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Interview: Will Farrier From You Beauty

We had the pleasure of chatting with Will Farrier, front-man and lyricist from the Sydney pub rock opera band You Beauty, ahead of the release of their second LP ‘ILLYWHACKA’ this Friday, October 23. We talked about love, music, con artists, and all you manipulative weirdos out there.

Hi Will! The first album ‘Jersey Flegg’ was all about footy, and now you’ve moved on to the world of online dating, how did you come up with the concept for ‘ILLYWHACKA’? 

We knew we wanted to do something in the vein of ‘Jersey Flegg’. We didn’t want to rewrite the whole thing, we just wanted the concept to be similar. Almost like the character in ‘Jersey Flegg’ but at a different time of his life. Maybe some Sliding Doors shit happened.

I actually spotted this video online one day about romance scammers and how they ruin your lives. They had this reformed scammer on it and that caught my eye, this idea of someone who was mixed up in some nasty shit but deep down he was a good guy. In ‘Jersey Flegg’ there was the whole redemption of the character. So I was looking for something similar and then I saw that video and I was like “yeah, cool, I can work with that”.

What does ‘ILLYWHACKA’ mean?

People may know Illywhacka from a book by Peter Carey from the 80s or 90s. It was old Australian slang for a con artist or someone who would screw you out of money. His book is about an illywhacka and I was reading it while we were doing this record. It just happened that I was reading about a con artist while I was writing about a con artist. At the start I really loved the book, at the end I fucking hated it. So I was like “Fuck you Peter. You rediscovered this term that had gone out of use, but I’m not going to just let you have it”.

The album follows an online scammer falling in love with his victim Dee, is the story taken from any real life events?

I know people that have been nearly taken advantage of with things like that, like friends parents. I should have actually clocked onto eHarmony and checked it out before I wrote about it. But I didn’t. They’re just stories you hear. It’s interesting to see how people work their magic to manipulate others. The weird shit they come up with that people believe. Your initial reaction is – “well, you gave $100,000 to someone you don’t know and they ripped you off, how could you be so stupid and desperate?” But I didn’t feel comfortable with that description of people. There’s no doubt that they’re naïve, but there’s something beautiful about not being cynical.

If you were an online scammer, what kind of scam would you pull?

I’ve been trying, we’ve been doing this dating site, Inti-mate-connections, which is the great work of a Sydney musician called SPOD. I made the video and then he said, “You’ve got to make a complete site” and he did it all with ’95 word art off Macintosh and he somehow coded the website so that the text was on an angle. It’s so bad, I don’t know how he did it, but it looks amazing.

Speaking of Inti-mate-connections, what kinds of responses did you get from people?

People have been telling me their secrets, they’ve been telling me all kinds of stuff. Some people just asked for a dick pic straight away. I won’t say if it’s been reciprocated or not. The purpose of that was to try and see if I could scam anyone. So with the dating site and even when I’m emailing people, like a support band that I need to pay, I ask for their credit card details. I tell them it’s so I can pay them and they send it through and I’m like “haha, got ya!” I actually got 20 cents out of someone on the chat site.

I think I know who that is…

Yeah, Ruby from Brisbane. Tell her it was actually supposed to be 20 bucks, but I appreciate the gesture. So there you go, I can’t even scam someone I know, let alone someone online.

In both ‘Jersey Flegg’ and ‘ILLYWHACKA’ there is a common thread of love and heartbreak. Would you call yourself a romantic man?

Music makes me a romantic I think, it sets off our emotional reactions. If it wasn’t for listening to pop music, or reading books when you’re growing up, you wouldn’t get an idea of what romance is. I was just thinking about relationships on the record, and there’s some songs that pull it apart. It’s fun to think about all the icky stuff about relationships, all the manipulation. It was cool to do it where the character was saying it, where it wasn’t me saying it. So my girlfriend isn’t like “What the fuck?” – I was just in character! It’s weird to examine it, it can get pretty dark. I just started seeing love and relationships as people trying to get something out of each other.

‘Jersey Flegg’ and ‘ILLYWHACKA’ are “concept albums” and explore the storyline across 10-12 tracks, is that how you work best?

‘Jersey Flegg’ was the first time I had done something like that, and it just worked. I knew I was on to something and it was working. I couldn’t think of any other way of doing it. My life is pretty boring in comparison so it’s a fun way to approach it. But it’s not like it’s not hard, you’ve got to match the arc of the story to the sound.

How did the album come together? Was it a collaboration?

I just get given the songs by the guys and then I’ve got to fit this storyline to the emotions of the songs. In both instances, they’ve just given me an album and are like “here ya go” and I get to order it and do what the hell I want to it. But you’ve still got to order it in a way that makes sense. I’ve got to fit my storyline to that. It’s a cool process, but it’s a pain in the ass. It works in the end.

Did you scrap anything?

I definitely changed the storyline a few times. I definitely had to rewrite two or three [songs]. I had a lot of trouble finding a reason why he would fall in love with Dee. There’s songs where I’ve written that love is the biggest con that you’ll see in your life, but then how do you make him fall in love when he’s signed off on it? I don’t even know if it’s convincing. I don’t really care anymore, it’s too late.  

Do you have a favourite track on the album?

I have some that I like for the recording, some for the performance, some for the lyrics. The same way that the boys hand the music over to me, we then hand it over to a friend of ours who produces it and he gives us something back that we weren’t expecting. The songs are always changing. At the moment I really like Phone Job because it was different for us and it was fun to do a full RnB song. I’m also liking to lyrics on Flake and Chips. Everywhere I Wanna Go is my favourite to play live.

You’ve done footy, now you’ve done online dating, is there anything you want to explore next?

No, I’m not thinking about it. I just spent a year doing this one. I don’t want to. Please don’t make me.

We definitely will though. There was talk of a real ghetto Tony Robbins self-help guide that just tells people that they’re a bunch of fucking pussies and they should stop whinging about their lives. I dare say the character won’t be that dissimilar. He’ll be a lovable, dodgy idiot. The next record won’t be minimal techno or anything. It’ll be the same kinda shit. There’s definitely a formula and we’ll apply that formula until we get bored of it I guess.

And last question, can you lend me 20 bucks?

I can actually, I can lend you 20 bucks. If Ruby pulls through, I can forward it to you. But what do you need it for? You’ve gotta sell it to me. That’s the trick. If it’s weird enough I’ll probably do it.  

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