Australian group Confidence Man on reviving 90s music for album Tilt

Sugar Bones and Janet Planet, while Clarence and Reggie are ‘always hidden’ (Picture: Supplied)

Is now the time for a full-on 1990s revival? Confidence Man singer Sugar Bones suspects it might be. ‘They had so much fun in the Nineties,’ he enthuses. ‘So let’s bring it back!’

If we are heading for a ‘naughty Nineties’ revival, then Aussie quartet Confidence Man are very much leading the way with their second album, Tilt – a dance-floor-ready collection of party anthems wrapped in a distinctive retro vibe.

‘We rip-off UK Nineties pop music as hard as we can – it’s what gets us going – and also, R&B from that era, from the States, too,’ laughs Sugar.

‘We are ripping-off DJ Sammy, we are ripping-off Kylie, we are ripping-off Madonna, we are ripping-off Orbital, we are ripping-off Happy Mondays – we’re ripping them all off!’

With its slow build and cheeky lyrics, Sugar cites Tilt earworm Holiday as perfectly summing up both the album’s message of positivity and freedom, and how they musically update those 1990s influences with a contemporary freshness.

‘Holiday encapsulates the whole energy of the album. It has that euphoric positive energy.’

Madonna and Kylie Minogue pictured performing in the 1990s

The band ‘rip-off’ the likes of Madonna and Kylie Minogue (Pictures: Shutterstock)
Along with Shaun Ryder’s Happy Mondays and a whole host of other 90s acts (Picture: Shutterstock)

Sugar Bones, co-vocalist Janet Planet, and musicians Clarence McGuffie and Reggie Goodchild, started hanging out when they were all part of Brisbane’s buzzing indie music scene. Though in different bands, weekend meet-ups led to light-hearted, alcohol-powered recording sessions.

‘We thought they were just silly songs – Boyfriend (Repeat), Bubblegum, those early tracks – and it wasn’t a band at all. Then all of sudden, there are all these people getting involved and Janet’s telling me there’s going to be synchronized dancing, and the rest is history!’

Quickly adopting pseudonyms, which have since developed into distinct stage personas, Janet and Sugar hog the limelight, while Reggie and Clarence lurk in the background.

‘Sugar is a just a fun-loving guy who wants to make you feel good,’ the singer says of his character. ‘And Janet is a fun-loving gal that wants to make you feel good, and will probably f*** you up in the process, while Clarence and Reggie are just good ole boys. You don’t wanna know too much about them, they’re quite boring really.’

As to why Clarence and Reggie are always hidden, Sugar jokes: ‘You don’t need those ugly faces up there, you just need to focus on Janet and Sugar. Eventually we’ll get rid of them entirely.’

Confidence Man wants to ‘keep the vibes high’ (Picture: Supplied)

With a rising reputation, their debut album, Confident Music For Confident People, arrived in 2018, quickly establishing the band as live favourites. But spring’s Tilt – recorded during lockdown in their shared Melbourne home – has taken them to a whole new level. And unlike many other artists, whose ‘Covid albums’ reflect the difficulty of the time, Tilt is the absolute antithesis – a firm banger.

‘Everyone was feeling naturally shook from the whole Covid thing,’ Sugar recalls. ‘But we made a manifesto – that we’re not going to go down that [dark] path, we’re going to keep the vibes high. And it’s a testament to the music that it took us out of this really dark world.’

After a summer of highly rated festival appearances, Confidence Man are currently in the throes of their biggest UK tour, which has already seen multiple sell-outs in London and Manchester. ‘It’s been a bit crazy!’ says Sugar, shell-shocked not only by the crowds, but also the ‘musical heroes’ who’ve been attending, including KLF’s Jimmy Cauty.

‘KLF is a massive influence for us, the way they went about everything we think was amazing, so that was super, super surreal for us. Then in Manchester, we had Stephen and Gillian from New Order come to the gig and they’re such a hugely influential band for us. They were absolutely lovely.’

‘Absolutely lovely’ New Order stars Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert came to see the band in Manchester (Picture: David Fisher/Shutterstock)

The band are now keen to channel the energy of the live shows into album number three. ‘

It’s been really invigorating. Getting back from shows we’ve gone straight to the studio, and we’ve got a really good cook going. There’s probably a solid handful of songs that we really love – although we’ve written dozens more,’ says Sugar.

‘It’s still early days, but we really want to push that euphoric, anthemic vibe, and we want to spread the love and good energy even further, and deeper, on this next one.’

Wednesday, O2 Institute, Birmingham; Thursday, Rock City, Nottingham;

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