"The writing process is just us getting drunk and doing stupid shit," says frontwoman Janet Planet
Confidence Man are the dose of fun 2018 sorely needs. Going by some pretty wild pseudonyms (Janet Planet, Sugar Bones, Clarence McGuffie and Reggie Goodchild), the Australian indie-dance crew first began making waves in the UK in 2017 when they signed to Heavenly on the strength of their irresistible 2016 debut single ‘Boyfriend (Repeat)’. Now, following sold-out UK shows in December 2017 they’ve announced their debut album, ‘Confident Music For Confident People’, due for release on April 13, along with a whistle-heavy new single called ‘Don’t You Know I’m In A Band’. We caught up with lead singer Janet Planet to talk about taking the stage on white horses and why she has “no idea what the fuck we’re doing”.
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NME: The first thing people will encounter about you is your mystique. What was the idea behind the pseudonyms you use and the veils you wear?
Janet Planet: Initially we used veils because the guys were in other bands and we never ever wanted to be associated as a ‘side-project’, so it was kind of establishing ourselves as our own act. And then when we saw how the hats looked live, visually it’s a really cool thing.
With the pseudonyms I suppose we wanted to create these characters that were outside of ourselves and be these badass people that we probably weren’t in real life.
How does that apply to Confidence Man as a project?
It’s so different – we were all in indie-rock bands and psych-rock bands and stuff like that. What we wanted to do was create a band that was dance music, but a bit ramshackle in a way, because we’re all from guitar backgrounds – so it’s indie-rock people making dance-pop music. It’s a bit weird, I think that’s why it works. We aren’t within the same rules as a normal dance band because we actually have no idea what the fuck we’re doing with dance music. Things have turned out well because I think people can see the messiness of it, and see that in the live show as well. It’s kind of punk-y.
How do you choreograph the show?
Usually it’s Sugar [Bones] and me making up the dances. That’s a thing we just do at home, very badly. I’ll be like: ‘What’s the stupidest dance move I can think of?’ and usually it’s him reining me in to make it not too ridiculous. There was once dance move that I was really determined he would do, like we were crawling on the ground and arching our backs and it looked ridiculous, and he put his foot down. He’s like: ‘I’m not fucking doing that’. I was like ‘Damnit!’ I kind of get him to a point where he’s like embarrassed, but not embarrassed enough that he won’t do it.
Your video for ‘Better Sit Down Boy’ – how did you come up with the choreography for that?
We actually had a choreographer who worked with us on that. It’s not the choreography we do on-stage – thank god because it’s actually way harder and better than anything I would make up. We worked with this couple from Berlin – they’ve done all of our music videos so far and our plan is to keep working with them for the whole of this album. Probably every video.
They just totally got the band, straight from the beginning, and pitched these ideas to us, and we were like: ‘Holy shit, that’s exactly what the band is’. They’ve always been really on the money. When we were here last time we just flew over to Berlin for a few days and they got this really famous bodybuilder and super-hot granny and told us what to do and we just did our normal performance, grumpy-style ConMan stuff.
You’ve said your first song as a band was in French – the lyrics went ‘Vous m’excitez tous les jours‘. Will we ever hear that?
You might hear a revamped version of that, maybe next album. I still really love those lyrics and also probably the chorus of that song, but the rest of it is really old-school ConMan, it’s just so dorky that I wouldn’t even want to put it out there any more. When you develop, you work out what your sound is, and coming back to those first songs there’s definitely bits we could take and put into something new, but I don’t think you’d ever want to hear that song. There’s a reason why we’ve never released it…
You say dorkiness – it seems like your main aim is being really fun. Is that why you’ve had such a fast rise?
Definitely, I think you can just kind of be free. That’s what I’m doing on stage as well, I’m not a professional dancer, I’m not a particularly good dancer, but when I get up on stage I just kind of do my own thing and lay down really hard so the audience feels like they can do the same, and that in itself is the best part about the band for me, just getting up there and everyone thinking that what I’m doing is intentional but actually, like, I’m not very good. People just love that and they find it really freeing. There’s not enough dork in dance music these days, and I think that’s what we bring a bit of.
You were all in different projects and living together when you formed, right?
Reggie, Sugar and I were in another psych-rock band and Clarence was doing his own thing, and the three boys were also in another band together. It was always a bit mishmash of bands, but this one’s the main one now. It’s the funnest one to write with, because we’re all best friends, so the writing process is just us getting drunk and doing stupid shit, and then the live aspect of it is so much fun, just touring with four of your best friends and cutting out all the mediocre people – it’s like the best thing ever.
What was it like when you hit it so big at Australian festivals last year – like Golden Plains?
That one for Golden Plains was particularly insane because I think we’d only been a band for a month or two and we’d only just released [debut single] ‘Boyfriend’. We got on this festival line-up, which is the best festival in Australia I reckon, because they’re very selective with who they choose there – they only book up-and-coming bands rather than big developed Australian acts that are played on Triple J.
