British blues singer/guitarist Big Boy Bloater is back with the follow up to 2016’s hugely successful Luxury Hobo.

Pills was recorded in December 2017 with producer Adam Whalley. For this release, the band trimmed down to a power trio of Big Boy Bloater (Vocals/Guitar), Matt Cowley (Drums) and Steven Oates (Bass).

With Pills, the Surrey-born bluesman picks up from where Luxury Hobo left off. Following a bout of depression in the lead up to his last album, Bloater approaches his new album with a clearer head, an open mind and more in tune with the things going on around him. These observations feed into his songwriting throughout the twelve incredible blues numbers featured on the album.

National Rock Review recently caught up with Big Boy Bloater to get the lowdown on Pills.

NRR: I wanted to talk to you about your new album Pills, which is the follow up to Luxury Hobo. Could we start off by you telling us a little bit about the album and the inspiration and theme behind it?
BBB: The inspiration behind the album, wow. I don’t know if there is particularly one inspiration behind it, I think a lot of the songs were written on the road while I was doing the Luxury Hobo tour. Yeah, there was quite a lot of stuff going on around me and I was writing down bits of lines and the odd song title, and I ended up with a list of about 35 songs, some were finished and some were kind of half finished. Eventually, you sort of whittle it down to the 12 that went on to the album. They were just the ones that I thought worked the best and kind of sat together really as an album.
NRR: Listening to the album it sounds like there is quite a wide variety of sounds and styles on there. “This Ain’t Rufus” has got an old school rock and roll Chuck Berry vibe going on, then “Digital Number of the Beast” is a bit funkier. You bring out the ukulele on “A Life of Debt” and then listening to “Mouse Organ” I thought that would work perfectly on a film score. Was there a particular vision with the album, did you know musically which direction you wanted to take it?
BBB: Yeah, kind of, I just didn’t want to do more of what I’ve done sort of thing, I wanted to keep it fresh and moving. I’m always looking for another idea, or something to branch off into just to keep myself sain really. You don’t want to get bogged down in the same groove all the time. So yeah, just to keep myself interested really I think.
NRR: With this album you’ve trimmed the band back to a three piece from I think it was a four piece on Luxury Hobo. Was that conscious decision to kind of go for the traditional blues trio kind of sound. How did this change come around?
BBB: It was quite an organic thing actually, our keyboard player had some family commitments that he had to go off and deal with so he wasn’t going to be in the picture quite so much. I just thought this is a good time to change the way we work a little bit.
As a guitarist you can sometimes fall back on a keyboard player too much and get a little bit lazy, so I think it was good for me to get my chops up and working and make myself sweat a little bit on the guitar. Just personally it was making myself work a little harder on the guitar which was good fun. Having just the guitar, bass and drums you are not always quite so nailed down to the chord sequence, you can go off on a slightly strange kind of scale at some point and get away with it. When you’ve got the keyboard or a second guitarist you have to stick within the parameters of the key you are playing in, but you can get a little bit loose as a three piece. So it was nice to be able to just sort of hang loose a little bit I guess.
NRR: One of the tracks I wanted to talk to you about is “Stop Stringing Me Along” which is a song about your early experiences in the music industry. Having gone through all of those experiences and you’ve got all that under your belt now from the start of your career I just wondered what lessons did you learn from those early days and do you have any advice that you would give to those entering the industry right now?
BBB: Yeah, I think the main crux of that song is that you can meet a lot of people in this industry who say that they are going to do this and make you a million dollars and all that kind of thing, don’t believe them, the only person who is ever going to do anything for you is yourself is the main message about that song. Do it yourself I think is the answer.
NRR: I just wanted to go back to “Life Of Debt” because that’s another interesting track in that it has a continuation of the theme that you used with Luxury Hobo with regards to the swamp monster. I was just wondering could you tell us a little bit about that song and the concept, and what made you decided to continue on with that theme on this album?
BBB: Yeah, I kind of wanted to revisit him and see what he was getting up to kind of thing. I don’t know, “It Came Out Of The Swamp” was probably one of the most popular songs off the last album so I kind of thought it would be nice to see what was going on, but I didn’t want to just make “It Came Out Of The Swamp – Part 2” kind of thing. I thought it would be nice to musically completely turn it on it’s head.
Where as “It Came Out Of The Swamp” is a very swampy, dark, grungy kind of sound, this is you know a ballad and it’s sweetly poignant. One of the things I see a lot is people working in jobs six or seven days a week almost – they hate their job but they work so hard so that they can have two weeks off on holiday from their job. It’s kind of like a revolving door of madness isn’t it? I wanted to get that across. So I thought put the swamp monster in a 9 to 5 job and see how he gets on (laughing).
NRR: Do you have a favourite track on the album and if so which song and why?
BBB: That’s like saying have you got a favourite child (laughing). That’s quite an in question isn’t it? I don’t know, it does change from day to day. There’s quite a few on there that are sort of really personal and sort of autobiographical, so I think they are definitely closer to my heart I suppose.
You know I do love “Friday Night’s Alright For Drinking”; every single line in that song is actually something that has happened to me where I live, and it’s kind of just about where I live and the stuff that goes on here, so that one is always at the top of my list I guess. And “Stop Stringing Me Along” as well, because it’s such a personal song – I was actually really angry when I wrote it and I thought I don’t want to come across that angry, so I put a bit of an upbeat tune to it just to pull it back a little bit (laughing).

Big Boy Bloater & The LiMiTs new album Pills is out now via Provogue/Mascot Label Group with a full headline tour supporting the release commencing on the 6th September at The Maze in Nottingham. 

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About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.

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