‘Confident Music for Confident People’: An interview with Janet Planet of Australian band ‘Confidence Man’

Summer is the time to kick back, relax and dance, all of which are things that the Australian band Confidence Man firmly believes in. The electronic dance group is made up of lead vocalists and dancers Janet Planet and Sugar Bones, along with the mysterious veiled figures of Reggie Goodchild and Clarence McGuffie, who make up the instrumental side of the band.

Confidence Man has gained popularity throughout Australia and Europe for their lively sound, quirky look and incredible live shows. The group has already played many big festivals throughout Australia and the UK along with many popular city nightclubs. Confidence Man will be making their US debut at the Governors Ball Music Festival this upcoming Sunday.

In this interview, The Daily Campus got to talk with lead vocalist Janet Planet on the rising popularity of Confidence Man, the band’s unique aesthetic, influences and some of her favorite performance memories.

The Daily Campus: Talk to me about who’s in the band, everyone’s role and how you all met/how the band formed.

Janet Planet: There’s me: I’m Janet Planet, and I’m a lead vocalist and dancer. Sugar Bones dances and sings with me. Then there’s Reggie Goodchild and Clarence McGuffie. Those two guys are in like black beekeeper outfits. Reggie plays the keys and does all the live stuff and then Clarence does all the live drumming.

We’d all known each other for ages in Brisbane and we’d all kind of been in other bands, as there’s quite a good music scene in Brisbane. But we were all playing in psych-rock bands. In our house, there were like eight different bands all living in the same house. One of us started writing dance music and we noticed that the main people in the room every time we were writing this dance music was the four of us. We started writing, like, one day a week and then were like, “Actually, maybe these songs are really good and we should release them.” It was kind of just an accident and none of us really meant to write dance music either, but it was just something that was kind of fun and was kind of a joke initially.

DC: “Boyfriend (Repeat)” was the band’s first single and was met with a ton of success in Australia. How were you able to keep the momentum going?

JP: What we’ve always focused on has been our live show, so I suppose we started releasing singles and it was kind of when everyone saw the live show that it started to blow up, particularly in Europe and Australia. I think the live element kind of brings all the songs to life in a different way because it is kind of cartoonish, and a little bit weird and abstract. I think having that live show really pushed the songs. So yeah, I suppose the live element is what pushed it after releasing those singles.

DC: Describe the band’s songwriting process.

JP: Yeah, so we’re a bit weird. We write with the four of us, which I suppose is pretty unusual. The way we actually start is we all go away by ourselves, just as we’re doing normal things like cleaning the house or whatever, and we’ll all write down different song name ideas. Then when we start writing we’ll be like, ‘So what are the song name ideas you have?’ and we’ll jot down all the favorite ones by the band.

This is how a song like “Try Your Luck” started. We liked that song name, “Try Your Luck,” and so then we were like, “We’re just going to write that song,” so we started writing around that lyrical idea. The thing with “Try Your Luck” was a bit hard because we started writing with that song name, and then we had all these song name ideas, and they were all such good lyrics that we ended up using all our lyrics in that one song. But yeah, so I suppose we’re a bit weird in that way.

DC: Confidence Man has a very strong aesthetic, both musically and visually. How did you come upon this aesthetic?

JP: We’ve been working with Schall & Schnabel, they’re from Berlin. We worked with them on the first film clip we ever did. As soon as we saw that “Boyfriend” clip we were like, “We’re definitely not going to work with anyone else again.” I think they just fully got the costumes and they got the live show and they managed to make that into a kind of film format which was just so perfect. That was really awesome; I think we just kind of found our people straight away, we were really lucky.

DC: What are the band’s biggest influences?

JP: Live-wise it would probably be Scissor Sisters and Basement Jaxx, bands that are just really fun to see live and are party starters. I suppose music-wise it would be a bit of LCD Soundsystem and then Fatboy Slim, [especially] a lot of their 90s dance things as well.

DC: The band name is Confidence Man and your debut LP is named “Confident Music for Confident People.” Talk about the band’s take on this idea of “confidence” and how it relates to your music.

JP: We didn’t initially come up with this idea of confidence; I suppose that was just a lucky thing that happened. It was Reggie who had the name ‘Confidence Man’ in his list of band name ideas. He was like, “If I ever made a dance band it would be called this,” as everyone does, I’m sure. And then when we made a dance band we were like, “Oh, we can finally use that band name idea that you had.” So it just kind of stemmed from there.

But the idea of confidence I suppose… the thing I like to portray with the confidence element is just when we play live and I suppose in the music as well, it’s really just about kind of not caring and kind of just completely letting go and being a d**k and that’s fine. Like, I’m not a professional dancer but when we play onstage I dance as hard as I can and I look stupid, but for some reason everyone thinks I’m really good, but the reason why is because I’m just dancing as hard as I can.

DC: Your performance at Gov Ball will be Confidence Man’s first US debut. How do you feel about your first US performance being at a music festival as well known as Gov Ball?

JP: I’m actually pretty interested because the first few shows we played in the UK, I was initially hesitant; I was wondering if it would go down as well as it did in Australia. I wondered if they would get it, and they really got it over here. I suppose I’m interested to see what the crowd is like over there [in the US] and see if they’re willing to embarrass themselves for the sake of fun. I suppose that’s what I’m interested in, to kind of know what the crowd is like over there. But I hope they get into it.

DC: What are some of the differences between playing at big music festivals and at smaller venues? Do you have a preference?

JP: Both are really fun. I suppose in the club atmosphere you can get closer to the crowd and interact with them better, because you don’t have barriers or security or, you know, glass restrictions, those kinds of things. So I really love playing in clubs and also we have costumes we can only really wear in clubs, like these new costumes that light up that are all LED lights that we can control with remotes. And it’s just like a little bit dangerous doing that at a music festival, like, you know, I’ve been hit in the face with a shoe a few times, so you kind of need to be a little bit careful. But festivals are really fun, I suppose, because a lot of new people get to see you. I can always tell when there’s a new crowd watching us because they’re always slightly scared initially but by the end they’re kind of thrusting as hard as they can. So, I like both.

DC: What has been your proudest moment as part of the band so far?

JP: I suppose playing this festival that we played in Victoria, Australia. It was really one of the times that we blew up at home. We only had like 500 Facebook likes at the time or something, and we played to this crowd that was really small initially. Then we saw all these people like sprinting down the mountain as we started playing, and I think there were like 8,000 people there which was huge for us at the time. It was the most pumped up crowd I had ever seen, they were just doing anything we would tell them. And they have this thing at that festival where, if it’s your favorite band at the festival, you take off your shoe and you hold it in the air. And at that festival, we got the boot, which was like the entire crowd was holding up their shoes. And I just remember us walking offstage hugging being like, “Oh my God! That was insane.” It was really funny, as well, because when we came to the UK we noticed at Glastonbury and stuff people started holding up their shoes and they didn’t know why they were doing it, because they didn’t know it actually came from this Victorian festival in the middle of nowhere, which is pretty funny.

DC: Where do you see the band going in the future? What do you hope will happen?

JP: I just hope we can tour more. And spend more money on costumes and more insane live shows. I suppose what we’re thinking is we can spend money on horses or riding in on elephants, so we can take it as far as we possibly can. And I suppose that’s the good thing about us, that nothing is too far.

Catch Confidence Man’s debut US performance at the Governors Ball music festival on June 3 at 12:30 pm on the Gov Ball NYC Stage.


Lucie Turkel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at lucie.turkel@uconn.edu.