Beddy Rays: “We’re playing shows to kids all around Australia. This is exactly what we wanted”

Childhood mates, proud residents of Reddy Bay, cracking live band and first-time album creators – meet the rough-and-tumble rockers of Beddy Rays

On the coast of Queensland, south of Brisbane and north of the Gold Coast lies Redland Bay. With a population just shy of 15,000 people, the locality is a working-class area with plenty of farming, ocean views and a young band on the verge of putting their hometown on the map.

Although their spoonerism moniker might seem like a simple gimmick – they’re the Beddy Rays from Reddy Bay – the four young men behind the name want it to serve as both testament and tribute to the place that raised them.

“It’s a very community-driven place,” says lead guitarist Lewis McKenna when asked to describe the Bay for those who’ve never been. “I’ve lived here most of my life, and it’s where the four of us all grew up. All these memories of riding pushbikes around, playing music, the red soil… it’s all here. My family has lived in this area for almost 50 years. No matter where we go with this band, we try and bring it all back here.”

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“You can rock up to the pub any given night and know everyone there,” adds Jackson van Issum, the band’s lead singer, rhythm guitarist and chief lyricist. “Anyone can come up and have a yarn with us. We named the band after this place because it’s part of all of us. We really want to let people know what this little place is all about.”

Before they were Beddy Rays, McKenna, van Issum, bassist Brad O’Connor and drummer Benny Wade were fast friends who’d known each other since they were six years old. Now, three of them are tradies by day and all four rough-and-tumble rockers by night, releasing their eponymous debut album five years into their existence as a band.

“No matter where we go with this band, we try and bring it all back here [to Reddy Bay]”

There’s a sense of familiarity to the album – not least of all because six of its songs have been released as singles over the last two years, beginning with their now-signature song ‘Sobercoaster’ in April 2020. This strategy has brought more ears to their rousing, pub-ready take on the genre over a prolonged period – making sure Beddy Rays won’t go out as a simple flash in the pan.

“I think the drip-feed is definitely the way to go about it when you’re starting out,” reasons van Issum.

“If you drop a whole album straight away, unless you’re of a certain stature, most of it just falls on deaf ears. We did an EP [‘Lost, Found, Beat Around’] in 2017, and following that we’d started to write towards what we thought was going to be an EP. Of course, COVID messed with those plans – so we just kept writing, but we stayed on the singles train..”

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Beddy Rays
Beddy Rays. Credit: Luke Dunning

From the early material to the last-minute inclusions, what unifies Beddy Rays as an album, then? To van Issum and McKenna, it’s about a sense of place – not just where you are, but who you’re with. To Beddy Rays, their debut is a record about belonging.

“These songs are very situational,” says McKenna. “Everything in the songwriting comes back to something we’ve personally lived through, something we’ve seen, something we’ve been told or heard about. It’s something that’s always been constant with our songwriting, and it’s why I think a lot of people can relate to the words we’re singing.”

The album is also a cathartic one for van Issum as a songwriter, who has struggled with issues of insecurity as the band’s profile has grown. On the record’s fresher material, he’s actively pursued the lyrical equivalent of dancing like no one’s watching. “I’ve started to slowly become OK with being honest and just laying it all out,” he says.

“When you’re starting out, you don’t really think anyone’s gonna listen to what you have to say at all… Once more people start paying attention, that’s when your self-consciousness creeps in”

“On the newer songs on the album, I’ve realised I don’t mind as much what people will think about them. It’s a really hard thing to get used to – when you’re starting out, you don’t really think anyone’s gonna listen to what you have to say at all. You get the feeling you may as well be talking to yourself, so you realistically have nothing to lose. Once more people start paying attention, that’s when your self-consciousness creeps in. I’m trying to get back to that original way of thinking about what I’m writing.”

Given the two-year period in which the album was crafted, it’s inevitable that change has been afoot throughout the creative process. As an example, van Issum points to ‘Milk’ – the first single the band released in 2022 – as a song that might not have made it across the finish line were it not for the input and support of his bandmates. “After I first wrote it, I was looking at a very personal break-up song,” he says.

“It felt cheesy, and I didn’t like the lyrics – which made me not like the song. It was actually Brad who turned me around on it. He said it was one of the best songs I’ve ever written – he even likes it more than ‘Sobercoaster’! I was dismissive, but now when I hear it on the radio I smile to myself and think, ‘Yeah, it’s actually pretty good’. Sometimes, you get so personally involved in what you’re writing that it’s hard to see from anyone else’s perspective.” McKenna backs him up: “Maybe it is a bit cheesy, but so what?” he reasons with a laugh. “We all love a bit of cheese! It’s good shit!”

In spite of having to battle the same restrictions and ordeals as every other band in Australia, Beddy Rays have in recent years earned a reputation as one of the must-sees on the live circuit. Their February headlining tour, as documented in the ‘Sort It Out’ music video, saw fans turn out in droves to dance and sing to the band’s unpretentious, endearing anthems. This September they’re set to do it again, taking on some of the biggest rooms of their career thus far – including Brisbane’s 900-capacity Princess Theatre.

“People think it’s all going to be easy breezy, but it’s fucking difficult. There’s been plenty of times where we’ve been at each other’s throats”

So, with a half-decade under their collective belts, a debut album out and a star on the rise, what have the members of Beddy Rays learnt about the band as a collective unit? “People think it’s all going to be easy breezy, but it’s fucking difficult,” says McKenna. “There’s been plenty of times where we’ve been at each other’s throats, but that’s an entirely natural part of it all. What we have to our advantage is the fact that we are best mates. We’re in this because we love it, and because we love each other. You can come out the other side of those conflicts with a really strong sense of perspective.”

van Issum agrees. “At the end of the day, after a blow-up we’ll be like, ‘What are we yelling and screaming at each other for?’,” he says. “This is supposed to be fun. We’re going around, playing shows to kids all around Australia. This is exactly what we wanted. When we get up on stage, all the stress and all the bullshit is just abandoned straight away. It’s pretty special, what we have.”

‘Beddy Rays’ is out now. Tickets to their national tour, which starts August, are on sale now

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