Rules Blues’ you can call it, or contemporary blues. The bridge is almost a little bit psychedelic! People can decide for themselves.

Jackson: You know when you’re speaking of this devil I don’t want anyone to listen to this song and think of the devil I’d rather out think of them as your own demons. You’ve got bills to pay, a friend who’s an alcoholic…

Pedro: It’s a bit of a cry for help really, I think everyone has their own interpretation. For me it’s almost completely different to that again, it’s like be careful what you wish for.

Jackson: There might be some truth to that.

You told us in May that you have a new album coming out. Is this song ‘Save Me’ the first off that album? What’s the status on the album? Is it still called ‘First World Blues’?

Pedro: It’s 80% recorded, we’re still doing some solo overdubbing and vocals. Our plan is to release another single — possibly another two — and then the album. We were going to drop it a bit sooner but we need time to build up our marketing campaign. Yes it’s going to be called ‘First World Blues.’

Bruce: Our suspicion is this time of year is not the best time of year to release new music.

You only just made your live debut at Blues on Broadbeach this year. You’re all accomplished musicians playing in many projects before BB Factory. How was the Blues on Broadbeach experience for you, as a band?

Pedro: Really good! We were absolutely stoked to have the two gigs there. Our first show was on the Saturday morning so we were expecting hardly any people. We were glad to be there on the main stage ‘cause we thought at least we were going to get some video product out of it. But as we started playing the street really filled up and that made the video. That night we were back in Byron and the following day we were back at Broadbeach at the Envy and that ended up being standing room only. It’s a shame we weren’t recorded; it was probably the best gig we’ve ever had. We’ve garnered some new fans that only know us from Blues on Broadbeach so it was a really good opportunity.

Bruce: We were told there were a bunch of people who wanted to get upstairs [at Envy] and they just couldn’t. There might have been 250-300 or so. You couldn’t move.

It’s pretty cool that we have such a world-class blues event right here in Broadbeach that’s totally free for punters, right? Thoughts on the event as a whole and its contribution to the local blues scene?

Bruce: I think [Blues on Broadbeach is] a fantastic event. I’ve been lucky enough to play there twice now and crowds have been wonderful. Very supportive of local talent. It’s great to have international artists to come and headline but the whole contrast between it and Bluesfest is between the amount of local vs international talent. It’s great they give the bulk of the billings to local talent. I think we’ve got some fantastic product here on the Gold Coast that is internationally competitive and world class and getting that out there is a great thing. While I’d like to see it bigger, I think there’s a whole thing about making it accessible to the population and not undermining that intent.

Pedro: With such a generous portion of local talent what really compliments that too is there are so many visitors from interstate and it helps the local talent to establish a wider fanbase.

Your set is a combination of original songs as well as interpretations of blues classics. How do you manage that mix and how do fans react?

Pedro: It depends on the venue, the crowd, obviously if it’s a festival it’s predominantly originals. If we’re playing something like a night market, like NightQuarter or Marketta we’ll mix it up and put on a entertaining show with songs that people know. We’ll do stuff that’s not blues at all but we’ll put our own spin on it. We play The Rails in Byron Bay a lot, we do a set of all originals, one of all blues, and some funky dance stuff, even some Beatles. We do throw in a lot of improvisation that keeps it interesting.

Bruce: we’re flexible enough that we can gauge the reaction of the audience. It’s really interesting we’ve played to a bunch of different audiences, kids at the Marketta, 3-4 years old through to 70-80 year olds. I think they have a different relationships with it. The first two sets, there’ll be 40-50 kids sitting on stools right up the front of the stage and the kids are just watching.

Pedro: Your local babysitting factory! (Everyone laughs and nods)

Bruce: Your local Saturday night crèche. It’s very appealing, right?

Pedro: The obvious answer is dancing, singing. Jackson has a habit of going out into the crowd and getting them to sing. Sometimes we stay on the same song for so long cause we can’t get him back!

What is it that draws you, personally to the blues?

Pedro: For me I was really into hard rock and metal — exclusively — and I was dogmatically religious about it when I was 13 years old but I always wanted to play guitar and I wanted to play an instrument, and it opened up my ears and eyes to all kind of music and blues most of all because it’s all about expressing yourself and improve. Jazz requires discipline, and perhaps formal education, where blues is much more instinctual.

Jackson: I grew up in New York and in North Carolina, I lived down there for many years. I drove from New York in a tractor, picking cotton and stuff like that. I’d get back to the house and my uncle was playing harp and everybody’s dancing. Everybody’s singing. We had an upright piano and my father he played congas and there was always music. He was in a Latin band. Professional musicians called the Travelling Troubadours. They were funny. They only did it for the money. He wasn’t as passionate about music as I am.

Bruce: So for me Pedro mentioned a couple of things that I’ll probably reiterate. I started to appreciate music with jazz and big bands when I was in school and I was fascinated with that genre. Getting back to what Pedro says there’s a lot of structure and format in jazz and I found the natural progression of that was from music from the South in the US. That gives you a whole palate of stuff you can investigate and blues covers a heap of that. You can be personally expressive, and I found it very enjoyable to listen to and participate in. And to a degree, spontaneity as well, throwing individual musicians together and seeing what can come out of it. Blues allows you to do that without having to put an enormous amount of effort into it. These things are very attractive to me.

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BB Factory’s new single ‘Save Me’ is out Friday 3 November and you can catch them live when they support The Lachey Doley Group at Soundlounge on 18 November. Pictured also are Craig Hamilton (Bass) and Bevan Davison (Drums).

IMAGE (c) Lamp Photography

Interview by Natalie O’Driscoll
Story by Samantha Morris

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