Miami Horror is one of those bands that takes you unawares. Not knowing what to expect of a name that brings images of both the deco-scaped skyline and, for lack of other descriptions, ‘horror’, leads to quite the listening experience. While tracks like "Don’t Be On With Her" bring images of Prince to mind, "Sometimes" conjures up the familiar warmth of New Order guitars while "Imagination" delivers Cheap Trick to the modern era. These are all comforting influences mixed in with tracks of pure electronic disco goodness and ethereal female vocals. It’s a mixed bag but beautifully so, and will keep you dancing for its entirety. With some songs having been written over six years before their release on debut album Illumination, producer Benjamin Plant and company have had time to perfect their art. Perfection isn’t far off the mark for such a polished and still humane album.
Hailing from a sunny place such as Australia isn’t so strange when comparing to Miami itself and that’s where I see them tonight at the historic and insanely beautiful Fontainebleau where the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley played and movies such as Goldeneye and Scarface were filmed. Even on a limited timeline of about only five songs in a crowd that is mostly known for it’s mainstream VIP crowd, Liv was alive and dancing away to this group of musicians. QRO got a chance to sit and chat with Benjamin Plant and crew before the set.
QRO: So Miami horror in Miami…
Benjamin Plant: Yes [laughs]
QRO: We are certainly glad to have you, what made you think of the name being on the other side of the world and all?
BP: It was probably influenced a little bit by the idea of Miami first and foremost, what you would generally associate with it, the whole art deco thing. But it was more the choice of the two words working together because of the visual aspect of it, both make you think of different visuals and then as a word they are quite hilarious quite strong.
QRO: So now that you are here does it live up to your vision?
BP: Um no. [laughs] It wasn’t really too related to Miami, yeah it’s little bit awkward playing a place you’ve named yourself after.
QRO: How do you feel the reception has been for the band in the states?
BP: We’ve had a better reaction then I thought we would. Just more. Considering we thought no one would know the songs, or just one or two. We’ve had a really good reaction the whole way through.
QRO: Speaking of the songs, you’ve been working on this album for three years – do you feel from the starting of the album to the end how have you changed as an artist and kept it cohesive?
BP: It’s still cohesive, obviously we’ve kept it consistent, but yeah, from start to finish we made sure it was a progressive blend so that every track relates to something else at least. So there’s that consistency there. From start to finish some tracks like "Moon Theory" was six years old when I started it and then there were tracks from over the years I brought together. And then the second half we all wrote together in the last year.
QRO: You have several vids: "Don’t Be On With Her", "Sometimes", "Moon Theory"… With the latter vids it looks like there is a theme going, was that intentional, and what’s it about?
BP: Well we had ideas but it was like we have to let the production company take it where they want, because they do that or they really won’t do the clip. Um, "Sometimes" was a little bit of a reinterpretation of this idea we were basing around this movie Logan’s Run – it’s like an old seventies movie. The whole idea was meant to be more about escapism but they turned it into more of discovery. The only reason that it came through a little bit in "Moon Theory" was because the label said you have to connect it somehow so we were okay we will stick the same thing at the end. Otherwise the idea was totally separate.
QRO: So you just took the logo of…
BP: Logo of that city thing. Yeah.
QRO: So do you plan on continuing the theme with future singles and video clips?
BP: Well, when we did "Sometimes" originally, it was meant to be a three part series I guess. There was going to be discovery and escapism with "Moon Theory". We basically weren’t happy enough with the first video and how it came out. It was meant to look timeless not like two kids of today in shorts running away so they ruined the whole vibe in a way and we said, ‘Screw it, we’ll make separate videos now.’
QRO: So you were not pleased with how it turned out [laughs]
BP: Like it was good, but yeah, it ruined the vision a little bit. Of course we are happy because people loved it, but in terms of the vision it didn’t really get there.
Miami Horror’s video for "Moon Theory":
QRO: You started out as a DJ/solo artist but throughout the making of the album brought in and incorporated a whole band. How did that come along and how did it influence the album?
