– By Tom Munday
Australian comedy-folk band The Beards, forming in South Australia in 2005, lives and dies by the glory and sanctity of good ol’ facial fuzz! The group – comprised of Johann Beardraven, John Beardman, Jr., Nathaniel Beard, Facey McStubblington – found a cult following after a handful of fun, all-or-nothin’ performances in Adelaide and their first album in 2007. A strong social network smash, The Beards have played everything from the Big Day Out and SXSW to the World Beard & Moustache Championships. Early last year, the group tore through Europe on its Euro-bout the Grow A Beard extravaganza. Their trip through Britain, the Netherlands, and Germany, The Beards became an even bigger cult phenomenon.
The group’s clever lyrics, song titles, and album titles cause uncontrollable chuckles, with some of the best being ‘You Should Consider Having Sex With a Bearded Man’ and ‘All the Bearded Ladies’, and ‘It Only takes a Fortnight to Grow a Decent Beard’, and ‘If Your Dad Doesn’t Have a Beard, You’ve Got Two Mums’. The group, most recently, shuffled wondrously through its Strokin’ the Beards tour. Music writer Tom Munday chatted with Johann about the new album (The Beard Album), awe-isnpiring beard propaganda, and the fusion of sound, fury, and facial coverage.
1. When was the last time anyone in the group was clean-shaven?
Yeah, it’s not something we like to think about too often. But there is actually evidence of us without the beards on YouTube. It was for the first film clip that we made, for a song called Growing A Beard, and during the course of the film clip we grew beards. But at the start of the clip you actually see us without beards! I don’t recommend looking at it, obviously. It looks just awful! That would have been 2007, I think. That would have been the last time you would have seen us clean-shaven. We like to tell people that we’ve never been clean-shaven but someone uncovered that video and exposed that.
2. How did the band come together and form its signature sound/motif?
We really started because we had beards, not because we had wanted to be a band. We really liked beards, the four of us, and we would hang out together and talk about beards a lot. As the beards got better we realized we could play our musical instruments which made us form the band. But the beards came beforehand. It’s always been guided by the beard. It sounds strange but there’s certain mythical powers the beards have over us that helped guide our direction.
3. You focus on a specific, out-of-the-box niche, how do you come up with so many ideas for track names, album titles, lyrics etc.?
We need to make sure that we have the word ‘Beard’ in every single title and every single song and every album because we don’t want anyone to miss the point, we have to be very careful about that. I guess we have always looked to he beard for inspiration and, because we are so inspired by our beards, we found we had a lot of things to say about beards.
So, with each song we try to find the best way to get across that particular bearded message whether it be berating people without beards or convince women to sleep with men with beards or whatever aspect of life we want to talk about. There is actually a lot more that people would imagine. People always assume we are about to run short of beard stuff. But, as our beards get longer we feel more inspired and feel like we want to write about even more things.
4. You strike a strong balance between rousing folk-rock and comedic story telling, how do you fine-tune both elements?
Well, the music is really just a vehicle for our propaganda so we are always conscious about it. We are a band so we have to write the songs but even then it sometimes feels like the music gets in the way of the beard and the beardiness. I guess it is just a matter of trying to keep things catchy enough for people to listen to it and then we can drill home our pro-beard propaganda. There is a very fine line, we don’t want to be very musical we want to make sure the focus stays on beards not on music. We don’t even really like music that much.
5.You have released your latest album, The Beard Album, what was the process behind its creation?
We were pretty excited about it, we wanted to have an album called The Beard Album for a while. We felt like our previous albums just were not quite beardy enough. With this one, we felt like we really created the ultimate probe to get out, At least until the next album comes out. Getting it all together was a bit of a challenge. We obviously wanted to make it as beardy as possible so we could make to front cover entirely bearded, which was quite expensive.
The other issue we had was we didn’t want anyone without a beard involved in the process, at all, including the manufacturing. We had to send them away to a processing plant in the Czech Republic where every worker had a beard. Yeah, it was quite a challenge. But I think we can tell in the finished sound it was an all-bearded process to get that done. I think it really comes through in the production.
6. You have played sold-out tours in Australia and overseas, how to international crowds compare to local audiences?
Yeah, they get pretty enthusiastic overseas especially in places like Germany. They are an enthusiastic bunch! Which is great for us. They are very vocal and very into beards, which is great. We found we had really good support. A lot of beards in like Scotland, it is particularly beardy over there as well. So yeah we have been really lucky with a lot of places we go. It shows that overseas as well as here – obviously, Australia’s still our number 1 in terms of numbers and support – the overseas stuff is getting pretty big now too.
7. A new trend, revolving around dying your beard bright colours, has recently popped up, would you ever consider doing this? Which colour would you pick?
I have not actually seen that one, I had not realized that was thing! Most people get on Facebook pretty quick and make sure that we are aware of it. I am all for making beards any style or shade that you want. If it was me, I would probably go with something bright, anything to make my beard stand out more. Maybe like a fluro yellow or something. Maybe I will have a bit of an experiment with a few different shades and see which one suits my particular beard the best. I don’t know, I will have to look that up.
8. What food best describes your music?
What food? Wow, have not been asked that before! I don’t know, maybe a chunky soup. It has got lots of different layers and flavouring. Soup can always look good when it’s stuck in a beard too. People think that is not a good look but I happen to think I looks quite good when you have a bit of soup down to front. Adds a lot to the look.
Photo Credit: Matthew Picken