The Beautiful Girls
The Beautiful Girls are marking their ten year anniversary with a finale in the form of a massive national tour. Driving to meet his bandmates Paulie Bromley and Bruce Braybrooke on the last day of the band’s rehearsals, The band’s frontman Mat McHugh talks about the highlights and lowlights of the past decade.
“I’ve always hated rehearsing,” McHugh says. “It’s a necessity of course but it’s just painful, you know, playing each song 500 times.”
McHugh admits it’s been an issue remembering each song from their extensive back catalogue but they want each of their 26 gigs around Australia to be a reminder of the band’s history. Their set will be divided into two parts with a mellow acoustic first half, an electric dub/reggae second half, and a dub DJ playing the intermission. “We’ll try and encompass old and rare songs. We’re just trying to give a full picture of what the band has done,” McHugh says. “We’re just celebrating 10 years, basically!”
McHugh says there have been many highlights along the way. Pulling their first big festival crowd at Falls Festival was especially moving. “That festival holds a big place in my heart,” McHugh says. There has also been growth: “When we first started we were just absolutely terrible, we didn’t even know what we were doing! We’d have nine terrible gigs to one good one. It’s been a constant thing of trying to improve.” McHugh also says he hasn’t regretted any choices the band has made: “There’s obviously better and worse songs but I don’t know if you can regret them if they’re an expression. If you’re honest with yourself then there is no right or wrong, good or bad — you just try. I don’t look back and judge it.”
McHugh says he’s pleased to have resisted being bracketed into certain musical categories: “I have songs that are reactions to people’s perceptions of me and the band, where we just sort of turned left. I’m proud of that.”
There have been lowlights too, and not just when McHugh tried to hide from the audience in a snow jacket. There was the time when a bottle hit the stage and showered the band with glass. “It’s not a good feeling when you’ve tried to give something to people and you get hit in the head with something,” McHugh says. “It’s a cowardly act. I grew up in a way that it doesn’t matter if someone is on-stage, if someone throws a bottle at your head or shoe at your face, I’m not cool with that. I will turn the lights on and say if you’re tough enough to throw something at someone with their eyes shut, then you’re welcome to come on stage and prove how tough you are, but no one really does!”
Then there was adjusting to the constant touring. “It kind of freaked me out,” the free-spirited McHugh says. “You’d be in January and you were already making plans for November. It’s pretty crazy because your whole life gets mapped out... It just takes you out of the existing present, which is not a healthy thing. It’s a bit of a cliche but you kind of just take everyday as it comes. If anyone was to ask me on any random day on tour where I was off to next and what time the plane left, I honestly wouldn’t know... I like to enjoy where I am, otherwise it’s just madness.”
But the touring won’t be stopping anytime soon. McHugh already has plans to work on another solo album, following his recent release Love Come Save Me. Unlike this one, he won’t be releasing his next material for free although he says taking the commerce out of the equation for Love Come Save Me was his favourite musical experience yet: “I recommend it to anybody who has made music at some stage in their lives. I mean, how can you put a value on music? I wanted to just make music for the sake of making music and just share it for the sake of sharing it,” McHugh says. He’s thinking next about a pre-rder system, where fans can order his record while it’s still in production and receive extras such as free downloads along the way.
For now though, McHugh is concentrating on the finale tour. He says the move to end The Beautiful Girls is more about retiring the band name than splitting. “We’ll all play together in some way. It’s a very fluid situation,” McHugh says. And their secret to longevity? “No-one in this band has ever approached it like a rock star — the main thing we care about is playing music."
BY CORAL HUCKSTEP
The Beautiful Girls stop in Melbourne for three nights at The Corner Hotel, Richmond on Friday August 24 (sold out), Saturday August 25 (sold out) and Sunday August 26.