Anyway, we were like: ‘No one’s gonna know who we are’ – we only had like 500 Facebook likes at the time. And we started playing, and within probably 10 minutes of us playing there was this huge crowd literally running down the hill. We were like ‘What the fuck?’ Like, at 2pm on a Sunday, some pinger beats, and we were just astonished, we couldn’t believe it, no one knew any of the songs, but they were getting down harder than we were. And then that video at home went viral, in like three days. We’d sold out our Melbourne show before we got home, and then the second one sold out in two hours and then the third one we tripled the capacity size and we sold that out within 24 hours, and we were like: ‘Ok, we can’t actually do any more shows because there are other bands touring’. So we had to leave it there.
It was really insane, you could see how something like that can blow up so quickly. I suppose it was because we were doing something a bit different. But on a lesser degree, the same thing happened at The Great Escape in Brighton, with word of mouth by the end of the weekend our last shows were packed out, whereas our first show we had like 10 people there or something. It just kind of shows how word of mouth of cool people who know what’s happening can grow your fanbase within like three days. I think the UK really gets us though. The UK and Europe is probably where we appeal the most. I think the people here care less about how they look maybe, than Australians.
What was your Glastonbury like?
It was a pretty deep time. I’ve never fallen asleep on the wall before but that happened to me at the airport afterwards. We had our first show at the Crow’s Nest, then William’s Green, then our last was the Rabbit Hole. We played there at like 3am and then straight from there we had to go to Bristol Airport and fly to Amsterdam and drive out to Down The Rabbit Hole Festival and play there at 11pm, so it was awesome – but I was an absolute mess.
The Glastonbury shows were sick. The Crow’s Nest was so hilarious. It’s on a slant and there’s like two of us dancing, I kept falling down, and then our drummer literally fell off the stage, he couldn’t fit, and his entire drumset fell off, people were trying to hold him on, like everyone’s putting hands out to get him back on the stage. I have no idea how King Gizzard would fit on there, but they did it somehow.
Who would you say are your biggest inspirations?
I like a lot of ’90s dance, like Fatboy Slim, Groove Armada, that kind of era. And then obviously the more recent obvious ones like LCD Soundsystem, a lot of Talking Heads, particularly with lyrics – I love David Byrne’s lyrics, he’s fucking awesome. I think what people say when they talk about us is that it’s all a big mush of all these influences, that it’s clear where our references come from. I’m happy with that anyway because creating art and using references is just a really good way of creating something that you like.
Do you think anything on the album is going to surprise people?
Definitely, one song on there is the most different. It was the last one we finished, ‘Out The Window’. With the first record we wanted to create a vision and portray ourselves in a certain way and have all the music going for the same purpose, which was creating what we were. And ‘Out The Window’ was where we’d go with the next record, it has probably a little bit more musical variation. It’s a bit more of a Primal Scream-y kind of vibe, which we love.
You mentioned lyrics there – do you think your personas change the way you write lyrics?
Yeah, in certain songs we actually started writing I wouldn’t know if my character would say that, so we have to keep it within a certain box we’ve created for ourselves, but I think that’s only temporary. Second album, we’re going to have to extend that because there is only so much you can do with that small-minded character. I can’t be ‘Janet’ forever. It’s expanding those characters, changing it up a bit, that’s the plan for the next record.
Can you talk about when you wrote the magnificent bassline for ‘Boyfriend’? How you came up with that song?
The way it started, that song, came from a vocal idea, Bridget Bardot – she has that song ‘Contact’. Basically she repeats one word throughout the whole song. ‘Contact‘, over and over again. We were like: ‘Let’s pick a song where we repeat one word the whole time’. I don’t remember how the bassline came about but I remember we decided, what word can we repeat over and over again? And we were like: ‘What about ‘repeat”? This song was built from that one word, building everything around that.
What does your 2018 hold?
We’re definitely coming back to the UK in May. Maybe for two or three months. We’ll definitely tour the album then, an Australian tour for the album as well. We’re also going to the US for the first time which will be cool. It’ll be interesting to see if the Americans get it the same way the UK and Europe does.
We’ll also keep adding to the live show as well. In Australia now we have a percussionist who’s in a beekeeper veil. The more money we get the more we can throw at live shows. Hopefully we can have Sugar and me riding in on white horses. The more money we make we’re gonna spend it, don’t worry about that.
Catch Confidence Man in the UK at the following dates:
London – All Points East Festival (May 25)
London – Village Underground (30)
Manchester – Parklife (June 9)
Glasgow – TRNSMT (July 1)
Southwold – Latitude Festival (13)
Standon – Standon Calling Festival (29)
Oxfordshire – Wilderness Festival (August 3)
Wareham – Bestival (4)
Cornwall – Boardmasters Festival (12)