Fronted by the wonderful Janet Planet and Sugar Bones, Confidence Man have taken their eccentric live show around the globe.
Confidence Man have been touring relentlessly since their debut album Confident Music for Confident People, impressing some of the biggest names in music, from Bono to Noel Gallagher.
The Melbourne-based quartet have just released their follow-up album, TILT, and they certainly haven’t toned down the confidence.
They’re about to take their sophomore album on tour, with a run of shows in Australia and the UK that includes a couple of support slots for Gallagher, plus a huge list of headline shows.
So we caught up with Sugar Bones to chat about the new record, broing down with U2, and his seemingly infinite performance stamina. He even gave us a juicy scoop about possible Like A Version cover choices.
HAPPY: Hey Sugar, how’s your day been?
SUGAR: Yeah, we were just doing a little bit of a photo shoot, just walking through the city in slightly embarrassing outfits *laughs*. How about yourself?
HAPPY: Yeah, it’s been good thanks, man. I called your hotline this morning for the Break It Bought It song preview, and I wanted to ask if you’ve had a chance to check the messages that people leave at the end?
SUGAR: I don’t know if we’ve checked it yet. We definitely will be. But yeah, it’s always pretty entertaining.
HAPPY: Yeah, I was keen to hear if there were any good ones coming through so far. But congrats on the new album. Everyone says that the sophomore album is always the hardest one to record. Did you find that writing TILT?
SUGAR: Yeah, I don’t know. I think COVID almost made it easier. It was like a silver lining for us. We were just running around touring so much that it was really hard to get any time to actually write the second album. And after a few years of touring the first album, we were like, ‘Fuck, when are we ever going to get a chance to actually like write a second album?’ And then, you know, COVID happened, and there was just endless time all of a sudden, stretching out before us.
So I think that gave us all an opportunity to not feel the pressure because I think normally the problem with the second album is that bands, especially if they do well on their first album, they’re expected to do constant touring and keep up with that, and then also produce another whole album. So I think for us we were really lucky that we’d done all the touring off the first one and then we actually had time. So yeah, we were very grateful to have that time.
HAPPY: Yeah, nice. Are the singles a taster for the sound of the rest of the album or have you thrown a few surprises in there as well?
SUGAR: Yeah, there’ll definitely be a few surprise tracks. There’s definitely a sound on there, but there’s definitely some differentiation, and yeah, I think there’ll be a couple of surprise vibes on there.
HAPPY: Nice. I also love the handwritten Confidence Man logo on the album artwork. Did someone hand write that themselves or was it computer generated?
SUGAR: We were working with a really great graphic designer called Bráulio Amado and he basically came up with that logo and he’s just a full-blown genius. Yeah, he’s a great drawer so I think he’s done that himself.
HAPPY: It looks so good, especially down the side of the album cover. I love that. I also heard that you worked with Greg Alexander on a couple of tracks on the album, and he’s the guy who wrote Murder on the Dancefloor. Any chance that Confidence Man will cover that at any point? Because that would be incredible.
SUGAR: Yeah, that’s obviously just such a classic and we all love that track. We were trying to figure out some tracks to do for Like A Version and stuff… we’re actually not going to do it right now because we have to go on tour, but yeah, that was always a hot contender. I think that’s going to have to wait for a little bit now, the Like A Version, but yeah, we would love to cover that one day. And maybe one day we will.
HAPPY: I’ll be hanging out for that. And speaking of the tour, you’re playing shows with Noel Gallagher, how did you meet him?
SUGAR: So we met him just before COVID hit couple of years ago, and U2 were touring, and somehow we’d kind of made some connections with them through their producer in Ireland after we played a festival. And apparently they became fans and then they hit us up to come to one of their big shows at Margaret Court Arena or some arena in Melbourne, and Noel was there supporting on that tour. So yeah, basically we met all the U2 guys, which was crazy enough, and then Noel was just sort of hanging around too. And so we end up just sort of broing down with him as well. And, yeah, he’s a sweet fella *laughs*. We were a bit scared, but he’s actually just a really nice, chill guy. And we just kind of hit it off with him.
HAPPY: That’s incredible. You’ve got a fair few shows coming up in Europe, you’ve played there a fair bit before hey?
SUGAR: Yeah, before COVID came through, I think we did about four or five years straight, heading there for summer mostly. But we played lots and lots of shows and we would just take any show, all through the UK and Europe, and Ireland. We’d pretty much take everything just to try and get in while we had the chance. So the first few years, four years or so of being a band, we were there every summer and it’s definitely paid off for us now, because we can go back and we actually have some like fans in Spain and Italy, there’s actually people that know us a bit. So we’ve got our feet in the door.
