On Thursday night I was just about to leave work for an evening of pasta bake and Law & Order re-runs on the Hallmark channel. Then the Amelia’s Magazine bat signal lit up the sky – they needed someone to review Mi Ami at Barden’s Boudoir! Well, I figured that’s just along the road from my house and I’d probably seen whatever episode of Law & Order was on before anyway… “I’ll do it!”
I didn’t know a lot about Mi Ami, except that they were supposedly really incredible live and that some of their members were previously in the band Black Eyes. I did like Black Eyes a lot, their first album was an experimental hardcore (or post punk? Or post hardcore?) squall a thon put out by Dischord Records. In simple terms, it could be described as somewhere between Arab on Radar and Q and Not U and I LOVED IT. So I was pretty excited to see what they (or some of them) are doing now. I stuck Mi Ami’s new album, Steal Your Face, on my ipod, printed out all the interviews and write ups I could find and ran off to catch the bus to Dalston.
It’s easy for someone who has spent most of my life listening to guitar based music (chill out, I’m not saying I’m right, it’s just what I do) to get a bit turned off by phrases like “new dancey direction” or “experimental electronic” yawwwn… Does that mean po-faced knob twiddling and plinky plonky noises? No, Eleanor, you small minded fool, it doesn’t mean that at all. The press release for Steal Your Face seems to anticipate this sort of reaction, as it points out “Legend has it that when Fugazi came on the scene, the punx were shocked at their incorporation of funky basslines and slower tempos.”
On Steal Your Face, Mi Ami use guitar bass and drums to create something that sounds completely different from your average three piece rock band, I don’t even know how you’d categorise it. The music is intensely rhythmic, with African style drums, and those screaming, squawking vocals I remember from Black Eyes and guitar riffs screaming over the top of it all, this is insane, what the hell is this? I like it.
I had a chance to sit down with frontman Daniel as he was tucking into a plate of chicken wings before the show, and despite me interrupting his dinner to ask him annoying questions he was incredibly nice and even offered me some of the food; (Some kind of amazing roasted onion in chicken, I think, a plum sauce – Turkish restaurant, next to Barden’s Boudoir, would eat again) as he went some way to explain the heck his band are all about.
Would you call Mi Ami dance music?
I’m definitely influenced by dance music, or dance musics. The music is about cycles of repetition and about engaging with the sound physically. I mean, people dance at our shows, but that’s not important to the same extent as it would be with a more typical ‘dance’ band where the sole focus of the music would be to get that physical dance reaction from the crowd. In the world of dance music, everything spins around one singular axis in order to trigger a response which isn’t really the case with us. I mostly listen to dance music though, so it definitely has a lot of influence.
Do you think that the crowd that comes to your shows is very different from the people you’d find at, say, a Dubstep night?
Do you mean like, do we have an indie rock crowd?
Yeah I guess so…
Well I think that the whole live rock band thing is a line that electronic music crossed a long time ago, there is a lot of crossover. If you played our record at a dubstep night it would be a horrible idea, because the points of reference would be so wrong, but if you had a whole night of Daniel’s favourite music it would definitely make sense to have dubstep and our record, so long as you had everything in between.
In terms of your live show, I’m told it’s pretty loud and crazy. Do you think that’s an important aspect of what you do?
I think so, I mean one band that means a lot to me is Dinosaur Jr, I don’t know how well you know them but the delivery of the lyrics just makes you feel everything so much more. There’s a lot of feeling in the lyrics, but the way they’re screamed out just really makes it sort of… Unavoidable, do you know what I mean?
I guess like you’re making sure people sit up and listen?
Yeah, I guess so, I’m sure it’s possible to do that quietly as well but… Yeah I scream in their faces.
On that note, wings finished, it was time to head over to the venue. I was looking forward to seeing support band Islet, made up of members of various Cardiff bands including attack + defend, The Victorian English Gentleman’s Club, I’d heard that Islet were pretty special. I don’t think I was prepared though, they totally blew me away. A ferocious four headed, two drum kitted monster wailing and gnashing and smacking drumsticks against floor and ceiling and somehow managing to be harmonious and emotional at the same time. I was standing on my own in the middle of Barden’s Boudoir, clinging on to my notebook and grinning my head off. At one point the bass amp broke and while ‘technical difficulties’ normally make for boooring silence or stomping petulance, Islet’s charming rambles about “playing a cool London show… Oh shit I’ve said the word cool, that’s not cool… Oh no!” and “Don’t worry, there’s another band on after us and they’re gonna be REALLY good” only made the crowd love them more. When they got the bass back we cheered and clapped like mad for our new favourite band.
If I thought Mi Ami were ferocious and frantic on record, oh boy, live they are something else! The temperature in the room seems to jump up by about ten degrees half way through the first song. That familiar characteristic vocal yelps and howls frenzied lyrics over an unyielding backdrop of bass and drums seared through with jagged guitar. The crowd presses in closer and closer, a mass of nodding heads and jerking shoulders. Daniel wasn’t lying, indie rock kids do dance at Mi Ami shows. This is fun, this is a really fun show and it seems like they’re having fun on stage too, Daniel announces “This is a Whitney Houston cover” before screaming “GIVE ME SOME CRACK” on his knees on Barden’s stage. So much for earnest knob twiddling, Mi Ami are fuckin’ punk rock, duuude!
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