by Michelle Wilding in New Music on Monday 11 October 2010

Producing a string of international hits without releasing an album in the space of four years isn’t the norm for most artists. But Australian electro-pop outfit Miami Horror aren’t your average musicians playing by the rules. The band started off as a solo endeavour turned augmented four-piece live incarnation who incessantly test the boundaries of electro territory. I chatted with founding mastermind Benjamin Plant about their recently released debut album, Illumination

MICHELLE WILDING: Fans have waited a solid four years for debut album Illumination to emerge. How did it come about and what was involved in the creative process?
BENJAMIN PLANT: Our debut album was kind of in the works for the past few years. I started some songs I guess when I was a bit younger and held onto them until now; then we created a whole bunch of songs over the last year while we were touring a lot too. I met Josh, then Aaron and Dan, then joined the band so we essentially influenced and changed the sound to what it is now.

MW: How would you describe Illumination’s sound to somebody who has never heard it?
BJ: it’s hard to pigeon hole it. It’s pretty disco-influenced, a little bit psychedelic and progressive, but mostly inspired by a lot of nostalgic pop artists from the seventies.

MW: You guys are now rocking guitars and continue to make melodious, danceable tracks. What’s the art to seamlessly blending acoustic and electric guitars with looping bass lines, horns and synths?
BJ: The idea was just to create something a little more original and different. Those elements often don’t really come together, so it was taking my influences and then Josh’s influences and allowing them to mix a little bit, which at first I was apprehensive about. I was kind of too concerned about it matching another style, but then I kind of realised it had its positives too and we rolled with it to create what we have now.

MW: Who is the wordsmith of the group or is writing lyrics a shared role?
BJ: Lyrics is definitely something that is quite out there for me. I don’t do it very often. On the case of the album, we left it mostly up to Josh and Alan to write. Dan from the band has written lyrics for Sometimes and half of the final track Ultra Violet. I wrote two track lyrics, so it’s a very shared thing.

MW: What was it like collaborating with Melbourne vocalist Kimbra and Neon Indian’s Alan Paloma?
BJ: Well Kimbra is from Melbourne and we knew her through Josh. She recently moved here, so we got her into the studio to do Í Look To You”. She often over sings things quite a bit, so we thought that wasn’t too fitting for this and we worked with her to create this perfect balance of dreaminess for the song. And that was kind of quite easy actually. With Alan, I’ve been friends with him for quite a few years. We got him over from the US to work here for a month. He stayed at my house and finished the new Neon Indian record while working with me.

MW: Overall, your music often fools listeners into thinking they’re actually in the 1970s or 1980s stepping out of a Nintendo game or something. Are you influenced by any notable artists from these eras?
BJ: I don’t think this album in particular had any really eighties influences.

MW: What do you feel influenced Illumination per se? It sounds very French influenced to me.
BJ: The idea of using certain synths and sounds and probably even the production ideas were very French. And then there were the French tracks we were listening to a few years ago which were influenced by a lot of eighties stuff. Now it’s more the seventies which has influenced this album. Right now we’re listening to more AIR, Pink Floyd and Super Trance.

MW: I hear the bonus disk offers neat remixes from some of the best of the international and local circuit like Baby Monster, YACHT, Hook N Sling and Fred Falke to name a few?
BJ: The bonus disk is a selection of remixes from over the last year, so it’s basically just some of our favourite mixes of Sometimes, Moon Theory and Make You Mine.

MW: Is remixing other musicians’ songs just as rewarding as producing your own?
BJ: It’s always fun because you have something to start with which gets the ball rolling quicker. However, writing originals for yourself is much more rewarding.

MW: How does it feel having influenced not only Australia’s music scene with a string of hits in the last few years, but to have gained serious attention on a global scale?
BJ: We’re very happy. We’ve obviously got a lot of European and American influences in our sound, so we were almost in some ways making music that would translate over there better than in Australia potentially. We always had that in my and are very happy to have other interest outside of Australia.