The Beards, whose third album, Having a Beard is the New Not Having a Beard, has just thrown its stubbly self onto US shores, have taken the concept album to a new level. They are a concept band. Nay, they are concept musicians. They live, breathe eat and sleep Beards. And I was lucky enough to have a chat (disappotingly, not face-to-face (or rather, beard-to-beard)). Guess what we talked about?
GiantMan: So tell me a little about the men underneath the beards. How did you all get together and start making music?
Johann: Well, when we first got together there was no music. Only beards. We would just meet up every week and discuss how good it was to have a beard. Eventually that developed into beard-related poetry readings, and then we would have singalongs where Facey McStubblington (our guitarist) would just strum a ‘B’ chord (B is for beard) for an hour and we would chant the word ‘beard’ over and over. Fortunately, as our beards grew, our songwriting skills developed as well, and now we are definitely an actual band with multiple chords at our disposal.
GM: Why is Having a Beard the new Not Having a Beard?
Johann: Beards are definitely starting to come back into fashion. The last 2 decades were a dark time for beards as companies like Gillette spread their evil influence, and most of society’s role models (sports stars, actors) went beardless. But now we’re seeing a bit of a bearded resurgence – the recent Oscar ceremony was a good example. I don’t want to claim all the credit, but in all probability this is 100% because of us.
GM: Do moustaches or sideburns count?
Johann: No. Moustaches are shit. If you’re shaving off 90% of your facial hair, you really need to have a good hard look at yourself. And sideburns definitely are not a beard. They’re a good start, but not good enough.
GM: And what are your thoughts on neck beards? They’re pretty unpopular, to say the least.
Johann: Our thoughts on neck beards are the same as with all beards: they’re great. The important thing with beards is not what sort of beard you have – the important thing is that you have a beard. Be it a neck beard, a Kerry King-style goatee, a Dave Grohl Woodsman – we accept beards of all shapes and sizes.
GM: The video for the second single off the new album, ‘Got Me a Beard’ portrays bearded men taking over the world. Is this a prophecy? A threat? A warning?
Johann: I’d say it’s all three. The bearded folk of this world have been disrespected and treated as second-class citizens for too long now. It’s time for us to rise up and return the beard to its glory days. Know this: If you don’t have a beard, you’re finished.
GM: Your third album has just hit the US. How many more songs is it possible to write about beards?
Johann: As long as we have beards, we will continue to be inspired to write more songs. People tend to underestimate how much we like beards- we REALLY like them. And we won’t stop writing and performing until everyone in the world has a beard. Then our work will be done.
GM: Much of the album is about the challenges bearded men face. Why do you think there is so much prejudice against beards?
Johann: That’s an interesting question. Hard to say really. I think most of it stems from fear – bearded men are so impressive looking that it’s easy for clean-chins to be scared and intimidated. The beard shouldn’t be feared though – it should be respected and adored. And feared.
GM: Yet history is full of noble beards. Which is your favorite?
Johann: Indeed it is. Having a beard used to be seen as a symbol of wisdom and manliness. Now it’s mostly seen as a symbol of unemployment. There’s lots of good historical beards – our favourites are probably Jesus, Muhammad and Charles Darwin. All excellent beards. Interesting side note: I’m currently unemployed.
GM: The record is pretty varied musically. Are you influenced by any non-bearded musicians?
Johann: We would never listen to anyone without a beard. In fact we rarely listen to anyone at all. Artists like ZZ Top and Cat Stevens have truly great beards, but they don’t write songs about how good beards are, and that’s really all we’re interested in. We’re pretty much only influenced by ourselves.
GM: So what’s your song-writing process like? Do you sit down and work out more ways to sing about beards or do you just feel inspiration coming from your chins and jam?
Johann: Generally, we’ll sit around for a while and just discuss how good it is to have a beard. Then we’ll stroke each other’s beards for a good 15min. After that we’ll usually feel sufficiently inspired to write. If we’re not inspired, more beard-stroking usually does the trick.
GM: Any advice for a man considering growing a beard?
Johann: Yes. The advice is that you should definitely do it. It’s really great. Also important is not shaving. That’s the biggest mistake potential beard-growers make.
GM: And what about those unable to grow facial hair?
Johann: It’s a lame excuse. You just have to try harder. We’ve seen enough bearded women and children in our time to know that anyone can grow a beard if you have the right attitude.
GM: I saved the most challenging for last. What is the single best thing about having a beard?
Johann: That is challenging. There’s just so many good things about having a beard. But I’d say the best thing overall is when you walk down the street, see a guy without a beard, and you just have the knowledge that you are better than him in every single way. It’s a good feeling.
Having a Beard is the New Not Having a Beard is now on general release. The Beards are also embarking on their first World Tour – see some dates here.