Interview with Nathaniel Beard of The Beards
The world’s favourite beard-related propaganda band The Beards are about to tour Australia again, celebrating ten years of beards, beard-related songs, and general beardy mayhem.
Congratulations on ten glorious years together and the release of your compilation double-album, ‘Ten Long Years, One Long Beard’! What’s the most significant change you’ve experienced since the band first formed?
I’d have to say the biggest change has been people’s attitudes towards beards. When we started back in 2005, people with beards were put under constant pressure to shave – there was kind of this low-level background discrimination taking place. Over the last ten years beards have very much moved towards the mainstream and around the world, the beard scene is thriving. Of course, with the new-found popularity the beard, there’s a certain amount of anti-beard backlash that takes place – but that’s just tall poppy syndrome. Many beardless individuals feel really threatened by beards, and that fear breeds hatred, and that hatred causes those individuals to do stupid things like publish bogus articles filled with pseudo-science falsely claiming that facial hair contains faecal matter. So yeah that’s been the biggest change for us – that and our beards have gotten longer.
You spend a lot of time in each other’s company, especially when on tour. How do you kill time when travelling from one venue/country to the next?
We often play games like “Spot That Beard” – the gist of which is you keep your eyes out for a beard and when you see one, everybody wins. We also play a game called “Beard the Beard on the Beard”, the rules of which are too complicated to go into now but it basically involves vigorously rubbing beards with each other for extended periods of time.
What’s been the biggest challenge faced in the past ten years together?
Financially speaking, being an unsigned, independent novelty band is probably not the wisest of career decisions, and that’s always been one of the biggest challenges for us – just keeping our heads above water. Being an Aussie touring and recording band involves a huge amount of expenses for often minimal monetary gains, and that financial pressure can cause and has caused some of our grimmest times. Luckily we’re not in it for the money, we’re in it for the beard-propagation.
Music equipment aside, which belongings do you always ensure are on tour with you, no matter what?
Our singer Johann Beardraven is always sure to bring a large suitcase full of aviator sunglasses – he wears them all the time, including on stage and at night, so he often damages them when he walks into walls.
Do you ever fear that your gear will be damaged in transit? Have there been any disasters or near misses in the past?
On the whole, considering how often our gear is in transit we’ve had very few issues with equipment getting lost or not arriving on time. But ultimately we’re not too concerned about our musical equipment really, musical instruments are a bit of a distraction and frankly we find them to be a bit gimmicky. If we got rid of them entirely there’d be a lot more emphasis on our beards, and we are a band that very much aspires to put an emphasis on beards.
Your pro-beard anthems express a combination of life advice, experiences and stories mixed with copious amounts of comedy gold. How much beard research goes into the brainstorming sessions when writing new lyrics and what percentage is based on real life?
All of our songs are at least semi-autobiographical, except for ‘The Beard Accessory Store’, which is 100% auto-biographical.
Not only have you recently released your milestone compilation double-album ‘Ten Long Years, One Long Beard’, you’ve also released a brand new single sharing the same title, accompanied by a ‘best of’ music video which celebrates a decade of touring, recording and growing beards. Were there any particular pieces of footage that didn’t make the cut, that you wish did?
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you entire clip could have been comprised of nothing but shots of us making out with each other – probably two or three film clips actually, without repeating a single shot. I really had no idea how often we were making out with each other until we went through all of this footage – there was just a staggering amount of footage of us making out – and that’s just the times when there was a camera rolling. We just really like each other and really like beards.
How has the use of social media shaped the way you interact with your fan base? Are there any advantages or limitations?
It’s been an indispensable tool for us – our band came into existence the same year Youtube started. Myspace was new too and we were able to reach fans overseas more than five years before we even had any idea we’d get to tour outside of Australia. In 2007 when Facebook came along that helped massively too, and from 2009 we were able to reach an even wider international audience through our music videos on Youtube. So it’s been great for us, and I’d say there’s been way more advantages than limitations.
What’s the beardiest thing a fan has done at one of your shows?
Wow – that’s a hell of a question. I mean – people have done some pretty fucking beardy stuff at our shows! On the Central coast of NSW, two bearded guys got up on stage, one of them got down on his knees, the second guy put his beard into the first guy’s mouth and proceeded to pour Bundy and Coke through his beard and into the first guy’s mouth – and the guy skulled the whole thing – filtered through his mate’s beard. That was pretty beardy. I’d be tempted to say it was too beardy, but there’s no such thing.
If you could swap beards with someone for a day, would any of you take up the offer and if so, which person/character would you swap with?
I’m a big believer in just embracing the beard you are given – who are we to play god with our beards? After all, God has a great beard, so I’m sure he knew what he was doing when he decided who would be getting what beard.
Five questions for fast responses:
- Bird watching or whale watching? I guess bird watching as it sounds more like beard watching.
- Which two cereals are best eaten together? We don’t eat cereal – it’s too much of a liability.
- Which historical figure, living or dead, would you most love to share a beer with and why? Alexander the ‘Great’ – who famously imposed a beard ban on his armies. I’d want to be able to sit down with this clown and give him a piece of my mind.
- Favourite board game? It’s a card game called Love Letter and it’s probably our favourite time-wasting game aside from ‘Spot the Beard’ and ‘Beard the Beard on the Beard’. Love Letter is a thrilling game of deduction and seduction. But we mainly play it because the ‘King’ card has a beard.
- Which artist (painter/sculptor/cartoonist/photographer etc.) would you most love to create a band portrait of The Beards and why? Our long-time collaborator Chris Edser, who has been responsible for all of our visual design, posters and cover art over the years. I’d choose him because he knows our beards so intimately – I’d be reluctant to trust anybody else to get our beards right.
What has been one of your favourite career highlights to date?
Probably meeting and working with so many of the amazing people that make up the music industry here in Australia and abroad – there are just so many great people working in so many essential areas and on the whole they tend to be deadset legends who are very talented and very passionate about what they do. There are sound engineers, tour managers, booking agents, other bands, band managers, stage techs, merch sellers, drivers, publicists, journalists, lighting guys and gals… just such an overwhelming amount of people who have worked with us and supported us over the years – it’s been amazing to have gotten to know them and to have been a part of this industry. Ontop of that, another highlight for us has been that the Australian music industry has not just dismissed our bizarre beard-themed band as an outright joke. Being nominated for various awards and getting included on the line-ups of major festivals has been an honour for us and these things greatly exceed any expectations we had when we decided that beard-rock was our calling.
Most people who learn to read music are probably aware of the phrase ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit’ (or similar) to remember the order of lines on the treble clef, EGBDF. If you were teaching a beginner’s music class, what would you transform that phrase into?
None of us can read or even enjoy music, but I guess we’d change it to Every Grey Beards Deserve Fanfare.
Currently you’re touring parts of the northern hemisphere but will soon be coming back to Australian for your ‘Ten Long Years, One Long Beard!’ tour, kicking off at the Caloundra Music Festival on October 2. What’s the best aspect of playing live for a beard-loving crowd?
We love preaching to the converted – and it is often like a religious ceremony at our shows – only with lots more drinking, lots more revealing and lots more public shaming.
Finally, what is your biggest goal for 2016?
I guess ideally our goal for next year would be to convince every single man, woman and child to grow a beard.
This interview was first published on 2 October 2015 for Amnplify.