Periscopes, LaMar, Music, 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 thing of The Beautiful Girls.
Growing up with a single parent in a low-income suburb on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Mat McHugh was enveloped by a constant cacophony of sounds coming from all directions. From the late night skaters blasting punk rock and 80’s hip hop from their ghetto boxes, the rockers in the beach carpark with their windows down and the music blaring through the shimmering Summer air, to the Islander community throwing their Weekly parties soundtracked by sweet bass heavy dub and roots reggae. The vibration was thick, and hard to miss.
After an apprenticeship playing in ‘a million weird little noisy garage band combinations’ forming The Beautiful Girls (named to irk all their ‘punk rocker tough guy friends’ ) would become the perfect vehicle for McHugh’s musical musings. The ride that would help his ‘heart to escape out into the World’. His chance to become a creative voice. For people, finally, to hear his songs.
Beginning as musical collective that started out playing ‘guerrilla gigs’ – jacking open the power box at their local skate bowl – their road would lead from open-mic nights to number 1 albums, glowing reviews, tours, international travel, meetings with heroes, dalliances with villains and an exploration of what was important as artists, musicians and human beings.
The Beautiful Girls debut EP, Morning Sun was officially released at the start of 2002. Originally recorded in 3 hours for $300, it was pressed as a ‘demo’ and something to ‘hand out to friends’. The lead track Periscopes got picked up and became a certified National Triple J radio hit that Summer. The limited edition Goodtimes EP ( a collection of early live favourites) followed that same year.
Morning Sun held the Number 1 position on the Australian Independent Album Chart for nearly 6 months and has since gone on to sell over 100 thousand copies worldwide.
In 2003, The Beautiful Girls released their debut album, Learn Yourself followed by another EP, The Weight Of The World in 2004. Over the next 5 years, 3 more albums followed; We’re Already Gone (2005), Ziggurats (2007) and Spooks (2010).
Learn Yourself, We’re Already Gone and Ziggurats all debuted at Number 1 on The Australian Independent Album Charts and each was selected to be ‘feature album’ on Australia’s National Youth Radio station Triple J. Both Learn Yourself and Ziggurats have since been certified Gold in Australia.
We’re Already Gone garnered ARIA and APRA award nominations as well as being named in Richard Kingsmill’s (Triple J National music director) ’Top 10 Albums of the Year’ list.
Ziggurats also received multiple award nominations with main single, I Thought About You, being nominated for Blues & Roots Work of the Year at the 2008 APRA Awards. The album peaked at Number 19 on the ARIA charts.
The album Spooks released in 2010, peaked at number 18 on the ARIA charts, debuted at number 1 on the Australian Independent Album Chart and number 5 in the US Billboard Reggae Albums Chart.
Spooks, which Mat recorded solo at home in his garage, 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 of emerging weight.’
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 free download 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.
This creative period culminated in the writing and recording of the critically acclaimed Dancehall Days album which was released, under The Beautiful Girls moniker, in late 2014. The album was a short, succinct nod to the formative influences on Mat’s music and the stylistic boundaries were further than ever before. In it’s own way it’s a private, devotional, affair.
Since then The Beautiful Girls have been invited to appear at festivals and special events around the globe. While the band only plays a limited number of shows each year, this is where the depth of the songs, the interaction with the audience and the “spooky, dubby, digital dancehall tinged, rootsy, punky, reggae” music of The Beautiful Girls is at its best.
It’s a sound that The Beautiful Girls invented, and none do it better.
And as Mat says, when once asked what message he wants to put across with his songs –
’As long as there is love there, everything will be okay’.