Periscopes, LaMar, Blackbird and I Thought About You, amazing performances all over the planet, the voice of Mat McHugh, heart-on-the-sleeve songs, pioneering Australia’s surf-roots-reggae sounds – these are things fans worldwide think of when they think of The Beautiful Girls.
From the fateful evening on which Mat McHugh decided that playing an open mic night was the way to win the girl of his dreams, the path for The Beautiful Girls has been adventurous, winding and often unexpected. That evening led to the formation and naming of the band, the outfit who provided the means for McHugh’s musical musings. His role in the band was the front man and creative force, which led to glowing reviews, tours, international travel, meetings with heroes, dalliances with villains and an exploration of what was important as a human being, an artist and a man.
The Beautiful Girls kicked it all off in 2002 with the debut EP, Morning Sun. The track Periscopes became a certified Triple J radio hit that summer and the Goodtimes EP, followed that same year. In 2003, The Beautiful Girls released their debut album, Learn Yourself followed by another EP, The Weight Of The World in 2004. Three more albums succeed, We’re Already Gone (2005), Water (2006) and Ziggurats (2007). Ziggurats’ main single, I Thought About You, was nominated for Blues & Roots Work of the Year at the 2008 APRA Awards. The album Spooks released in 2010, peaked at number 18 on the ARIA charts, debuted at number 1 in the Australian Independent Chart and number 7 in the US Billboard Reggae Albums Chart. Spooks, which Mat recorded with longtime co-producer Ian Pritchett, was described as ‘a majestic production where stylistic threads run deep’ which showcased Mat’s ever-solid song writing and his skill as a player of many instruments and producer. In the eight years to 2010, McHugh and the collective that comprised the live version of The Beautiful Girls, chalked up a dozen world tours, travelling to Japan, Europe, Canada, the United States and South America. Fans of Mat’s music span the globe.
In 2010, McHugh ‘rested’ The Beautiful Girls while he encountered the joys of fatherhood for the first time, not sure whether that moniker would be used again. He released a solo album, Love Come Save Me in January 2012 then toured the USA and his beloved South America in 2013 for a series of solo live performances, all the while holding his past work close to him stating that, “All those Beautiful Girls tracks plus new and solo songs are on the short list for the live set. It’s all part of the work I do”.
And all the while McHugh has been thinking, experiencing the world, looking for inspiration, working with the close collective that formed the core of The Beautiful Girls and continuing to write.
Then: “I started writing the latest album with the intention of it being a Mat McHugh album but the songs started taking on a life and sound of their own. When I stood back from them I was able to see that I was being steered into a particular direction. They all sounded like “The Beautiful Girls’. It’s hard to explain it but I know it when I hear it. Spooky, dubby, digital dancehall tinged, rootsy, punky, reggae music mashed up with some mellow acoustic sea songs”.
The new album Dancehall Days was released on McHugh’s Separatista label in October 2014 followed by a highly attended national tour of selected festivals and venues. The fans danced and sang along to, as one reviewer put it ‘a combination of pulsing rhythm, emotive vocals and philosophical lyrics, they really couldn’t go wrong. Along with their magnetic performance, these guys killed the crowd with dancing”.
The music is flowing, the band is in shape and they are going to present the familiar and the soon-to-be-familiar songs of The Beautiful Girls across their homeland and the World in 2015.
As McHugh says about live performance “To me, music is far too precious to exist in a box, I think a song is born and dies in a moment and in that, becomes a new definition. Playing live, I never know what’s going to happen and that’s exactly the way I like it. As long as there is love there though, everything will be okay”.