"I've lost count of the amount of times we’ve all agreed this is comfortably our favourite piece of work"
It’s pretty safe to say Bugs aren’t Brisbane’s best-kept secret any longer.
What started out as a bedroom project for frontman Connor Brooker has grown to become one of Brissy’s most beloved trios – and as we edge closer to album number three, their nationwide domination looks more and more certain.
They’ve been dishing out catchy, upbeat, punk-infused indie-rock for years, and with each new release their legion of dedicated fans has continued to grow – thanks, in part, to the universally relatable lyrics and the way their songs get wrapped inside your head for days, but also because the community surrounding them feels more like a big group of mates, transcending what it means to be a ‘fan’.
Where Bugs’ 2016 debut album Growing Up introduced the country to a band exploring the limits of their sound, its follow-ups – 2018’s EP Social Slump and 2019 sophomore album Self Help – showcased a band locking in on their identity while exploring a new emotion and vulnerability.
Now, with brilliant new single ‘Diamond’ – the third release since Self Help landed – we now meet a band ready to smash those limits apart.
Bugs 2021 ‘Diamond’ Tour:
- June 5, 2021, – The Tivoli, Brisbane w/ Teenage Joans & Melaleuca
It has been an incredible few years for Bugs. Following the release of Self Help, they jetted off on a huge national tour supporting Aussie rock legends Grinspoon – playing some of their biggest shows to date – before embarking on a sold-out national tour, an appearance at Marion Bay’s Falls Festival, and creating one of 2020’s most talked about Like A Version performances.
COVID-19 saw Bugs change up the rest of their 2020 plans, making the most of easing restrictions in their home state for four sold-out socially distanced shows at The Zoo, slots at Airwaves and In Bloom festivals, and a sold out show with WAAX at The Tivoli.
2021 kicked off with their Like A Version performance of Mallrat’s ‘Charlie’ landing at #91 on the triple j Hottest 100 – the band’s debut on the list landing the year after their own single, ‘Seriously’ snuck in at #194 on the Hottest 200.
It’s safe to say, there isn’t much that can slow Bugs down now.
With the release of ‘Diamond’ – an upbeat, indie-rock tune about greed in capitalist society – we see Bugs soaring full steam ahead into their next chapter, and to make things even better, there’s a new national tour taking them to a stage near you.
If you’re familiar with Bugs already, then you’ll know why this is so exciting – on the live stage is where Bugs do some of their best work. This May and June, they’ll be hitting stages around the country, supported by one of our Artists to Watch this year, Teenage Joans, and Brisbane four-piece Melaleuca.
We sat down with frontman Connor Brooker to get the inside scoop.
Check out ‘Diamond’ by Bugs:
Debuting in the hottest 100 is a huge way to kick off a new year – how did it feel when you heard ‘Charlie’s opening notes?
Connor: Even months later, it is hard to put the feeling into words, just a surreal outpouring of emotion. The whole week was pretty overwhelming. I was really thankful we could all be together on the day to celebrate. Capping it off by playing 2x sold-out shows with Mallrat at the Tivoli that night made it extra special. I live around the corner from the venue (and we also had two shows the night before so everything was all set up / prepared), so it was actually a very cruisy day.
In September, Bugs celebrated the one-year anniversary of your second album ‘Self Help’. Looking back on the album now, what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from it?
Connor: That’s a great question. I can only really speak on my personal behalf, but it’s taught me to believe in our music a lot more. Retrospectively, we were putting that out at a somewhat critical point in our career as a band – hence the self-deprecating journey to accept it’s actually a great record.
Naturally, as a musician you go through cycles of emotions (as recording a release is a much more lengthy and involved process than just listening to one). By the time we put it out, I kind of hated it because I’d poured so much into it, and I used to be much more insecure.
But over the journey of its life, and hearing how much people enjoy it and the impact it has had on them, I’ve grown a deep appreciation and genuine love for Self Help. I think it’s like anything you work intensely closely on, after some separation and breathing space you can finally view it in clear air with a fresh perspective.
Now we’re sitting with another new single ‘Diamond’ – what can you tell us about the message behind the song?
Connor: It’s all about GLUT. I grew up on the Sunshine Coast, and it’s got this polarising disparity amongst the socio-economic classes there. Basically, it seems like the wealth gap is enormous, and as it’s gradually become more gentrified, it’s easy to correlate the increased observation of vanity.
