Classy Gold Coast blues-rock outfit BB Factory are in the throes of embarking on an action-packed 2021, consolidating upon the success of their impressive 2018 album, ‘First World Blues’, which caught the attention of both blues purists and music fans in general, with each of the album’s singles reaching the upper echelons of the iTunes Blues and Roots charts.
Renowned as being exemplary practitioners in the live realm, the band’s new album, ‘Live at The Wallaby Hotel’ was recorded on stage in December last year at the iconic Mudgeeraba venue, which was recently refurbished to the tune of 2.3 million dollars, including a new stage and sound system.
The new album magnificently captures all of the band’s electric energy and musical chemistry across its barnstorming 14 tracks, split evenly between smoking originals and judiciously selected covers. Testament to its quality, the album debuted at #2 on the Australian Blues & Roots Airplay Chart for the month of March.
We recently got the low-down on all things currently cooking in the BB Factory from the band’s guitar maestro himself, Pedro Verhoeven.
Can you put us in the picture as to how your cracking new album, ‘Live At The Wallaby Hotel’, came to be?
When we were about to combine a balmy Gold Coast December night with a COVID deprived Blues and Roots loving audience and the fabulously refurbished Wallaby Hotel, it quickly became apparent that maybe we should record the show. Thanks to sound man Guy Samin, this was no problem.
As expected, it was a great night with a big turnout (we were the first live band back at ‘The Wallaby’ for their Thursday Night Blues series, booked by 8 Ball Aitken). Listening back a few days later we were pleased at how well it had been captured and the performance stood up to repeat listens, so we chose a 70 minute run from the middle of the two and half our recording, sent it to (local production guru) Paul Blakey for mastering and then off to the pressing plant it went.
One of the tracks on the album is a cover of Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’, with the album being released on the 5th anniversary of his untimely passing on 21 April. While BB Factory’s reverence to the blues genre is well known, what is it about the artist known as Prince that resonates so strongly with the band?
We started performing our take on Purple Rain in tribute to Prince literally the week after his passing back in 2016. He was such a giant of music that like everyone else we were shocked by the sudden loss of an artist still very much in his prime. As a blues and roots rock band, it’s no surprise that our version sounds quite different to the original – with the 80’s synth replaced by a Hammond organ, and the 80’s chorus guitar replaced with a harmonic tremolo guitar. I think we honour the spirit of the song – it’s different from gig to gig, with our version on this night clocking in at just under nine minutes. We have released a ‘radio edit’ version as a single, coming in at just under five minutes, which has landed at #7 on the AMRAP Chart this week.
Why did you choose to go with a live album as your latest release? And what are your thoughts on the concept of live albums when it comes to other artists – are there any in particular that stand out for you?
It’s not much of a leap for a Blues based band like us, to lean towards live releases. I mean even our studio releases have been mostly live recorded, albeit in a studio setting. Our single release during the midst of the pandemic ‘Keep Yo Mama’ was recorded live in that sense. The style of music we play has always been more about the performance than the production values, and there’s nothing like connecting with a live audience in person to bring out the best performances.
My personal favourite live album would be BB Kings’ ‘Live At The Cook County Jail’, it just oozes good vibes. As a teenager of course I couldn’t go past KISS Alive (I & II) but it’s been well documented in recent years that those albums were not really live except for the drums! My favourite live album from a production and mixing point of view is Talking Heads Stop Making Sense – with great song writing to boot!
In addition to the live album you’ve also got a new studio track ready to unveil. Can you put us in the picture with it?
Just prior to the pandemic we were in the studio and laid down about 20 new song ideas, then it all came to a halt and two of our five members were stuck just across the border, and that process was abandoned save for ‘Keep Yo Mama’ which we managed to complete in September when the rules relaxed a little. It’s a feel-good groove kinda-blues and features slide guitar backing, a first for us. If everything goes to plan we will release a few more singles this year before we release a brand new full length all original studio album.
You’ll shortly be performing at the Blues On Broadbeach Festival – have you got any surprises up your sleeves for these shows and are there any other artists on the bill that you’re particularly excited about seeing?
We are really looking forward to Blues On Broadbeach. We had three shows booked at last year’s festival, which was cancelled. This year will be somewhat different with all the COVID safe plans that have to be in place, so we’re happy to be doing three shows across two events.
On Friday May 21st we’ll present two different shows in a row. At 5pm we’ll do ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ our tribute to BB King, followed at 6:30pm with our Rockin’ Blues Party until 7:45pm.
On Saturday May 22nd we hit the Victoria Park stage at 11:30am for a 75min BB Factory festival show, again featuring different material (and hopefully a surprise guest appearance.) I’m especially looking forward to seeing C.W. Stoneking, Ray Beadle and Lachy Doley perform but my favourite part of going to any festival is discovering acts I’ve never seen before.
How is the rest of 2021 shaping up in the world of BB Factory, musically speaking?
We’ve been pretty lucky, relatively speaking, struggling a little less than some of our peers, I think. We got to play a covid-safe approved Mitchell Creek Rock N Blues Fest back in September last year and we are playing the Music Is Life festival in July with some household Aussie names.
Locally, we are presenting our BB King Celebration at HOTA in September, so keep an eye out for that one. The band has three different modes that allow us to play a range of different gigs. The main mode is us doing our originals at festivals and the like, but then there’s also some themed shows we do ticketed events for like our BB King celebration at the Doo Bop or Brisbane Jazz Club, and finally there’s “party” mode, where we play mostly covers and can entertain walk-in punters at bars and pubs between Brisbane and Byron.
I have to say that the Wallaby Hotel at Mudgeeraba is doing a great job with live bands every week, as do several other venues around SE Queensland including the Royal Mail, the Brooklyn Standard & Suzie Wong’s to name a few, so it shows what’s possible and perhaps more venues can take note. And I don’t see any reason for outdoor concerts not to be fully supported during this pandemic. Just like sports stadiums are open so should outdoor music festivals also be, so I’d urge everyone to get behind the Play Fair – Let Live Music Live petition http://chng.it/KF88N5BBPz
BB Factory’s smoking new release, ‘Live At The Wallaby Hotel’, is available now via online streaming services. And be sure to catch them in their live splendour when they play The Blues On Broadbeach Festival on 21/22 May.