Catching up with singer Johann Beardraven and guitarist Facey McStubblington after The Beards’ heavily populated showcase at The Great Escape in Brighton, UK, Bryget Chrisfield is scolded for plucking stray chin hairs and therefore tampering with a potential beard.
Radelaide novelty act The Beards go down swimmingly at The Great Escape in Brighton, UK. When Johann Beardraven, The Beards frontman, introduces songs bearing titles such as You Should Consider Having Sex With A Bearded Man, hearty laughter fills Jubilee Square. Band members make beelines for hirsute spectators in order to stroke their beards, which prompts the following question during our post-set interview in the media hub: Can you describe the feeling of having your beard stroked? Beardraven offers, “I'd probably describe the feeling as outstanding.” When asked to compare said sensation with that of someone playing with the hair on one's head, Beardraven announces, “I don't care for the hair on my head. It's very subsidiary.” Facey McStubblington (guitarist/John Goodman lookalike) goes one louder: “The time spent stroking any other part of my body could be better spent stroking my beard.”
“You don't understand that we're all about the beard,” Beardraven emphasises. “Any other thing – whatever! Not interested. Beards, everyone.” Surely the fairer sex is exempt given that we can't really cultivate chin-warmers. “Well, we don't really subscribe to that,” Beardraven scolds. “My grandmother has a very good beard.” You've gotta pluck out the odd stray. “But that's exactly the same as shaving,” Beardraven chastises. “Don't pluck, ladies!” What if it's just the one? “No!” he insists. “That's the start [of a beard], you know?”
Considering The Beards are in the middle of their first world tour, how many beards have been looking back at them on foreign soil? “More than we probably anticipated,” Beardraven deduces. “I think maybe a lot of people over here just happen to have beards anyway.” On which country boasts the highest percentage of beardos in the audience, the singer ponders, “I dunno. The Berlin show would've been pushin' 70 to 80 percent, I reckon. It was quite bearded.” McStubblington jokes, “There was only three people there and two of them had beards, so that increases the percentage,” and there's laughs all 'round.
Both Beardraven and McStubblington confirm that every member of The Beards holds a current passport containing a picture of their bearded self. Did any of them have to apply for new passports? “Ah, a couple of us did, yeah, and burnt the old ones,” Beardraven explains. McStubblington, as he's prone to, takes this even further: “And every other photo of anyone without a beard.” It's game-on for Beardraven. “And I burnt my father as well. He had his chance to grow a beard.”
“Yeah, he had MORE than enough time,” McStubblington agrees. How long did Beardraven give him? “Oh, it would've been – what?” He looks to McStubblington for back-up. “At least two hours,” the guitarist giggles and Beardraven continues: “Yeah, he had heaps of time. It's a poor attitude and we're here to change attitudes.” McStubblington jumps in with, “And that's the only way to change an attitude is just to burn it,” before Beardraven adds, “Yeah, to kill a man! Well, we will go to whatever length necessary to make sure that people grow beards.”
On whether they have any clean-shavens on the payroll, Beardraven enthuses, “Oh, yeah, absolutely! But that's because we don't like to tell a bearded man what to do. If we've got a bearded sound guy or a bearded tech working for us, it doesn't feel right for him to do our bidding so we always like to employ clean-shaven…” McStubblington interrupts: “As underlings.”
“Yeah, exactly. So our business is like a structure for how we see our Utopian society eventually becoming: The Beards on top and everything else below it… There's this certain thing that exists called The Bearded Code and that's all about lookin' out for your fellow beard.” McStubblington declares, “Actually now we're on that, Johann Beardraven, singer for The Beards: Your beard looks awesome. Great job.”
“Thanks, man, so does yours. Wow, we really have good beards! Golly!” McStubblington concurs: “Yeah, we really do. You should see them, reader of this article.” Beardraven teases, “We do actually have beards. We're pro-beard. We like beards. We are for beards not anti-beard.” McStubblington stresses: “Don't make that mistake. We don't want the message to get confused.”
“It keeps me awake at night,” Beardraven proclaims. “Like, after we've done a gig, which seemed to go quite well and everyone had beards, I'll be back in the room and I'll be lying awake thinking, 'Did they really understand how pro-beard we were? Would they have maybe walked away not knowing whether we were for or against beards?'” What about if a member of The Beards' audience decided to grow a beard post-gig, but then shaved out of habit the following morning! “That's a big concern and that's why we are on this planet to make sure that people grow beards.” McStubblington cracks open another can of Red Stripe. Where did that tinnie come from? “Oh, it actually came out of my beard!” He's on fire. “It's an excellent cooling mechanism.”
Writing lyrics about beards is one thing, but how does one ensure the instrumental accompaniment also stays true to the beard? “Are you kidding? That's easy,” McStubblington claims and then Beardraven clarifies, “The beard really guides us in that respect.” There's no release date for a new album as yet. “It's a work in progress,” Beardraven reveals. “We're still in the writing phase at the moment and, I gotta tell ya, some of this new material is groundbreaking. Like, there's one track where we just scream the word 'beard' for a good 40 minutes and, you know, it's the future of music obviously.”
So how many songs is it exactly that The Beards have penned, about beards, to date? “Oh, it's hard to say,” Beardraven contemplates. “When we first started writing songs – we had beards, obviously we had beards, but they weren't as good as they are now. And because we were new beardos, I guess we just didn't know as much about beards as we know now, and so I think that comes across in some of the early work. [The songs] show that we like beards but we're not really living the beard at that point.”
“And that's what it's all about: we're method musicians,” McStubblington contributes and then Beardraven's off again: “As our beards have gone on to become longer, our songwriting has in turn become beardier and therefore better.” McStubblington: “Last year we would've written upwards of a thousand songs and they've all just been awesome.” Beardraven opines, “The public's not ready for the level of beardiness that we have.”
This week's new sets include music from locals Gurrumul, Josh Pyke and West Thebarton Brothel Party plus new tunes from The Maccabees and Albert Hammond Jr.