It was December 2016 at a friend’s house in Sheffield I first heard ‘Boyfriend (Repeat)’ by Confidence Man. I remember it vividly because it sounded like nothing else on the planet, and to some extent, still doesn’t. Imagine a mash up between LCD Soundsystem, the B-52s, Deee Lite and Right Said Fred and you’re somewhere close.
Almost three years have passed since that epiphany and along the way, Confidence Man have become a staple of the Heavenly Recordings roster, released one of 2018’s most acclaimed debut albums, Confident Music For Confident People, and become renowned as one of the most exciting live acts on the planet right now.
The Brisbane based four-piece – vocalists-cum-dancers Janet Planet and Sugar Bones alongside electronics and rhythm section Reggie Goodchild and Clarence McGuffie – have spent the past couple of years touring the globe. Incessantly imploring audiences to “Get Down!” from Manchester to Mexico City while packing out bigger venues with every subsequent return, their most recent visit to UK shores saw them headline the Heavenly Weekender at Leeds Brudenell Social Club before wrapping up this latest sojourn with a DJ set at The Social in London.
Beforehand, they’ll play to an overly enthusiastic crowd at Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms, which is where we catch up with the two charismatic singers prior to going on stage. We open the conversation by asking whether the UK feels like a second home to Confidence Man at the minute.
“It’s definitely our favourite territory,” beams Janet Planet. “I feel like UK audiences are our people. There’s one hotel near the airport and it feels like our second home now! We’ve been there so much.”
All of the UK shows on this tour sold out in advance, which probably explains the mutual love-in between both band and audience. Nevertheless, Confidence Man aren’t taking anything for granted, as Sugar Bones explains. “The momentum’s been rolling along nicely which is really sweet because we haven’t put anything out since the album. Apart from the Christmas song, but then that was really just a gag.”
“It’s really cool to see the crowds have been growing still, way beyond anything we ever thought it would,” adds Janet.
Of course with such a momentum comes the weight of expectation, and while Heavenly are renowned for being one of the coolest and free-spirited record labels in the world, there’s still an element of pressure to do even better next time around, which Janet accepts.
“There is a lot of expectation so after the tour we’re going to spend four or five months back home just writing. We have a few things happening at the moment, but I wouldn’t say they pressure us. They always let us do our own thing.”
“They’re pretty good like that,” declares Sugar. “They’ll sometimes give us a friendly nudge along but it’s not like Sony or a major label being constantly on our backs if the next release isn’t ready by a certain date. So, once we get back after this little run we’ve got four to five months booked in just writing so hopefully we’ll get the second one done then.”
With the debut having received a wealth of critical acclaim from all sections of the media, not to mention amassed a legion of fans along the way, it’s probably fair to say the anticipation as to when that might see the light of day has us chomping at the bit. Sadly, there is no projected release date just yet.
“We don’t really know what we’re doing at the moment but I’m hoping it will be finished by the end of this year,” suggests Janet. “That’s our plan.”
“We’ve got a couple of songs already that we’re pretty happy with but at the same time we don’t really want to rush into it too much,” says Sugar, pensively following on from his bandmate and co-singer. “We’re taking our time with this record so that we’re really happy with it.”
While the whole album was a bonafide winner, one song that really stood out on the first record was ‘Out The Window’, mainly because of its arrangement which is reminiscent of Andrew Weatherall’s production from the early nineties, and also Janet Planet’s vocal which wasn’t that dissimilar to Dolly Parton on The KLF’s ‘Justified And Ancient’. It’s a direction that appears to suit Confidence Man down to a tee, and something they’re keen to expand on, as Janet Planet eloquently points out.
“A lot of the newer stuff we’ve been writing does have singing vocals, so I guess that’s something we are exploring a lot more. The new songs still have the same lyrical ideas but maybe with a little more depth. We didn’t want to be scared of doing serious stuff either, so I suppose we’re letting ourselves be free to do exactly what we want. The newer stuff we’ve been doing does have a more melodic sound to it”.
