On the page it’s either a genius idea or one that’s going to see you perform no further than the open mic night at your local boozer. James De Malplaquet had been playing his confessional songs solo for a while but was advised to give them the band treatment. The indie rock outfit he formed overpowered the subtleties but an invite into folk supergroup Shoreline gave him the brainwave to drag his very modern songs into elegant classical instrumentation.
Cello, violin, double bass and acoustic guitar gave a refined, chamber orchestra feel to songs about sex, drugs and generally making a little bit of a twat out of yourself. But a bit of English charm will take you a long way, and luckily for The Miserable Rich they’ve got bags of it meaning that the juxtaposition works. So where has it taken these Willkommen Collective members? Well, across Europe, up and down the UK motorways and into various BBC radio studios for a raft of live sessions. And according to our ears – and the reviews that have started to appear – their second album ‘Of Flight & Fury’ is going to take them so much further.
With a bigger, turn-of-the-70s widescreen psychedelia sound this time out, the LP is perfectly timed for warm summer evenings, coming on like a lost Love acoustic album. But while the strings soar the lyrics still have a bite, even if that bite is normally directed at the narrator himself. Prime example is ‘Let It Fade’, a break up song so unflinching that it admits that James’ soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend is no longer having orgasms. Elsewhere ‘Somerhill’ – named after the local school – tells of impossible discretion in the seduction of a yummy mummy, and ‘Chestnut Sunday’ if full of post-cocaine regret. “I guess the whole theme of the album is some kind of escape from the kind of the drudgery that’s been going on through the country for the last year or so,” says James. “So it might be escape through overindulgence, it might be escape through romanticism and poetry, and it might be just sort of raw anger.”
It may sound like the two elements would jar, but the thing that ties the music and the lyrics together is that they’re both full of soul. “Acoustic music tends to be a lot about love affairs and unrequited love,” explains James. “We try to avoid that because we feel that there’s so much more to write about. I think we’re like that musically too. We never want to make things too obvious. But it still has to be approachable – it needs to be very human, we don’t want it to be too intellectual.” But with no electric instruments or drums it would be easy for the band to be chin-stroking clever clogs. However there’s a whole raft of influences that come together to form a swirling, warm, inviting sound that’s rich with feeling. The violins have an indie element from Mike, joined to a classical influence from Will’s cello, while guitarist Jim brings classic rock from his Clearlake days.Meanwhile Reece’s jazz props drives the bass and James’ vocals have the soul rawness from his upbringing.
For a bunch of musicians so talented they’re in demand from so many bands it’s a struggle even to get a practice session together, let alone an album, The Miserable Rich live a surprising shambolic life – especially when they get on the road and the drink starts to flow. On previous outings they’ve lost passports in the minutes between passport control and boarding the plane, left the whole tour’s takings on a hostel pool table and dropped the night’s wages in the middle of the venue. But while they’ve learned not to do business backstage at a festival while guzzling absinth, things tend to turn out alright in the end.
It was no different on their recent tour of Europe. This time out German venue double booking saw them moved to a 600 capacity hip hop club, leaving plenty of room for the 20 people who actually managed to find their way in though the locked door. “Each of them had paid the same ticket price as if there was 600 people,” recognises James. “So what we did was we came off stage and sat on the cushions next to them and just played to them like that, tried to make it as nice as possible.” It’s a story that says a lot about the band – their personal touch, their shambolic charm and their desire to make the best of things. Similarly when James was a waiter at Browns, Skint boss Damian Harris used to come in for Sunday lunch, often a little after the food had finished. James offered to save him a dinner if he’d listen to his demo. When Damian didn’t turn up he saved the dinner and took it to the Skint offices the next day with a Bloody Mary. Success from disaster thanks to a little thoughtfulness.
Like we said, their English charm has taken them a long way. It might even make them rich.
Photo By The Pistoleers
Styling Daniela Hatfield, Assistant Irina Dashkovsky
Vintage clothing and accessories supplied by Gladrags Community Costume Resource
Hair and make up by Emma and Myrtle at Square Roots
Tickets To Their SOURCE New Music Gig at The Dome Studio in November 2012 Click Here