Brighton is a well known place in pop culture. From shiny Vespa’s and the mod scene to Fatboy Slim’s Big Beat Boutique the city on the british coast has been a good place for subculture in the past. The Miserable Rich are a folk band who show, that the tourist place is still interesting when it comes to music.Singer and songwriter James De Malplaquet talks about his art and his home town.
Buzz: Your new album is just in stores now. How do you feel about it? Are you satisfied with the outcome?
James: We’re really happy with the way it’s turned out. You never really know exactly how it will be, and the creative process often involves narrowing down the infinite possibilities of a song. The end result is often different in many unexpected ways – and this album, though planned and produced by ourselves, certainly has a life of its own.
Buzz: In the past your sound was described as “chamber pop”. Are you happy with the description? Do you understand, why journalists call you that?
James: I think musicians are always a little uncomfortable with the categories people come up with for them, though it’s usually pretty easy to see why people choose them. We certainly understand the ‘chamber music’ stuff – though we pretty much think we’re and indie-rock band who lost their electric guitars and found some strings. The new album even sounds a bit psychedelic – like a long-lost ‘Love’ album
Buzz: The songs of The Miserbale Rich seem to be influenced by classical music. What else inspires your songwriting?
James: There are loads of things really. Although there’s obviously classical influences on the album form Will on cello – some may notice a little bit of Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ on one track – Mike on violin loves indie, Jim is a classic rocker, Rhys loves jazz, and I was brought up on soul from my mother and big band swing from my father. And that’s all before we get to the lyrics.
Buzz: Do you consider The Miserable Rich an orchestra or a band?
James: We are very much a band. The sounds we’ve made on “Of Flight and Fury” is a bit more epic and widescreen than before, but anyone who’s seen us before will know that there is a certain raw directness to our live stuff. We do have a fantasy to play in a huge opera house someday, each of us conducting our own section. Ah, dreams….
Buzz: Do you think living in Brighton as a tourist place has an influence on your music?
James: Not as a tourist place, but certainly there is one song written about falling in love with what we call a ‘yummy mummy’ in a small town. Sneaking around trying not to get seen by all the other mums and people who know you. It’s called “Somerhill” – the name of the street with two schools between Rhys’, Jim’s and my house, and includes lots of Brighton reference points, including my favourite pub.
Buzz: There is a line in the song “The mouth of the wolf” that goes: “if you’re afraid of the wolf, don’t go into the woods alone”. You could understand this in two different ways. Should you not go into the woods at all or just look for somebody to come with you?
James: You should go if the desire is strong enough. If you’re only half convinced, it’ll never work. It is a romantic song, about fighting for what you love, and it comes from a Russian saying. I guess the English equivalent would be “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”. I like theirs better – especially as my partner thinks she is a wolf – but I’d like to hear the German version.
Buzz: Another song on the new record which I really like is “Hungover” with the line “and in the morning I will be the man I wanted to be”. Does music help you to become that man?
James: Wow, if it were only that simple. I’ve met plenty of artists – not just musicians – who make incredibly beautiful things – but aren’t the most thoughtful, kind or considerate. Personally, being creative – in music and in other things – helps me to feel better. I’m not sure it makes me a better man though – maybe I’m just selfishly pursuing my own creativity. I guess the song is about sliding between the two feelings of hope and desperation that often come as the aftereffects of drinking too much.
Buzz: When did you first know, that you wanted to become a musician?
James: I think most of the band knew very early. Rhys and Mike both had classical training. Jim has been playing for years and claims he’s been in about 30 bands – but Will first studied as a scientist at Oxford University. I guess three years of that was enough for him. As for myself, I grew up around lots of musicians as my father was a jazz and session drummer. I never thought “that’s what I want to do”, although I did get to play with plenty of instruments – very badly. I still don’t think I’m a musician really – although I do admit that I sing and write songs.
Buzz: You covered songs by The Stranglers, Iggy Pop, Eurythmics and the Pixies. Would you call these bands influences and why?
James: Not really. I love the Pixies in particular – who doesn’t? But I could hardly say any of them were big influences. In fact, we generally only cover things we think it might be strange for us to do.
Buzz: Your record is released by the german label Hazelwood. How did you get in touch with the guys?
James: In all honesty, it was just a bit of luck. One of their founders – Wolfgang Gottlieb – was watching football on tv – he’s a big Frankfurt fan - with his headphones attached to the computer but lying on the floor. He was absent-mindedly surfing myspace when he heard our stuff. He picked up the headphones and listened again. Then he noticed we weren’t signed and got in touch. We were recording at the time and I was just concentrating on that. I took a month to reply, but he was persistent –and very enthusiastic. I suppose it’s just one of those lucky things. He says he doesn’t usually bother with myspace – and the football match must have been really boring that day.
- buzzpop posted this