For many loyal followers of The Beards, their recent announcement of their disbanding hit hard. But fear not, the band is going out not with a whimper, but most certainly with a loud final bang of a farewell tour. Josh caught up with Johann Beardraven ahead of the final Beards tour to have a lil reflect and reminisce…
Before we start, I should probably tell you I shaved yesterday. But I still have my goatee, do you feel comfortable continuing with the interview?
Yeah, there was something about your voice – I could just tell. I guess we can continue, only because I have nothing better to do. But yeah, there’s a distinct hint of shave in your voice.
I had a job interview.
That’s the lamest excuse in the world, mate. But then, I guess I haven’t had a job interview for a while so…
You guys are an SA icon, up there with West End, Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee and the Hills Hoist, which means your farewell tour really is the end of an era. Tell us about the journey.
It is the end of era, I guess. We came and saw and conquered, depending on who you ask… The concise version of the story is that it was all a complete accident. We got together to do one gig under the name The Beards because we thought it was funny. Then it just sort of spiralled out of control. I guess we never realised how much of a healthy appetite there was for songs about beards… We just got on a roll and went with it and then looked around ten years later and went, “Shit, this has become a thing!”
I think maybe you timed it fairly well too, given the rise and rise of hipster beards.
Yeah well, that was us. We are responsible for the growing beard trend. But I don’t know if that’s actually helped us or hindered us. When we started, no one really cared about beards and that was what was funny about the band. But when beards became popular, it meant that we weren’t the underdog anymore. To people that hadn’t heard us, it might have just looked like we were just jumping on the bandwagon, whereas we were doing it long before the hipsters.
So you were beards before beards were really beards.
Exactly. We were pioneers, if you will.
Any musician worth his weight knows what a slog being in an independent band is. Apart from the facial hair, what has kept you running this long do you think?
I think we’ve been lucky that the four of us have just been able to work well together. You know, with some pretty relentless touring schedules. That’s something that when you start off on the journey of “Yeah, let’s be in band”, you underestimate how much the personalities of the band have to gel, otherwise it just isn’t going to work. I think that’s something that you can’t really plan for, you just discover it as you go along.
I remember you saying once that the life of the band had been fed almost entirely by touring because there were no big record deals and radio play. Has the decision to call it a day been driven at all by pure touring fatigue?
Um, in part I guess. There’s a lot of factors around why we need to call it a day now. I mean, the touring is a slog and as much as being on stage and getting paid to get drunk and be congratulated by people is awesome, if that was all there was to it that’d be great. But there’s a lot more that goes on. We’re self-managed and unsigned and doing all the behind the scenes stuff ourselves. It’s hard work and something people often don’t realise happens.
Best and worst shows ever. Go.
Whoa, best show ever? It’s tough. There’s been a lot of sold out shows all over the world, but there was a gig we did in Brisbane. It wasn’t a big show or really well attended. I think it was the first or second time we ever went there. I just remember it was the first time we played a show outside of Adelaide and people were singing along with the songs. I remember thinking, “Shit, we’re not just a local band any more – people actually know our songs.” The worst gig? We’ve done some bad gigs, but I don’t wanna point the finger at any particular regional town, just in case. They know who they are.
Something I think the general public may not appreciate about you guys as a band is just how talented you really are. I don’t really have a question there. Just wanted people to know.
Yeah I mean if they don’t notice that, I guess it means we’re doing our job. We always wanted it to be about the concept. You want the songs to be catchy and good, and we’ve always been very mindful of not making shit music. If you’re doing a band like this, it could so easily be done badly. We were aware that making good music would set us apart from the average shit novelty band.
Have any of you ever pondered the possibility that you’ve sacrificed a successful career as serious musicians for this endeavour?
I’ve never really thought along those lines. You never sit back and go, “Gee we’re a good band aren’t we!” We more often sit back and think, “Geez, we fucked that song up tonight.” I was never that interested in doing serious stuff. I always wanted to do something not serious. That’s just the way I approached music.
You’re deliberately ending the tour back home in Adelaide. Is there a sense of excitement building for that last show?
I’m a bit worried that I’ll just get overly emotional and way too drunk, way too early. But there’s a long way to go before then. There’s a butt-load of dates on this tour between now and then. We’re trying to get everywhere. That was intentional. But of course, we always wanted to end it back here in Adelaide. Our first ever gig was at Jive, so it would have been cool to end it at Jive but we needed something a bit bigger, so The Gov was the logical choice.
What does life after the band look like for the four of you?
Yeah look, I don’t know. I probably should start to think about it. It’s something I should possibly start planning for. We’re going to stay active as an entity. A pro-beard organisation, if you will. So there may be more stuff down the track. We’ll go where the beards need us.
For all tour dates and ticketing information, visit The Beards website.