Confidence Man are forging their own path through an unrivalled bravado

In the world of music, it often pays to be different. Artists have to take risks to set themselves and their sound apart from their peers, to stand out in a sea of indie, alternative or pop carbon copies. For many, this can be a daunting thing to do, but not if you’ve got the confidence. 

Luckily, Melbourne four-piece Confidence Man have loads of it.

Janet Planet, Sugar Bones, Clarence McGuffie and Reggie Goodchild make up the outfit, sporting names that sound more like cartoon characters than crowd-captivating musicians. These quirky personas are exactly why the group have become so popular though, pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a band.

You’d be forgiven for thinking they pinched the monikers from a children’s book or a TV show, but the story behind them is a lot stranger.

“We were out somewhere in the middle of Queensland and we saw all these really cool gravestones,” explains Planet, the band’s female lead. “They had all these really awesome names, so that’s sort of where we got all the names from – all these old, cool people.”

“The funniest thing was my mum heard from Reggie Goodchild’s granddaughter who said she’s really pleased that his name is being used. Apparently, he was a cool old dude, so he would’ve been happy about it,” Planet says with a laugh.

She and Bones are the faces of Confidence Man, the dynamic duo who break into outrageous, synchronised dancing routines during their sets. They’re flanked by the mysterious Goodchild and McGuffie, whose identities are always hidden, usually by thick, black veils.

Emerging in 2016, Confidence Man are fresh-faced, but they’ve known each other for years. In fact, Planet and Goodchild are siblings, and McGuffie, their drummer, is her boyfriend.

“All of us were friends before and we were all playing in other bands,” she explains. “We were all living together at the time with a bunch of other musicians, and we kind of made it as a joke.”

“Then as it went along, we were like, ‘maybe these songs are really good, and maybe people would be into this’, and then we played our first show or two and we were like ‘actually this is definitely something a bit cool and different that people would get into’. So, yeah. It was kind of just a happy accident.”

Confidence Man is totally different to the music most of the group usually make. Hailing from other well-known Aussie bands like The Belligerents, Moses Gunn Collective and The Jungle Giants, the four-piece cut their teeth pursuing more serious projects, but have found a bit of fun with the kooky collective.

“I think it’s really different for everyone, because it’s super collaborative,” Planet muses. “There’s not many other bands that write with four people constantly, usually people kind of bring their ideas to the band, so I suppose in that way we’re kind of a bit weird, and I think you can hear that in the music as well.”

“All the nuances in the music, they’re kind of like an inside joke, or you know, these little things that wouldn’t get off the ground unless someone else was there to be like ‘yeah that’s a cool idea’.”

It’s safe to say that their outside-the-box thinking is a huge part of their success. Anyone who’s caught a Confidence Man stage show will know that they go above and beyond to make it a memorable experience, pouring unbridled energy into every set, complete with kooky costumes and dorky dance moves.

“Well, it kind of started as a joke,” says Planet of their signature dancing. “I was always a big dancer and I wasn’t good. Like, I was actually a bad dancer, but I still loved doing it. So, I think it kind of stemmed from that; my love of disco and just like, being really embarrassing.”

She says that getting Bones on board with the dancing was difficult at first, but thankfully, she managed to wear him down.

“I suppose that just comes from me being annoying and making everyone do what I want,” she giggles. “And the same thing with getting him in the hot pants – it didn’t take him very long.”

Trying to imagine a version of Bones that wouldn’t like strutting around in hot pants is difficult considering how often he sports them, but Planet says most of the group aren’t like their Confidence Man characters.

“Our characters are pretty different to our real lives,” she says. “Sugar in particular is like this completely different person, like he’ll listen to Neil Young and stuff. So, I think we’re pretty different from the stage personas – except for me, I’m much the same. But a bit less scary, and a little less raunchy.”

Having these metaphorical masks does make it easier for the group to take risks with both their sound and stage performance, but as a band who make “confident music for confident people”, this is what they hope to inspire in their fans.

“I think it’s more important to be doing something different, than to be doing something good that’s the same,” Planet explains, spilling her secret to being self-assured.

“Just do your own thing; just be exactly who you are. I think that’s kind of what I’ve done, and it’s always worked out for me.”

Confidence Man when they play The Pleasure Garden at St Kilda’s Catani Gardens on Saturday December 8. Head to the festival’s website for tickets and the full lineup. Check out Confidence Man's new Christmas single here.