“It’s actually a really famous Australian book by Peter Carey from the mid-80s,” explains Will Farrier, the lead vocalist, lyricist and percussionist in the band. “I decided to steal it from him – I figured it wasn’t really his to use in the first place. He got the term from this old colonial Australian term for someone that’s a bit of a trickster or a confidence man. I thought to myself, ‘Peter, you’ve had your chance. It’s my turn to take back the word and drag it into the 21st century vernacular. I’m hoping that he’ll find out about it and get really upset and maybe want to sue us.”
The band’s second LP – the slightly-changed Illywhacka – follows on roughly eighteen months after their debut, Jersey Flegg; which saw them tell the tale of a disgraced rugby league star. Although it gave the band an in and an angle – the ‘footy band,’ if you will – Ferrier makes it clear that the character and his arc was written and created purely for Jersey Flegg. “It was never a case of prolonging that,” he says. “When we were first starting to play shows, you’d have guys turning up in their footy jerseys and their shorts and everything. Everytime I saw that, I just thought to myself about how disappointed they were going to be. I’m sure there will be some people who just liked the footy subject matter or whatever, and that’s fine, but it was never about the one thing for us.”
Illywhacka follows the story of an online scam artist who has set up a profile on a dating website, looking for rich older women to steal money from. He picks his pray, Dee; but things go afoot when the scammer falls for her. His behaviour is similarly reprehensible to that of the footy star in Jersey Flegg, and the lyrics attempt to gaze into the psyche of such a wayward being from inside his own mind. “I was looking for the same kind of character,” says Ferrier. “Maybe what that character from Jersey Flegg might have been doing in another life. We didn’t want to change the blueprint so much – we just knew it had to have certain aspects that were different. I found some articles online that I found really interesting – just the mentality behind the kind of guys that will do this sort of thing. I read so many stories about these women getting chased online for their cash – it’s pretty full-on when you stop and think about it.”
You Beauty formed two years ago, a hybrid of some of the Australian underground’s great unsung bands such as Mere Women, Absolute Boys and Ohana. Although all members are now based in Sydney, the four members were previously split between there, Wollongong and Melbourne; meaning that a lot of Jersey Flegg was written by correspondence. Now with a central location, the songwriting process for Illywhacka was considerably easier; allowing for more breathing space and a chance to explore some further layers of the band’s still-developing sound.
“The stories are shaped by the songs that the rest of the band gives to me,” says Ferrier. “I hear what they’ve been working on, get some ideas in my head and just start writing with whatever I have in mind. For Jersey Flegg, the whole thing was already done. I had to come in and write around each structure – it had to be right down to the beat. They couldn’t go back and re-record anything or make a part longer or anything like that. At least, for this record, I had demos to work with. If I needed a little more rope or if they hadn’t given me enough to work with, we were able to go back and forth a bit easier. I feel more way out of the pocket on this one.”
Although Jersey Flegg and now Illywhacka are both albums with concepts behind them, Ferrier is still turned off by the phrase ‘concept album.’ There might be a lot to think about concerning the moral ground in which his characters stand upon and the actions they choose, but You Beauty are not trying to get too dense or philosophical. They still view it as a band that is simple, straightforward and – more to the point – fun. “A lot of it really is just tongue-in-cheek,” he affirms. “Like, we’re dealing with albums that are about half an hour in length here. It’s not supposed to be some sort of grand commentary on things – it’s a story with an arc, the character evolves and it ends on an ambiguously-positive note. I mean, Ray Warren’s in the first album. Tracy Grimshaw’s in this one. It’s a cheap laugh. My ideas of concept albums are complete wankery – The Mars Volta or Pink Floyd going on about god-knows-what. We’re more interested in the storytelling.”
Illywhacka is out now via Rice is Nice.