The Beautiful Girls, aka Mat McHugh, are heading to Port macquarie for the drop in festival, with a new record and contagious beats. read below to hear all about Mat and his passion for music.
Going back to the earliest point, where and when did music all begin for you?
I can’t even remember. I have a 3 year old now, and I kind of see the patterns repeating from when I was a kid. My dad played guitar and always had friends who played music. He didn’t do it on any kind of professional level but he played and he loved music a lot, so there was always music around. There wasn’t ever a time in my life where there wasn’t a guitar around or something. I got involved with the school band really young, when I was in first grade; I’ve always done it – I don’t remember ever not having it. We didn’t have a television, but we had a record player.
What was the instrument you learnt to play in the school band?
I played saxophone; I was determined. I was 6 years old, and I said to Dad, “You have to take me to school and get me a saxophone”. The school didn’t have one; they searched around in a closet and they found this rusted old, horrible, beat up saxophone that they’d had for years. The deal was if I stuck with it, then we’d talk about them getting me one or the school buying a new one.
For the first two years I was a little kid in first grade, and you weren’t allowed to be in the school band until you’re in the third year. So I played that saxophone for two years and got paid out by all the older kids; they were laughing at me because of this beat up old piece of junk.
But then I made it to the third grade, when you’re actually allowed to play in the school band. The school bought a new sax, and I was allowed to use it. So, I went from having the worst to the best.
I’ve always been like whatever it takes … I just love playing music.
When and how were you discovered?
It was pretty weird, ‘cause I’d always just liked to play music and I never really wanted to have it as a job. I studied graphic design; I like creative stuff, and I never dreamed or thought or wondered what it would be like to play music for a job. It wasn’t on the radar!
Traditionally being in bands growing up, you’d want to do an EP and go on tours and get famous. I never really wanted that. I was travelling overseas and I’d written a bunch of stuff, and I was busking. I lived in India for a year, and then I lived in New York, and I was busking just to make money for food.
I came back and a girl I knew was putting on an open mic night in Bondi. I got a couple of friends to play these songs I’d written and people liked it; they started coming more and more. There’d be an open mic night where there’d be 20 people, and the third time we played there were around 600 people. A guy there picked up a about 10 CDs and went into the Triple J offices and put them in all the pigeon holes of the announcers; I think they thought it was official mail from higher up or something, and a couple of them just played it. I got a really good response on the radio, so, there wasn’t any real grand strategy – it was kind of just accidental. I didn’t have any desire to get on the radio; I was just driving one day and I heard it. Our first record we did in three hours; it cost $300, and we just plugged in and played and sang everything live, no overdubs – I think that’s gone on to sell 100,000 copies. Just hearing that on the radio and having people buy it was strange to me, ‘cause I’d never actually sold anything. It was just literally intended to pass around at these open mic nights.
Growing up, who was your biggest inspiration?
My dad, when I was really little. He passed away when I was ten. Whatever he would listen to I would be surrounded by; he listened to a lot of country, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash … then Sinatra and Dean Martin and all those guys. I was doing all that stuff for years as a kid and then when I hit teenagehood, I got more into punk rock and hip hop – three chord punk rock, like Minor Threat etc. I was right into that and also Run DMC and Public Enemy, NWA, all that raggedy hip hop stuff too.
Just being able to still do this and do it independently. We have a different set of criteria about what’s important and what I consider successful. We have a set of guidelines as far as how we ethically operate, treat people and what our motivations are. It’s kind of like a check list – are we doing it successfully – and I think we haven’t really wavered from that. Releasing stuff independently, working with everyone who has a similar mindset, never really selling any of that out and still being able to do it after 10 years, I consider a highlight and a success – probably the greatest thing.
For me, success and highlights just come over time, moments of illumination, but the whole thing is a process. There isn’t one kind of “Yes! This is it, we made it”; the highlight is bigger than that. It’s more about a body of work and a set of actions over a longer time. Everything passes – you can’t grab onto anything. The good things are super short, and so are the bad things. It’s kind of like where your heart’s at, where your head’s at while your hands are on the steering wheel is what’s important. I think we’ve maintained a pretty consistent model over a long time.
The Beautiful Girls will be performing on Sunday 11 January 2015
Opening 2:00PM at Finnian’s Irish Tavern
97 Gordon Street, Port Macquarie