Having just finished the final leg of their Australian tour, home grown indie band “The Beautiful Girls” are heading out of Oz to tackle the US and beyond – promoting their newest album release “Spooks”.
I caught up with lead singer Matt on the second of their double dates in Byron to chat solo projects, indie Australian music, touring and support act Washington.
Nice to see you on the road again Matt. There’s been a bit of a break since your last album though – is the solo work the main reason behind that?
Pretty much! I spent 2008 recording my own solo album and then toured with it during March 2009 – which went really well and sold better than I’d hoped. The tour was less about the money though, it was more about the fun of being on the road and a bit of an individual holiday away from touring with TBG.
The new TBG album is a great move on from your previous work, what was the creation process like?
We took a new approach to this one. We recorded it over a year long period in a studio within a house. We’d surf in the mornings and then spend the day recording. We spent a lot of time playing around too, building the tracks and sound up gradually – this inevitably lead to canning a lot of stuff but lead us to keeping the songs that worked together and had naturally come about.
The canned stuff is just on the back burner though. If it works in future albums then it’ll be put in – you cant give up on an idea, its all about timing. It’s all about taking small steps with songs, you don’t want to alienate your audience.
Our new songs were more of a challenge to us though because of all the background sounds involved, it was a new step for us.
So which is your favourite track?
My personal one would be “Home Family”. It’s really two songs merged into one. It gradually builds into a bigger sound towards the end and creates a good musical journey. Its our most ambitious track by far but great as a live piece.
What were your influences for this new sound and album then?
Old dub step had a lot to do with it. But the new UK dub scene was part of it too – artists such as Code 9 and LCD Sound System crept in there a bit. It was more about the production of this album rather than sound writing. We let it flow with our own ideas – I feel staying away from listening to other music whilst creating your own is important. You work hard for your own sound – you want to hear silence, not other peoples work!
How do you feel your music has evolved since you started?
Radically different now. We started off in the same vein as Ben Harper and Jack Johnson, but I think its become way more interesting than them. Our new sounds don’t stick within the genre we were originally placed – we have a whole heap of influence, not just the surf scene. We’ve evolved our music as our audience have matured too. When TBG and Jack Johnson started that whole style was new, its not anymore. People searching for new music aren’t dumb, they change tastes and looks for something new and fresh – as a band you have to keep pace with that.
We make music because we love it, not to make money – that’s what keeps our music fresh.
Surely the commercial success of Jack and Ben must’ve helped you out though?
Of course. When that scene hit the mainstream it was a huge boost to our profile. But the acoustic record making died with the surf music boom. We suddenly felt like we had to prove ourselves – we simply didn’t thin we were on par with those names, yet suddenly we were all grouped together!
It feels like we’re getting their now though, we’re moving into our own sound and we have our own audience – we’ve earnt the position and we’ve done it off our own backs, through hard work, staying independent and staying true to what we set out to accomplish.
It was important to us not to capitalise on the position the surf music boom gave us. We didn’t want to be one hit wonders. We wanted to earn our stripes so to speak. Major record labels were trying to sign us – but we declined. As much as we love Jack Johnson, we didn’t want to be the next Jack, we wanted to stay as TBG and make our own music. Sure it cost us a heap of money, but we’re fine with that.
You have a massive tour underway – one of the biggest in Aussie history in fact – followed by a huge worldwide tour, I take it you enjoy being on the road?!
It’s been a little while since we’ve been on the road – a year and a half in fact. It becomes your life and you slot right back into it. We love to explore and touring gives us the opportunity to see loads of places, live in a town for a day. The people are really friendly too – the offer to show us round and its like having a personal local guide! You get an indirect view of the town you’re playing in – you eat, drink and play like a local! The ultimate backpacking!
Last time I saw you you were playing Oceanfest in Devon, England. Do you prefer the indoor or outdoor venues – large shows or intimate crowds?
Outdoor at the big festivals there’s a good atmosphere, and its great to play alongside a bunch of other bands. But musically speaking I’d have to choose indoor. You have so much more control over the sound and lighting. We have a big input into the production of our live shows so its nice to see it work to its full potential. Crowd wise it’s got to be a happy medium – big enough to be exciting, small enough not to seem impersonal. We have too many subtleties in our sound to work a large crowd.
Whats the reason behind your double date in Byron – due to the crowds or simply an excuse to chill here?!
A bit of both! We always get sell outs in Byron, so we have to meet demand. We’ve done the same with Brisbane too – we have a good fan base in both places. Plus the tours getting into the swing of things so we split the dates up a bit.
Any random habits/activities/games on tour that you’d like to share with us?
Same with any tour – what happens in the van stays in the van!
You thanked everyone at the gig for supporting indie Oz music, how do you feel about that scene these days? Has the internet/iTunes helped or hindered?
When we started their were only a few indie Oz acts. There was no Myspace or email lists – it was all hands on for the band. The whole internet (Facebook, Myspace etc) thing has made it effective and quick for bands to target people and for people to access new music. But on the other hand there’s more sh*t for those people to wade through to find the good stuff – it evens out the playing field.
You no longer need a shed load of cash to access a world wide audience – the labels no longer decide, the people do. Sure major labels sieged pop music for a while, but that’s quickly changing.
We’re currently signing a deal for European iTunes at the moment. Other than that it’s been a flat release for the album, both the US and Oz had the same launch date., all the PR was co-ordinated.
The people that read this blog are mainly backpackers and travellers – what kind of role do they play for you in the whole scheme of things? Since I’ve been here I’ve been introduced to a whole load of new stuff.
Backpackers and surfers have a major impact for us. Mainly at the beginning but even now. They take our music all over the world and share it with the people they meet – who in turn do the same. Word of mouth is an important thing to us. As a result our music has turned up all over the place – indie surf movies, soundtracks – all sorts!
Pass our tunes on to a friend – it’s the best advertising and promotion for us, its an intimate way to connect with music too, you will always relate to a band more if a friend introduced them to you. The whole band does it – we understand the impact.
Any other Aussie indie bands that you’d like to plug and recommend we check out?
Washington of course, and there’s and awesome Brisbane reggae band called Kingfisher [I later saw them in Byron – you should definitely check them out – ED]. Kooii are the best reggae band in Oz though. Paulie our bassist produces their records – they’re underground and awesome! The Red Eyes too – good dubstep.
After plugging her it would be rude not to ask about your support artist “Washington”, how and when did that come about?
We had a couple of ideas for support artists – but we knew we wanted something upcoming and a new style. It turned out we had mutual friends and she’d just released a new EP – so it was perfect timing. And we all travel together. On the first day of the tour she jumped into the van with 8 guys and immediately became friends with all of us, we have a lot of respect for that brave move!
Where do you feel the band is heading these days, it feels like there’s plenty of stoke left – does that mean we can expect more tours and albums?
We don’t even consider this a job, we just go with the flow. If we’re still enjoying it and its still evolving then we’ll go wherever people will have us! We just want to play music, there’s no plan for world domination or anything. We get on with it and hopefully people will find it and follow it – we don’t want to force it on anyone.
I’m just looking forward to playing new songs. New songs mean new stoke and it’s good to play with, they always evolve the more we play them live – and that’s what keeps me going.
The Beautiful Girls are currently touring the US, so if you’re there make sure you check them out. If not they have a European tour in the pipeline so check out www.thebeautifulgirls.com for more details – or better still subscribe to their mailing list!
“Spooks” is now available online, in record stores or through iTunes (country dependant)