“A little less slapstick and a lot deeper,” adds Sugar.
The current live set features two new instrumentals and one actual song in the current live set that aren’t quite finished yet, one of which could actually be Sugar’s version of ‘C.O.O.L Party’ (“It’s called ‘Even Cooler Party’!” quips the man himself).
Talking about parties, Confidence Man must have engaged in a few on their travels over the past couple of years. Playing nearly every city under the sun must have been an enlightening experience, yet the one that holds the fondest memories is… wait for it…. Glasgow!
“It’s my favourite city!” beams Janet. “Those people party so hard! I’ve never seen a crowd like that in my whole life. They made me feel intimidated, they partied so much harder than me. I was walking off covered in sweat thinking I still haven’t partied hard enough to satisfy them.”
Sugar Bones agrees.
“Glasgow is crazy. A lot of the north of England as well. Everyone seems to really get into it and connect with us.”
Not that its all been plain sailing. The last time I saw Confidence Man was at Garorock Festival in the South of France last summer, where they initially took the stage to four people.
“That was really hard,” admits Janet. “It was intensely hot as well, about 50 degrees or something. But then my favourite gigs are often the ones where people start off confused and by the end you can see they’ve switched over. Sometimes its better to have a challenging crowd than a straight up party one.”
Its been an interesting journey for the four-piece that came full circle in May when they returned to UK shores for the first time in 2019. Their initial UK shows were at The Great Escape in Brighton two years ago before people knew that much about them, so it was quite a surreal – not to mention fulfilling – experience going back there as one of the headline acts.
“It was sick!” declares Janet enthusiastically. “We hadn’t been over to the UK for a while so didn’t really know what to expect. Then when we got here and saw most of the shows had already sold out it was a big surprise. It was especially good not to feel as worried. I remember the first time we played The Great Escape we thought no one would turn up, so it was definitely more relaxing this time round.”
“It takes a lot of the pressure off. But then there’s also a different kind of pressure because a lot of people are watching so you can’t fuck it up,” adds Sugar matter of factly.
While Australian music has seen a surge of interest among UK and European audiences in recent years. Thanks in no uncertain terms to the likes of Tame Impala and King Gizzard in opening the doors initially, there can be little doubt Confidence Man’s continual rise has only added to that (“The spotlight is on Australia right now which is awesome because there are a lot of good bands out there,” insists Sugar Bones).
Nevertheless, Confidence Man aren’t averse to the idea of relocating either. Particularly if it were to involve setting up camp in the UK, which they’d already discussed as far back as the band’s first visit.
“We were over here for about four months last time and initially decided to have a base, but then we kept getting booked for more shows so that didn’t end up happening,” reveals Janet. “We were talking about it again this year so let’s see what happens. It will probably make more sense to do that once the new record is ready, plus we get to do the summer over here and miss out on the Australian winter too.”
Although primarily a live band, Confidence Man DJ sets have more recently become part of their growing appeal. This month they’ll play sets in Leeds and London which are already anticipated to fill the rooms (and dancefloors) with what Janet Planet describes as “booty bass” but then for a band that openly declares its love for partying hard, what else can we expect?
“It depends on where and what sort of DJ set it is,” acknowledges Sugar. “Whether we can let loose or if its for more of a mass crowd.”
Which brings back round to discussing the second album.
“We’re just writing now for the rest of the year. Hopefully we’ll play Glastonbury next year when the new album’s ready. The record should have been out for a while by then, so our plan now is to go home after we finish this run of dates and write some music. It will stop us from being depressed about not playing Glastonbury this summer as well,” proclaims Janet.
“You get sick of playing the same old songs so it will do us good to write some new stuff,” adds Sugar.
“Maybe we’ll do a country album for the next record?” suggests Janet. “Eventually it will be on the cards. We’ll do an album each. I’d like four albums of each of the characters then mine would be disco. Sugar’s would be a country album. Doing it that way would be sick. It’s definitely on the cards when we have a bit of time and aren’t touring any more. Doing an OutKast.”