Our society celebrates success, capitalism dictates that generally money/status is the most commonly accepted currency when it comes to pride. We value our appearance over our substance. I’m not throwing stones at my hometown though – as I’ve grown up and experienced more I am realising it’s a problem in general across our whole country (if not the planet).
With each of these new singles, we can really see Bugs cementing your sound and continuing to grow your craft. Heading into album #3, where do you see the band sitting compared to your previous two albums?
Connor: Thank you, that means a lot to read. We’ve always taken pride in our uniquity and totally agree it’s taken us a long time to genuinely grow into.
After touring so much together and learning more about each other as people, we are all totally comfortable as friends and musicians in a creative context – that allows us to produce our most cohesive record to date (by quite a way). I’ve lost count of the amount of times we’ve all agreed this is comfortably our favourite piece of work – we are all genuinely super proud and excited to see how it’s received.
And for once, regardless of that, it won’t really matter how it’s received. When you’re happy and proud of your work, you’re already successful. Anything else that comes after that is a bonus. But, of course, naturally I do HOPE that people enjoy it haha.
After looking after all the recording, mixing, and producing for Self Help, is that part of the creative process something you want to continue keeping in-house?
Connor: We did out of convenience during COVID lockdowns. Brock [Weston, drums] has always worked tirelessly on the engineering of our releases. And we’re always really happy with the end result, so it’s kind of been an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ model for a few years.
We’ve certainly spoken about working with other producers and engineers in the future, I think now that we’ve done three we’re well and truly in a position where we can budget to give Brock a rest and let him focus on just being a member of the band for once while recording – not to say that he hasn’t done an incredible job of that in the past.
When you’ve got the most skilled, cost-effective engineer on the east coast (in my biased opinion), it would be pretty criminal to not utilise that. It’s also helped him grow his client portfolio to the point where his engineering has substantial influence in Brisbane. I’m really proud of him, he’s worked his backside off for such a long time. We basically became friends because he offered to record the first Bugs EP for free when I was just making terrible lo-fi laptop releases, and his commitment and work ethic hasn’t wavered in years. Machine of a human, heart of gold too.
The single also comes with a very exciting tour announcement, which we’ll find out more about soon. How exciting is the prospect of getting back out around the country?
Connor: I can’t understate how much it will mean to be back in a room with all the friends we’ve been missing for so long. It probably sounds a bit cliche or unrealistic, but the connections we’ve made with our ‘fans’ run pretty deep.
I feel a strong, close personal connection with our audiences. If you’ve been to a Bugs show, you’d hopefully understand what I’m talking about. People often describe my ‘performance’ as being jubilant and radiating happiness, but I’ll tell you now it’s not hard to reflect back the energy I’m receiving because that’s what our shows are – an interaction, not a ‘performance’ as such. I’m just soaking up the positivity I witness and distributing it back out amongst the crowd. I MISS MY MATES!
With a new single in hand and a tour on the way, what is next on the horizon for Bugs?
Connor: A big ol’ tour! We’ve been working on the live show, trying to improve and up production a fair bit. Loads of new merch coming, which is super exciting, a couple of festivals locked in and some high budget videos. Music videos are SO MUCH FUN.
Some of the concepts we’re planning to execute this year are ambitious to say the least, but I’m a bit of a traditionalist rage-era kid so I looooove a well thought out, well-produced music clip.
What are some lessons you learned about yourself, the world, the band, etc that have helped make the last 12 months a little more positive?
Connor: To be honest, it was a pretty incredible year for us. I’m a firm believer in the silver lining saying, and 2020 was full of plenty for us.
We got to live a bucket list moment in playing LAV, that opportunity slingshotted us into the back half of the year with more momentum than we could have hoped for. We got to write a record that we’ve ended up hugely proud of. We got better at communicating; we had some really hard conversations that helped us all grow.
Most importantly, we’re all still here doing it together, after a myriad of excuses to throw in the towel and quit – Jordan [Brunoli, bass], Broz, and Ruby [Jean-McCabe, management] are like my family, and I’m so thankful and lucky they are a part of my life, regardless of the band stuff.
What we’ve done in the last few years together is something to be proud of. And, I guess, I’m finally allowing myself to be proud of it, so it’s a nice place to be.
Bugs’ new single ‘Diamond’ is out now. They’ll celebrate its release with a huge hometown show at The Tivoli, Brisbane on Saturday June 5. Tickets are on sale via Ticketmaster.com.au.
Keep up to date on all things new music here on Ticketmaster Discover.