Confidence Man's Janet Planet tells us how to get the party started
Janet Planet of Australian party group Confidence Man tells us about playing up to the rumours, getting drunk in hot tubs and learning how to do hip rolls
Wild characters, choreographed dance routines and certified pop bangers; Confidence Man have it all, and you’ll either love it or hate it.
Led by Janet Planet, the “boss lady,” and Sugar Bones, the “self-deprecating country dude, who doesn't really want to dance but has to,” the Australian electro pop outfit is completed by Reggie Goodchild and Clarence McGuffie, the “best friends (who are) always kind of in the background,” – and who are permanently dressed in black, their faces masked behind beekeeper hats, even on stage. Obviously, these are not any of their real names. Each member goes by a different pseudonym and they all have their own unique persona in the band.
“Initially, it was because we were in other bands and we didn't want Con Man to be like a side project because it's so different to what we were doing before... then we came up with these names that were much better than our real names,” says Planet. Surprisingly though, the names weren’t just made up at random. Instead, the names came to them while they were in a graveyard in Roma – a small town in central Queensland. “We went to this graveyard for my Grandma's memorial... there were all these crazy gravestones that had [names] like Reggie Goodchild and Clarence McGuffie, like all the names of the characters in the band, so we just chose them from all these gravestones.”
All previously members of different bands, the foursome came together while living in a shared house in Brisbane and began making music together after hearing a bassline Goodchild was writing one day. The first single they released as a band, Boyfriend (Repeat) was an instant hit, quickly picked up and championed by Australian radio station Triple J; within two weeks the band were signed to London-based label Heavenly Recordings – home to the likes of Gwenno, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard and The Wytches.
With interest in the band rapidly rising, they decided to relocate to Melbourne and began working on their debut album there in their own studio within their shared house. “Being four times bigger in Melbourne than we were in Brisbane, we just wanted to be a part of the dance scene down here because there's just not really much of that in Brisbane,” says Planet. But with the band being so young, little was known about who its members actually were and how the band began. So, naturally people started to talk and a game of Chinese whispers seemed to ensue.
“I remember Reggie said that he was in a bathroom [at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton] after our show and there were these guys in the bathroom… and the guy's like, 'Yeah, so I heard that they found that Janet girl dancing in a club, like one really cool club in Sydney or something, and they picked her, then they found this really cool pool cleaner guy who had a six pack,' says Planet. “There were all these rumours going around at Great Escape about how we'd formed and the way we formed wasn't really that cool at all – just a bunch of friends making music in a house – so I suppose we just wanted to play into that because I feel like what isn't real is actually a lot more interesting.”
Conventional is not a word you would use to describe anything Confidence Man do, and that applies to their writing process too. “I think with music like ours, if you're not feeling the way that you're writing, it actually feels really anxious and weird and it doesn't match,” says Planet.
So, how do you write a really great party song? You have yourself a massive party while you’re making it, of course. “We went away on a trip to somewhere in Victoria and stayed in this house that had a hot tub, so we spent two weeks there just partying really hard and we didn't get that much done but lots of little bits done, which are all through the album,” says Planet. “Initially we thought we didn't get anything done there but later on we were like, actually that part that we did when we were really drunk in the hot tub, we'll use that – and just pulled bits out of these not very good songs that we wrote on this trip away.”
'There were all these rumours going around at The Great Escape about how we'd formed and the way we formed wasn't really that cool at all' – Janet Planet
There’s not much to be taken too seriously with Confidence Man. They’re not here for preachy lyrics and complex melodies – what they are here for though is upbeat, danceable pop music and their debut album Confident Music for Confident People has that in excess. Already released singles Boyfriend (Repeat), Bubblegum and Better Sit Down Boy are good indicators of the overwhelming sense of fun filtered throughout the album, with hints of 90s dance, 00s electro pop and even a bit of Madchester-esque percussion thrown in. “The band for us has always just been a huge mismatch of things that we like. We haven't been about creating a cohesive or overarching idea,” says Planet. “I suppose that's why it's a bit diverse but it's also kind of exciting in a way because it means we can really do whatever sound we want. I don't really feel held back by what the genre is.”
On C.O.O.L. Party, Planet recites the lyrics in the style of your typical American high school bimbo, with lines like, ‘They’ve got all kinds of drinks at the party of the year / Gin, vodka, champagne / And the food’s like totally organic.’ “As soon as we wrote that, I was like I know exactly the dance moves we're going to do here. We're going to do YMCA dance moves on the C.O.O.L. – that's obvious,” says Planet. But the album also unveils another side to the band, veering away slightly from their usual straight up party music. Out the Window sees them venturing into Screamadelica territory, with its psych-y intro, heavy percussion and a pretty epic, euphoric gospel bridge. “I really hope we can, at some point, get a choir for Out the Window – that would be amazing. Do a full Primal Scream rendition… get the whole choral in beekeeper hats.”
The band earned praise for their must-see insane, energetic live shows following a string of festival appearances last year, with only a few songs to their name, and those shows featured a lot of dancing. Planet and Bones come up with their own routines specific to each song and as their dancing abilities have increased, so too has the level of the choreography. “Things are getting more and more complicated now that I think we're getting better at remembering dance moves, so adding in little flourishes here and there,” says Planet. “Sugar can even do a hip roll now, so we're probably going to be stepping up the dance move quality.”
Between their infectiously catchy bubblegum pop songs, carefree attitude and ridiculously entertaining live shows, it’s pretty clear that Confidence Man are here for a good time, and a long time.
Confident Music for Confident People is released on 13 Apr via Heavenly Recordings
Confidence Man play All Points East, London, 25 May; Parklife Festival, Manchester, 10 Jun; TRNSMT, Glasgow Green, 1 Jul