Beddy Rays Stumbled Into Success, Despite Snobby Venues, Flooding & Day Jobs

28 July 2022 | 11:21 am | Niam Hegarty

“It was only recently we thought we should sit down and think about this properly.”

(Pic by Luke Dunning)

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Beddy Rays are a bunch of unassuming blokes, a group of friends who formed with the modest aim of getting in the van, playing shows, and having as much fun as possible before heading back to their day jobs on Monday.

Most of the group work as tradies during the week to this day, yet the release of single Sobercoaster single in 2020 changed things drastically and saw Beddy Rays quickly become one of the hottest new acts in Australia.

On the cusp of the release of their self-titled debut album and a tour around Australia in support with Towns and Bakers Eddy, frontman Jackson ‘Jacko’ Van Issum and guitarist Lewis ‘Lewy’ McKenna reflect on their success so far and prepare for what’s to come.

They’ve come a long way since backyard shows and DIY events in their corner of the world, Redland Bay, a quiet coastal town in Queensland. Jacko recalls, “We all grew up listening to poppy, sort of, punk music. When we were in primary school Green Day was all our favourite band. Me and Lewy had the greatest hits album, International Superhits!, and we bonded over that and became best friends basically.

“We all went through a big hardcore phase in high school, going to youth centre shows. Those were the gigs we used to go to because it was hard to find shows that weren’t 18+ in the Valley. You just couldn’t go out in the Valley and go to a gig – it’d be pretty rare that there’d be an all-ages gig, or maybe I was just living under a rock,” he laughs.

With a growing local following the Lost Found, Beat Around EP arrived in 2017, showcasing the band's knack for big hooky songs. The release was followed by singles Bloodhound and Kicked in 2019, which is when their sound really started to take shape.

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“We started out just doing the grind, like every other band does,” Lewy explains. “We gained an organic following just by playing gigs in Brissy and most of those people were our mates already, but that’s a good thing - we’ve got a good mateship that supports us. The turning point would have been Sobercoaster, when we started to get a bit of airplay on triple j.”

“It was word of mouth before that,” Jacko adds, “we didn’t have any PR, any management, anything like that; it was just very off the cuff. We didn’t really think too much past the next song - it was like, write a song, put it out. We never really had a plan; it was only recently we thought we should sit down and think about this properly.”

Beddy Rays is a culmination of years of honing their craft and not only is it catchy, but it’s also visually striking; its cover a subtle nod to the band’s beginnings, taking inspiration from Green Day’s iconic Dookie. Its artwork depicts a wild situation unfolding in Redland Bay. It’s almost like a depraved Where’s Wally? sketch.

“There are heaps of little easter eggs in there,” Lewy teases, “every time you look at it you find new stuff.”

“We went all out,” Jacko adds. “We’re just sitting around, relaxing, having a beer and watching all the chaos around us.” The cover captures their personality perfectly, albeit through a “cartoon” lens.

They’ve gone all out with every aspect of its release, and their excitement on the eve of release is contagious. Although a debut album might seem like a starting point for some, for Beddy Rays it’s a milestone they didn’t originally give much thought to. “We didn’t really go into this thinking we were even going to release an album, to be honest. We just wanted to play in different towns, to travel, that’s all we really wanted to do," Jacko confesses. 

Travelling to different towns on the weekend and then back to the grind on Monday, as Jacko explains. “Everyone kind of finds it funny when we go on tour and meet other bands and they’re all sort of slogging [it] out, doing music full-time we’re like, ‘Man we’ve got to go to work on Monday.’ They’re always like, ‘You have trades? What the hell?’

“I think it’s funny to mention that we’re tradies, the working-class rocker thing. Just because your job is not a full-time musician, you can still make music and you can still tour, and you can still have fun doing it.

“I always thought I was trapped when I was doing my apprenticeship, I thought, ‘I’m wasting my time here, I need to be writing music every day as a full-time musician,’ but now I’m glad I did my apprenticeship because I can make some money if I need to. There’s a lot of off time when you’re not touring.”

The philosophy of the band is to recreate the incredible times they have had as mates over the years, going to shows together, with Jacko remembering, “The reason why we would go to shows growing up is going to those shows you see with your mates, watching them with your arms around each other’s shoulder, singing along to your favourite song. That’s the sort of mindset we try to think of when we write a song - you want to make it as big as possible.”

Lewy adds that their chaotic energy is perhaps a reason so many young people have resonated with the band. “You know, spilling your beer down your mate’s back with your arm around them, that kind of energy we try and bring that to our live show,” he laughs. “We try and bring a party atmosphere and pump it up as much as we can. When you’ve got a big crowd and big energy it feeds us to go even harder.”

Their authenticity stems from putting mates ahead of music and letting everything fall into line from there. Lewy notes that the theme that ties the songs together on Beddy Rays is “mateship” and “checking in on your mates”.

Jacko adds, “And the ups and downs of growing up. Our debut album is really about us growing up as mates and seeing what goes on in friendships. A song could just be about a situation, it might not be about yourself… it could be a situation you put yourself in the same shoes of. You put it in a first-person sense so that you’re not talking shit about other people,” he laughs.

The album’s creation was thrown into upheaval when producer Brock Weston’s studio in Brisbane fell victim to the devastating floods. “It got ruined in the floods, which was a shame as it’s a historical building,” Lewy says. “That was a shit thing,” Jacko enthuses, “we were recording the album and it got flooded and we ended recording it at his mate's house around the corner at a makeshift studio in a granny flat; the drums sounded massive in that little granny flat. [Brock’s] a wizard – he’s just so good at what he does.”

Although the band have come a decent way from their formative years, things came full circle earlier this month when they took to the stage for a special hometown show at Redland Bay Community Centre, with proceeds donated to COOEE Indigenous Family and Community Education Centre.

“We were thinking about doing a hometown show for a while, but the local pub here has gone a bit snob – they used to have bands all the time, but they don’t really do it anymore," Jacko tells. "So we were thinking, ‘Where else can we do a gig?’ Let’s go to the hall.’ The last time we were there was for an 18th nearly 10 years ago. We went to suss it out and there was a bunch of Grannys line dancing and stuff and we’re like, ‘This looks like the spot,’” he laughs.

Lewy adds, “We started out playing DIY and backyard shows and we thought, ‘Why not do a DIY set up back in our hometown, come full circle?’”

And if there’s anything they hope listeners take away from their debut album? “Just the fact that we’re just four average tradie blokes that play a bit of music on the side,” Jacko says. “Basically, if you have a crack, you never know what can happen.”

'Beddy Rays' is out now