What is your name and role within the band?
My name is Ana Klabucar and I am the singer of the band.
How did you start?
Before Billie and the kids I used to work in a music theater and sing backing vocals on a Croatian music scene. I even studied for an opera singer for a while, but life brought me where I was supposed to be.
I started in a band back in the 2011 when the band (that was formed only recently) was looking for a new singer. I came on the one rehearsal and the rest is history. During the years the sound of the band changed due to my music preferences and character. I always liked the rougher sound of so called “shouters” and northern soul artists such as Gino Parks.
Where are you based?
We are based in Zagreb, Croatia, but not all the band members are from Croatia. Our drummer and guitar player are from Hungary and also have their own blues band called Sonny and his wild cows.
Please give an example of your music writing process.
Jurica the double bass player, the former and heart and soul of the band is the one true fan of vintage culture and he is the main music writer. I started to write music just recently and you will be able to hear it on a new upcoming album. We have completely different processes, Jurica “hears” the melody and then he plays it on a piano or guitar and his melody inspires him for a story. He usually writes it down , and after we find a right tune for me the song is ready for a complete music arrangement also by Jurica. It can last for a while as Jurica is quite busy man as a professional musician and records collector. He also is a really calm person, never in a rush, he knows what he wants and he will take his time to make it right.
My process is quite different, some situation inspires me, either something that makes me sad, or angry.. it can be anything, something from my personal life, something from the past, some of my fears or even something I hear or see on the tv so the emotion I feel has to be canalized right away. Usually I have the lyrics and melody at the same moment, It just comes out from somewhere inside, so I write it down and record it. Then I force Jurica to sit on the piano and I explain him what and how I want, what did I imagine and he turns my idea into a piece of art. Sometimes we fight because he wants to change something and he usually right so I insist only when I am completely sure my idea is better then his:) But our music room can turn into a real battleship when we disagree haha. In the end we get a song that has little bit of both of us inside and that is truly special.
What are you working on right now?
We are working on our new album, everything is recorded and we are just doing the final touch. This album is really special for me because we recorded my own originals for the first time, and we finally got the sound we always wanted with an up tight 4 piece horn section. Lot of groove, great energy, rocking rhythm and blues and northern soul, and couple of slow and really emotional blues ballads. Little bit different then the first two albums which is the result of the change during the last couple of years. I’m really proud of the material and can’t wait too finally release it.
What is your gear setup?
We are 8/9 piece band so our setup for the shows are drums, double bass, piano, trumpet, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, bass trombone, guitar with an Fender bass man guitar amp and for my vocals we are using Electro Voice old mic from the early 1950’s.
What do you like to do outside of music and does it affect your music?
The band members are all professional full time musicians playing and working in a Croatian jazz big band, Philharmonic Orchestra and in an Opera house. Jurica has The University of Washington master degree given at Seattle and he plays in many jazz bands and also has a full team job in an Opera house but his true passion is blues and rhythm and blues music and he is also passionate collector of records.He owns couple of thousands of records and 45’s of blues, rhythm and blues, country, rockabilly and jazz. So I could say nothing that guys do affects our music that much, but it can be pretty hard to plan a tour or even rehearsal because of their full time music obligations.
On the other hand my full time job is pre school teaching. That is my second passion but it can really affect my music big time. It is really exhausting job and sometimes I don’t have the time or energy too work on my music as much as I would like to. Actually all of my songs were made when I was on some kind of vacation haha. And it can really affect my singing too. Every singer knows that the most important thing for a singer is a good night sleep and a lot of rest, and that’s something I find unattainable quite often. Still waiting for the moment I will earn enough money for a decent living only by singing and making music. I accept the donations too haha .
How would you describe your music genre?
As the band developed a lot during the years we came to the point we play only.
Rhythm and blues and soul music with couple of blues ballads.
Do you know any music theory?
As I said- the guys from the band are professional musicians with music master degrees so I wouldn’t dare to say I do know some music theory because comparing to them I know nothing 🙂
What are your plans for the future?
We are planning to release the new album, play couple of summer shows and maybe a show for album release some time in the September but most likely we will take a short break right after the summer shows are done because Jurica and I are expecting a baby in early December 🙂 I find it quite difficult to jump on the stage already so we had to cancel some shows and slow down a little bit. That’s the most important thing for us at the moment and I just want to enjoy the next couple of months . I hope to get back on the stage as soon as the baby will be ready for one night sleepover with grandma, but we’ll see when the time comes.
How did you get into music?
I showed the talent in the earliest years, we had a piano that I really loved to play and my favorite game was to pretend my bed is a stage and I’m a big star singing in front of the thousands of people. I remember I used to sing The answer my friend is blowing in the wind” by Bob Dylan. I don’t know why haha, I probably heard that from my older brothers and sisters. After that I started music school for the piano and acting school .My primary school music teacher “discovered” my singing talent and introduced me to one of the best opera singing professors so I started to learn opera singing. Now I know I was too young for that much activities and after couple of years I’ve had it so I quit everything somewhere in the middle of the high school and I was determined to never sing again. But it didn’t last for a long time so I went for an audition in a music theater for a role in a musical when I was 18. I got in and stayed there for 8 years singing and acting in many musicals such as Aida, Cabaret, Monty Python and the Holy Grail etc. At the same time I was studying university for a teacher, singing back up vocals for many Croatian pop stars, singing in some small bands, and that’s how I got into the Billie and the kids in the end. Knowing the right people at the right time. Now I know I found my true passion and the music that I really love, and I doubt it could ever change.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Every now and then I discover some songs I really love but it’s always 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s music. When I need a break I like to listen some Oscar Peterson an Ella Fitzgerald jazz. Oh and lately I listen to a lot of Dinah Washington. Her singing and her interpretation and emotion really inspire me. When I need something more rough I always go back to the so called “shouters” such as Bunker Hill, Little Ike, Little Richard etc. And of course everything Jurica plays on a record player 24/7 🙂
Who are your top 5 influences and icons?
Etta James is my all time no 1. Her power and her soul is something I really admire.
Gino Parks is the most underrated performer of all time. His singles “Fire”,” Same thing” and “For this I thank you” inspired us for our new album, and we also recorded the cover of the “Same thing”. I found the sound I wanted for Billie and the kids in that songs. And his singing is out of this world.
What kind of rhythm and blues singer would I be without mentioning one and only Ray Charles? He is a true icon and his emotion is something that is really hard to get.
Little Richard- his power, energy, voice, live performances…
Dinah Washington- because she is unique, very different and very special. I love hearing the smile in her voice when she sings, almost like a mockery. I really admire that.
When are you playing next?
As I said, we had to cancel some of the shows because I find it pretty hard to jump on the stage already, but our next and one of the last shows is in Spain on Azkena rock festival. After that we will play one last show in Zagreb our hometown, and then I will take a rest that I really crave.