HAPPY: Yeah, it seems like you have a decent following over there. Did they latch on to your live show any more than Australia did, or was it a similar reception?
SUGAR: Yeah, it was definitely pretty good here as well, but I think it was even more embraced, especially in the UK, like England, Scotland, and Ireland, and France also really loved it, and Spain, the Netherlands. I don’t know, I think because we were sort of like pillaging those nineties, UK rave sounds, like warehouse sounds, it kind of struck a chord straightaway with that culture over there. I think in some ways we do sell more tickets in the UK than we do in Australia, but I guess there’s more gigs over there, so that probably plays into it as well. But we were really lucky that we found a big territory that we could slot into quite easily.
HAPPY: Yeah, I heard you saying that when you were first starting out, there was that Triple J post that was like ‘Is this the next best Australian band?’ and all the boomers were like, ‘No, that can’t be real,’ because they couldn’t cope with anything that wasn’t just guitar and vocals.
SUGAR: Yeah, it’s funny. Like, that was something that we never did encounter in England, Scotland, or France. I think one of the contrasts between the two was that there was never any kind of masculine backlash against Con Man and the way we were. That never happened overseas. So I think that was like a bit of an interesting thing, and I think Australia has a bit of a way to go in some regards with that kind of stuff. So yeah, that was definitely one interesting thing. Over there, it was just fully, fully embraced. There was no misogynist backlash going on. But yeah, I think publicly, it’s kind of disappeared in Australia, for us at least. But it’s still there. It’s in the shadows.
HAPPY: Yeah it’s lurking for sure. And when you’re performing with Confidence Man, is your persona similar to your normal personality or do you have to kind of flick a switch to get into the right mindset to perform?
SUGAR: Yeah, I think there’s definitely a bit of switch flicking, but I don’t know, like Sugar Bones is definitely in me *laughs*, and just needs the mildest, mildest encouragement to come out. So the moment I put some eyeliner on and step onto the stage, he’s there front and centre. But I think everybody has a little bit of that inside them, and I’ve just found a way to tap into that really easily. But yeah, I’m more chill in real life.
HAPPY: Where’d the name Sugar Bones come from, if you don’t mind me asking?
SUGAR: I don’t know, I think I just thought that it was cool *laughs*.
HAPPY: Yeah, I reckon it’s the coolest alter ego name. It’s so sick.
SUGAR: *laughs* thanks man.
HAPPY: So do you have much of a background in dance and performance or is it something that you’ve learnt as you go along?
SUGAR: Nah I definitely had never properly danced or anything. Just been to a bunch of raves. It’s kind of a different style of dancing, more just like munching in the corner. But then I’d been playing in like a couple of other bands for several years before Confidence Man was born. But basically Janet was like, ‘No, you’re going to be like synchronised dancing with me’. I was like, ‘No I’m not, fuck that’. But then we realised that’s kind of the way that it had to go. And I think after doing it year in and year out, it’s just kind of become something that I do. But yeah, before that I don’t know how it happened, really.
HAPPY: Yeah wow. How much of it is improvised and how much do you practice before the shows?
SUGAR: Well, we just have a few key moments that we have locked down and we know when they’re coming, so we make sure we hit them. And then the rest of the time, it’s just a free for all pretty much.
HAPPY: Every photo I’ve seen of you during a show, you always look so fresh, like not one single drop of sweat. How do you manage to stay looking that fresh while you’re performing?
SUGAR: *laughs* shit, I don’t know. Whenever I look at them, I’m like, ‘Damn, I look haggard as fuck.’ But yeah, I don’t know. You definitely get more and more fit the longer the tour goes on, so I feel like we’re still just getting back into shape for it. But we’ve got about 40 shows coming up in the next few months, so by the end of that, we’ll be fully in that mode. But I feel like at the moment, we’re still kind of getting our mojo back and getting the stamina up again.
HAPPY: Nice, well thanks so much for jumping on the call, man.
SUGAR: No worries, man. Thanks so much.
HAPPY: I hope you have a lovely night.
SUGAR: Yeah, you too. See ya.
TILT is out now on whatever streaming platform takes your fancy, and you can grab tickets for Confidence Man’s Australia and UK tour here.
Listen to more from Confidence Man below.
Interview by Lochie Schuster.