The Beautiful Girls frontman turned to his fans via crowd funding to back his latest album – and was pleasantly surprised at the overwhelming response.
MAT MCHUGH PAYS THE COAST A VISIT
The Beautiful Girls frontman Mat McHugh has never been a fan of labels.
In almost every sense of the word, the selfmade musician has avoided the confines of labels throughout his career, working hard to maintain his independence in a society built on “ideals”.
Perfectly proved in his latest release, the new Beautiful Girls record began as a collection of songs slated as solo work.
“Half of the reason for releasing it that way was that I just got sick of constantly having to answer questions and explain what was happening with the band and why I was playing this type of music,” McHugh says.
“Everyone was so hung up on the name and the brand and I found myself turning ideas down to make music fit into a particular box and realised I was just making it harder for myself for no reason.
“So I released it as a Beautiful Girls album ... it’s all kind of more in-depth than that but that’s the short version.” The other deciding factor was that McHugh felt its sound was a “logical continuation” from the last Beautiful Girls album, and thus Dancehall Days became the Australian roots band’s first record in four years.
McHugh put the album’s future in the hands of the public through crowd-funding site Pledge Music.
“I came back from a tour overseas with nothing in the bank and a handful of debts. It was a terrible period,” he says.
“I had a small kid and I remember sitting there wondering how I got myself into that position and how I would start again.
“I knew I had another album in me that was going to be good. We had offers from record companies which has always been the case, I just never wanted to go that way and I still don’t.”
It was a risk that rewarded him with spectacular results.
The campaign reached 114 per cent of pledges two days before deadline and, while it started as a monetary decision, it took on a life of its own and McHugh couldn’t be happier with the outcome.
“It was the first time I’d done anything like this and I was a bit wary about it at first
I GET INTO ARGUMENTS, I JUMP TO THE DEFENCE OF THE UNDERDOG AND IT RATTLES A FEW PEOPLE’S CAGES. THINGS CAN GO TWO WAYS
because for me being independent, every cent we earned over the years went back into making records. I wasn’t sure about the idea of putting my hand out to people for money,” he says.
“But the more I thought about it and asked around, people were really supportive of the fact we were independent and trying to do this album on our own without a label. It wasn’t just about money then, it was about asking people to trust us enough to make a decent album, and these people who have been eternally supportive jumped to my rescue.”
McHugh’s respect for fans translates into his heavy involvement on social media, through which he regularly engages in debates and conversations with people, particularly on Facebook.
“In interviews, it can be hard to get across who I really am, what I care about and how I think, so I feel like doing social media is really important and can help communicate that,” he says.
“I get into arguments, I jump to the defence of the underdog and it rattles a few people’s cages. Things can go two ways, people have come and left in droves but at the end of the day I like those ongoing, back-and-forth conversations.”
Aside from live shows in which he recruits his regular line-up of talented friends to help bring his songs to life, McHugh often plays every instrument – much like Damon Albarn of Gorillaz.
“He was the inspiration to escape from the idea that I had to have this image of a fivepiece with a guitar, bass and drums. I felt confined by that thinking like I couldn’t go outside of that,” he says. “I play all the instruments on our records, and I think Damon does something similar.” Mat McHugh & The Beautiful Girls, Coolangatta Hotel, tomorrow night.
Mat McHugh & The Beautiful Girls will perform at the Coolangatta Hotel tomorrow night.