Miami Horror On Nostalgia In Music

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By Garry Lu (@mrputneyswope

Melbourne indietronica band Miami Horror have a sound that’s deliciously nostalgic. As many prepare to feast on their imminent appearance at the Hot Dub Wine Machine winery events and hosted block parties, and with a new single, Leila, currently on the airwaves, we sat down with Benjamin Plant, producer, DJ, and founder of the band.

As the group’s producer, how rigorously do you curate every detail to maintain that signature Miami Horror style? Or is it more of a free collaborative pastiche taken from all corners of the 70s and 80s?

For me, our music isn’t necessarily about the 70s or the 80s. Sound design is the key element for me and I just happen to prefer a lot of synthesis and effects from that era… One of the main reasons I enjoy music or got into music was the ‘design’ aspect of it. Our first album was especially, like each song was made with an idea of what it was going to sound like as opposed to ’writing a song’… I was quite sure at that stage in my life… It was kind of aesthetically sculpted, more like you would create a piece of graphic design than a song.. That was the important thing for me. And now we kind of put more emphasis on the song writing and just try to ensure it is built with interesting sounds and production. I feel like sounds are almost like a picture, they really give you a setting.

They say fashion is essentially a circle. What’s in and trendy may lose popularity, but return again. I know you said before that you’re not just about the 70s and 80s, but having made disco and retro inspired songs danceable again, would you agree that music is essentially of a cyclical nature as well?

I think elements of it are. Everyone always seems to incorporate some element of the past, that's how music progresses. Disco did definitely come back for a while and elements of it are still appearing in the mainstream. I mean when you think about DJs, there’s not really that much left to play that’s that hasn’t already been done. Currently modern stuff is sounding very similar, house music, techno or deep house… it’s all quite repetitive. Whereas you can bring in a little bit more colour with something like disco which is why i prefer that era.

So you agree it’s the whole thing of nostalgia, the new bringing on this longing for the past, and you slip in the product that sort of relieves that twinge?

Yeah, I mean, the whole time I’ve been in the music industry, it’s always seemed to have some element of nostalgia at any given point. It seems to always be influenced by that generation’s childhood almost. So whether people were referencing 70s or 80s, which they were doing for quite a while, now it’s kind of 90s. A lot of the rhythms and sound choices are straight out of the 90s. And we’re now probably moving into the early 2000s in the next few years as well.

Fleetwood Mac, as well as several other music icons from the 70s to 80s are actually returning because entertainment like Guardians of the Galaxy featuring them…
Not to say they ever truly exited, but there’s a definite spike in their mainstream exposure. As a notable fan of that entire era, is this satisfying to see? 

I mean, it’s not enough right now that I can say it’s a big deal or something new. As you’ve said, they’d never really gone. It is interesting to see twenty-year old’s playing Fleetwood Mac that mostly listen to current house music and stuff. But I feel like they’re one of those bands that everyone eventually learns about… [Flight Facilities] were doing the decade sets recently where they played music from the 80s to 2000s, and they included all that stuff. I’m surprised how well it goes down, because they really got a whole young generation of people into that music that they’d previously probably never even heard of.

Starting out parallel to Kavinsky, as well as the synthwave, nu-disco movement, there wasn’t much of a precedent bar Daft Punk. Was this difficult to pitch to people in the early days, before there was substantial era revival electronica? 

Nah. At the time that I was getting into producing electronic music, everyone was starting to get into it. Indie acts inspired by 70s and 80s were starting to bringing that in so it seemed quite easy to do then. It was kind of like how people are into minimal and 90s house influences at the moment, it everyone can become a problem because everyone starts to sounds similar.

Especially with these more minimal genres using the same sounds, its gets to the point where a lot of this stuff won’t be remembered. This happened in the 70s with disco singles, 90s too, with hip house and stuff. If it’s too ‘of the moment’ it eventually completely disintegrates. It’s kind of annoying to be making music in a time where I know a lot of it will be forgotten, you can never predict how people will look back on it, which is why we try to do something different and more classic.

Can you give us a hint about anything for the tracks to be released? 

We had a strong vision for this EP. It’s rhythmic, percussive and full sharp energetic kind of guitars. A bit of David Byrne-esque shouting and monotone vocals, and then a lot of funk elements too. It's heavily inspired by Talking Heads and those bands I was mentioning before in that era; Orange Juice. Split Enz, A.R. Kane. So the concept also involves the music being heavily inspired by visual art. Shapes, lines, colours. It’s pretty different to things we’ve done in the past. And after this, I think we’ll switch back to something a little bit more melodic and emotional again.

In a few weeks you'll join Hot Dub Time Machine, PNAU, Paces and more onstage as part of a new winery event series - Hot Dub Wine Machine - before headlining your own block parties. What form will the upcoming Australian live shows take on - will they be similar to your recent performances on the US circuit? Can Australian fans expect to experience some Miami Horror classics live, alongside your new music? 

We’ll be playing at least three new songs from the EP as well as brining in a dance remix of our song Stranger. We’ve been playing the same live set for a while so it will be awesome to change up such a huge chunk of it. We’ll probably be playing “The Shapes” in full for our block parties.

May I take this time to request a cover of Xanadu in your live set?

(Laughs.) We’ll see… I haven’t heard the song for so long. I’d have to listen… for all I know you might be onto something genius.

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Tickets for Miami Horror Block Parties in Sydney and Perth via - http://miamihorrorblockparty.com

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Tickets for Hot Dub Wine Machine from - www.hotdubwinemachine.com (Yarra Valley nearing sell-out, Swan Valley sold out).