Janet Planet and Sugar Bones take off their mask to speak about the accidental genius of their act
Cai Trefor
18:34 7th August 2018

Confidence Man are a revelation. Since announcing their signing to Heavenly Recordings last year, we’ve been keeping up with their whereabouts and attending shows where possible, devouring their album, and the remixes, especially the Weatherall ones. What I like about them is their impressive ability to be fun yet offer discerning musical reference points. They dress up in short shorts, wear make-up, reference Vengaboys, yet also know the Primal Scream back catalogue inside out. Afterall, you don’t get the honour of having Andrew Weatherall remix you for nothing.

The brilliance extends to the stage, too, and it’s pretty much impossible to know Confidence Man in full without seeing them live.

Impressively, the whole concept for the band - started in Brisbane and led by characters Janet Planet (Grace Stephenson), Sugar Bones (Aidan Moore), Reggie Goodchild, Clarence McGuffi - came out of nothing too contrived.

Infact, it was all a bit of a laugh – “We were just really trashed at home then someone put on a bassline then all of a sudden we were yelling all over the top of each other trying to grab the laptop. We thought, ‘let’s fuck the guitars and write some fat, heavy beats’” says Aidan who plays frontman Sugar Bones. Does that point count as the first thing we learned? Yeah, why not.

Read ten more we found talking to and Aidan and Grace - the front two in the above press pic - who've stepped out of their characters to give us insight to what has gone into making the show work.

The band are a vision of what’s missing in dance music

Bored of electronic music becoming deep and serious, Grace Stephenson says the band set out to remedy this by adding the “cheesy vocals of the 90s” then “invigorate that with new sounds”. The singer thinks “cheekiness and dorkiness and self-awareness with dance music is lost”, whereas in the 90s it was more rife. Emphasising the point, she says Confidence Man is based on what she would want to see more of when she’s on a night out: “I would want to see synchronised dancing, someone who wasn’t taking themselves seriously and these shitty vocals that are intentionally shitty and ironic.”

They came up through being great live

Forget streaming your way to the top via convenient playlisting on Spotify, Confidence Man simply booked out a pub, then their mates told their mates, their mates told their mates, and so on.

To be specific, they had a show at Big Sounds booked that they needed to prepare for and had just put their first single ‘Boyfriend (Repeat)’ a week before, which did basically nothing on its own. The first show “a couple of people showed up. But 20 people showed up to the second gig and by the end of our rehearsal run the 250-cap place was packed out.” It set the tone for how their career’s been the whole way and it made Grace realise they weren’t the only ones who thought there was something missing in dance music. Them filling this void is why she believes the band’s taken off a lot quicker than some of their more sincere bands in Australia, who are making really good music, too.

They find value in trash pop

Chances are you’ve thrown away your Aqua CD out of sheer embarrassment. Singer Grace, though, is unashamed of where a lot of the band’s sound have come from. Speaking about just one of the ways they’ve come up with a tune, she says: “What makes us unique is we bring in a lot of trashy pop reference like Vengaboys or Aqua – because there's so many elements of those songs that are just straight hits. You take those elements and combine with a Fatboy Slim song or something and make them even better." Sounds intriguing and it’s a cocktail that works so far.

They love Azealia Banks ‘212’

“’Better Sit Down Boy’ was based around ‘212’ by Azealia Banks, I fucking love that song and it's still a fucking banger.” Who’d argue?

Getting the psych indie boy to dance came pretty easy

One of the best things about watching Confidence Man live is seeing the front duo fully invested in their Confidence Man characters Janet Planet and Sugar Bones. They pull off their “stupider the better” (their words, not ours) dance moves with the inspiration coming from watching their "dorky friends". Grace was chief instigator in this moves and eschewed any mention of getting professional dancers made by management and instilled all her faith in Aidan Moore. Of the experience of getting into this, Aidan says: “It didn’t come naturally to me, I was like, 'I’m not a dancer. My heart lies in like Neil young acoustic country music'. Grace said: ‘no! you’re a dancer now, and you’re going to dance!’ Well, it's worked a treat.

The Aussie psych scene that they were all in was strong

Between the four of them, they were fairly embedded in the Aussie guitar scene and played across a few bands. Moses Gunn Collective are the one worth checking out as they featured both Grace and Aidan as they are the face of Confidence Man.

They’re great at winding up idiots

Getting her own boyfriend – drummer Clarence – to sing backing vocals on ‘Boyfriend (Repeat)’ is a stroke of genius. In a tune that takes the rug from under men exercising their controlling habits, by proving them to be needy and patronising in relationships, Grace sings the words: “You make me bacon and eggs but I hate bacon and eggs” as he, mocking the sexist male in the relationship, sings the back vocal line: “what do you mean, you love bacon and eggs?” Such is the lack of singers covering the needy boyfriend before it’s incited quite a reaction online since coming out a year ago. Perhaps the comment by Youtube user ‘simon nomis’ sum it up best: “Cook the man some eggs.” Oh dear…

Tim Deluxe was a huge influence

And why wouldn’t you!? Spin the below cut and try not to dance.

They know Andrew Weatherall is the truth

Andrew Weatherall put out an incredible remix of ‘Bubblegum’ and ‘Out The Window’. Grace tells Gigwse about working with him, and what she likes about the ‘Bubblegum’ remix:

“Working with Andrew Weatherall was one of the highlights. Getting a remix from him was a really big deal for us. The crazy thing about his 'Bubblegum' remix is the guitar part he put in that I didn’t even know was in the original song. I didn't know we had any guitar parts in that song. He dug it out from the stems. That's why he's so awesome finding these tiny irrelevant parts in songs and brings them to the forefront."

Grace has a healthy amount confidence in what they’ve achieved

“Sometimes I feel like I wish I could watch us because that's what I want to watch when we go out,” she laughs.

Live Grace’s dream by being in the audience at Scala in London tomorrow (8 August). Tickets are on their website.

Photo: Press