BP: Well I wrote a lot of the songs myself. Bits and pieces here. And then there were a few songs me and Josh [Moriaty, guitar] started 50/50 with an idea I started and then we just wrote it together. Me and Dan [Whitechurch, keys/bass] wrote "Sometimes". Me and Josh wrote "Don’t Be On With Her", which obviously wasn’t on the album but it was just… bringing it together and then going, ‘Well, okay, to do this live this will be the best way.’ Then we realized we were playing the EP live and it was too electronic-based and it just didn’t really work. So we had to bring the guitar element in.
QRO: So when playing live how close does it come to the album?
BP: Well, yeah, the guitar work especially and the live drums steps it upend takes the ideas a bit further. It’s just because we are playing a short set and my two favorite songs aren’t even in the set. Hopefully people still get a reasonable idea of what we’re doing. I can’t really say how it will sound. I’m not totally sure how with those parts cut out but usually the guitars will be more psychedelic – Josh plays around delays and effects and weird sounds so it brings that out more.
QRO: To go back to the vids, the video for "Don’t Be On With Her" features setting of an old foreign music TV program on VHS. This seems to be a theme with a few videos from other artists…
BP: Yeah we’ve seen a few… All those other vids, there was a Lily Allen one too with the introduction. It was just seventies though. Did you see that one? It was her on stage very country and seventies style. And another one. There threw the tracking in and the intro it would have to be coincidence but it’s the exact same thing we did.
[We pause to watch music vids on someone’s laptop]
QRO: Which vid was your favorite to film?
BP: Um, probably "Don’t Be On With Her". Because we were on film, we didn’t film any of the others.
QRO: That was hilarious, that video is hilarious.
BP: It was kind of a dated idea then a little bit. We were waiting so long to make it happen. It was probably perfect for them to do because Warren that came up with the stage and the set and that was an important part. I think it’s very lucky that it came out so well. They put it to tape three times to get that effect. It made the colors bleed and the lights were just blurred onto everything from being on tape. It’s pretty amazing. It’s usually like that with videos where they cut with eighties thing and then they cut back to the normal thing cause the record labels are too scared to go all the way. So the whole point we did it so that it’s confusing that you can’t tell it’s new just because it’s so over the top, production-wise. The whole idea was to confuse people and that they couldn’t really tell if it was new or old and that happened a lot. People couldn’t tell that it was new and then they discovered we were new.
QRO: So it was purposeful to go with a retro type sound.
BP: Um, I guess the song just happened that way. The song was three years old when it came out so I was kinda over it, but I knew that a lot of people still liked it.
Miami Horror’s video for "Don’t Be On With Her":
QRO: Yeah, how does that work that some of these songs are so old, like six years for some of them but to the audience they are new, how do you keep playing them?
BP: Well with "Don’t Be On With Her", that’s the only old one we play now. For me anyways this guitar solo it’s a bit novel and the rest of the songs aren’t novel at all. That’s the only one with an issue for me. "Moon Theory", that’s six years old we’ve changed it so much and modernized it. It’s cohesive with what we are doing and with the sounds now. We are lucky it fit.
QRO: You’ve mentioned Lily Allen – you’ve played with her. What are some of your favorite people to have played with?
BP: We played with Phoenix (QRO live review); we did the most shows with them. They are also nice.
QRO: Any interesting tour stories?
BP: Hmm, there are so many but I can’t remember.
QRO: Come on, there has to be one.
BP: [chuckles] Well, there’s a funny tour story from last night but you aren’t going to hear that one. [laughs] We’ll leave it to the part where everyone was naked except me. In that pool – we got a bit drunk and everyone was walking around naked and nobody said anything.
QRO: [laughs] Well you’re in Miami…
BP: Well apparently that’s actually okay; nobody is going to say anything. It’s 2am. There was all the bar staff still working and the pool cleaners and they let it happen
[one of the other band members said, "They loved it"]
I think there was definitely some better stories but I can never remember. Maybe I need to write a list for occasions like this so then I can have just five of them. Another one was probably in Perth, Dan and Josh, which is the singer and guitarist and the frontman in that video, and Aaron the drummer. They climbed up these two poles on this festival tent that was scaffolding cause they’re idiots and then they got back down and they got kicked out. And we played there.
QRO: Without them?
BP: No we played and then they did it.