Unprecedented times call for unprecedented sounds. Confidence Man have been quietly working away in their chaotic Brisbane home, but now they’re more than ready to share their infectious dance moves with the globe and create a summer to remember.
Words: Finlay Holden.
Ridiculous sounds, ridiculous energy, ridiculous clothes and ridiculous vibes. These things define Confidence Man, an outrageously fun act who aspire to deliver an unforgettable live show to ravers of all shapes and sizes.
Utilising 2020 to write the follow-up to ‘Confident Music for Confident People’, disorderly band interactions and twisted writing sessions were inevitable when the mysterious four-piece moved into a singular home.
“Usually, it’s just us screaming at each other,” Janet Planet confesses from her garden, an early morning sheen on her chequered bucket hat. Sugar Bones, the other half of the front-duo, adds: “Sometimes it is quite chaotic, but after living together day in day out, we’ve learnt to vibe pretty well. We’ve learnt how to efficiently work with each other. Sometimes, the most efficient way is just everyone yelling, though.”
Fortunately, the band aren’t new to self-production, so a deranged, alcohol-fuelled kitchen set-up provided a sufficient stage for the twelve tracks of ‘Tilt’ to unfold. The downtime ended up being a welcome chance to fit in some much-needed writing sessions too.
“I did see it as a really good chance for us to write the record,” Janet says. “We’d written maybe two songs in the past three years, and then our label went, ‘where’s the record?’ Come on, we’ve been touring for like three years! We don’t have time to write songs; we’re not a band anymore,” she laughs. “We were thankful to finally still and make an album.” Sugar Bones chimes in: “It ended up being awesome for us, but we’re ready to party again.”
As luck (or geography) would have it, the terrains of Australia provided a good foundation for some staycation vibes, some of which can be seen in the music video for lead single ‘Holiday’. Serving as the first tease for the new record, the ethos, energy, and chaos were all present off-screen as much as they were in the end clip, although elegance in a hot air balloon? Not so much.
“We were getting thrown around, and every time we landed, there would be these huge bounces, and we were really hanging on to the side. It wasn’t graceful,” Janet recalls.
Somehow even a business outing for their creative project resulted in an adventure, with the band ending up in a Quaker haven featuring acoustic serenades in a ‘big seating arrangement’.
“We didn’t want to tell them what the song was about in case they didn’t let us film it,” Sugar Bones admits. “I remember them bringing us heaps of brownies, though, which was pretty good.”
For fans on this side of the spinning sphere, it is hard to tell precisely what Confidence Man’s attitude is from afar; the front duo offer up “chic but kitsch, old but new” or “fancy but trashy”, but it’s their roots that explain their core ethos best. While you could obviously never tell from their unending seriousness, they actually started making music as a bit of a joke.
“We’d all been in other bands which were a bit more serious, more guitar-based bands. We had this dance beat and decided then that we want to make music for when you’ve had two pingers, and it’s 3am,” Sugar Bones describes. “What do you want in that moment? More bass and more beats. The moment Janet started singing on that… all of a sudden, it opened this whole new world for us.”
While the lead vocalist may inspire a cult-like crowd obedience, she previously worked in marketing. “We unleashed a demon, and we couldn’t put it back in the bottle,” they laugh together.
Not one to shy away from their lifestyle, he admits that “taking a lot of ecstasy at the time probably had something to do with it. [The sound] made us feel really good and gave us loads of energy, so we just kept pushing it.”
We’re ready to party againSugar Bones
Janet embraces their complete conversion from indie kids to rave nuts: “Most of what we listen to now is dance music, so we’ve fully gone to the other side. No more guitars in this house!”
The extent of this genre betrayal is made most apparent onstage, where they fight for the true release of rave culture and do so in increasingly outlandish outfits. Despite implementing motorised shoulder pads, the group stick to black and white because otherwise, they would look “too ridiculous.”
Enjoying the more material fruits of their labour, Sugar Bones praises his co-star’s ambition. “Janet’s always had a thousand and one crazy ideas going on; it’s awesome. Now that we’ve started growing as a band, we can have someone working with us who is a professional dressmaker whom Janet can collab with to bring her ideas into reality.”
“It’s sick,” says Janet, “because, now that we’ve been around for a while, we have a bit of money to spend on crazy things like this. My mum’s finally been retired. She put her foot down when Sugar Bones lost her hand-made shorts.” In answer, he despairs: “I’m sorry, Wendy. I love you, Wendy!”
Although they’re an undeniable riot when half-buried in their alter egos, Confidence Man fully commit while performing their dance hits and stick with a heightened deadpan delivery that contrasts the joyful music, adding a dark and striking twist to their cathartic shows.
Sugar Bones explains this choice: “The contrast of the uplifting, bubbly sound delivered by us in full goth mode, looking like we want to fuck you and cut your throat out, really counterbalances our act, catches people off guard and seems to help them enjoy themselves more.”
It may seem a concentrated effort to not let on how much fun you’re having, but Janet explains, “it’s almost sad that when we play, it’s so natural for us not to smile now.”
Mercifully, this muted and unexcited attitude did not transpire while fleshing out the pulsating soundscapes of ‘Tilt’. Far from feeling the second record pressures, the group embraces the opportunity to expand their discography and, more importantly, setlist.
“Because we blew up so quickly, we were on tour pretty much straight away, and for the first few months, we only had five songs. We were playing catch-up, making the first album while touring,” Sugar Bones explains, unveiling the backstage pressures that are finally being surmounted. “For this second album, we had five times the amount of time to work on it; we were able to explore and develop it a whole bunch more.”
Janet continues: “We finally had time to figure out what we wanted on our next record. I knew I wanted French vocals” – as promised to Dork in 2018 – “because I’d lived there for a while, for example. We wrote down and mapped out what we each wanted from this record, so it was more of a choice rather than writing songs and just seeing what happened.”
The result? A compact, surreal journey through mountainous and maximalist bangers truly imbued with a new dimension of passion. This eclectic pair agree that “this music isn’t meant to be just played at home, it’s meant to be enjoyed outside in the big world, under the sky with friends.”
Where would the ideal place to press play be, though? “Close your eyes, let the last couple of years fade from your mind and embrace a really fun time,” is one answer – the other is, “sit down with a cigarette and a mimosa, wear fancy clothes. Eat a cheeseboard. Yum!”
A live setting is the best way to experience these songs in their truest form and, as Sugar Bones suggests less dairy and more narcotic indulgence, the consequence of their unchained new sound is granted to have one side effect even before the morning after. “With all the new bells and whistles, people are going to shit themselves.” Whip out the brown pants and head on down.
Taken from the April 2022 edition of Dork, out now. Confidence Man’s album ‘Tilt’ is out now.