Laser beams surround Confidence Man, but they’ve avoided every single one to become one of the most exciting headliners at Let Them Eat Cake this New Year’s Day. So what’s their secret?
“Electronic music doesn’t have to take itself so seriously,” Confidence Man’s enigmatic frontwoman Janet Planet says.
Her celestial name is one of the quartet’s four pseudonyms. Her vocal partner is ‘Sugar Bones’, while the other members – who remain hidden behind ghoulish cloaks – are referred to as ‘Clarence McGuffie’ and ‘Reggie Goodchild’; names stolen directly from graveyard tombstones.
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“Pseudonyms definitely give you more freedom,” Janet continues. “It’s just a bit weird. When we first created these names, it wasn’t to give us more confidence, it just happened naturally.
“A lot of us came from a guitar background, so we were looking at electronic music thinking we could integrate elements of Talking Heads.
“We’re trying to do electronic music that has a live element to it, with dancing and costumes and all the things that I love in the theatre.
“When I walked on stage I became this other person. I’ve seen pop stars say the same thing; this isn’t who they actually are. It’s the same thing with me.”
Confidence Man’s courageous aesthetic is Janet’s vision (“the boys let me have free rein”), but the music is a team effort. The quartet are a Brisbane sharehouse supergroup, made from members of The Belligerents, Moses Gunn Collective and The Jungle Giants. For Janet, familial ties abound; the band consists of her partner, her brother, and her best-friend, while her mother makes their costumes.
Unlike most supergroups, Confidence Man are unique. With imposing song titles like ‘First Class Bitch’ and intentionally awkward choreography, they formed in an attempt to revitalise Australia’s electronic music scene and so far, they’ve lavished in originality.
“I remember when I was a kid going to Blue Light Discos, I always wanted a certain outfit that didn’t exist,” Janet continues. “Mum would make me them so I could go and hook up with the hot guys.
“The first few gigs we did were warm-up shows and I’d never even played in a band before. We were buying shiny gold outfits, doing ABBA covers and smiling lots. The feedback we received was that we were enjoying ourselves too much. So after that, we did the exact opposite.
“It was in good contrast with the music. It was completely different.”
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While their personas clashed with their outfits, their bouncy, guitar-driven electronica perfectly complimented Janet’s lackadaisical vocals. The strategy quickly proved a critical and commercial hit.
Within a year of their first single, the quartet won Live Pop Act of the Year at the 2018 National Live Music Awards. The next year, their debut album Confident Music for Confident People, won the AIR Award for Best Independent Dance/Electronica Album.
Success hasn’t affected the band’s intimate relationships, with Janet explaining “we’re probably all closer now because when you’ve been on tour with someone for six months, you know the good parts and the bad parts.” Still, for one of Australia’s most meteoric recent success stories, COVID could have been a career-halter. Janet says instead, it’s been a much-needed productivity boost before the band release their sophomore album.
“We had all our plans changed, we weren’t able to tour overseas, everything was pushed back and we were actually mildly relieved,” she says. “We’ve been working on our second album for years now so I finally had the chance to finish that off; it’s been surprisingly productive.
“Now that we’ve finished the second record, we know exactly what we’ll be doing. It’s kind of exciting, even though we’re locked down, to be thinking about the fact that the record is done.
“Now we can start working on the live show, even from home. Ideas are bubbling away.”
A group of live-music specialists, famous for shaking off the old and bringing in the new, are a natural fit for a New Year’s Day bash. However, there’s special resonance for an act this eclectic to usher in the return of live music in Melbourne.
“We’re really excited to play Let Them Eat Cake,” she says. “I just keep looking forward to playing live music again. I’m working on all new costumes at the moment.
“They’ll all be at Let Them Eat Cake and they’re very sparkling.”
Let Them Eat Cake runs from 12:00pm – 10:30pm on New Years Day, Saturday 1st January, 2022 at Werribee Mansion. Head to the website for the full lineup and tickets.