The Beau­ti­ful Girls front­man turned to his fans via crowd fund­ing to back his lat­est al­bum – and was pleas­antly sur­prised at the over­whelm­ing re­sponse.

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - BETHANY TYLER


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


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.

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