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An interview with The Miserable Rich about their spooky new album Miss You In The Days

An interview with the spooktastic band The Miserable Rich... just the thing as Halloween approaches. Their new single On a Certain Night is out on October 24th 2011.

Written by Amelia Gregory

The Miserable Rich by Kathryn Corlett
The Miserable Rich by Kathryn Corlett.

Miss You in the Days is the new album from The Miserable Rich, a fabulous collection of songs inspired by ghosts, ghouls… and possession. In other words, the perfect musical accompaniment for Halloween and beyond. I got in touch with lead singer James De Malplaquet to find out what inspired this theatrical tour de force.

The Miserable Rich bed
Why do you think your music is referred to as Chamber Pop and is there anything else you would prefer to be called or that you use to describe yourselves better?
It would seem a little churlish to deny that there are both pop and chamber music elements to our music – but the term ‘chamber pop’ is just one consonant away from ‘chamber pot’ – a little too close for comfort in my humble…. We certainly use some traditional chamber music instruments – violin, cello, double bass, that kind of thing. I’m told the idea of chamber music was that it went against the tyranny of the orchestral hall – it was music that could be played anywhere, in any room, or chamber. We certainly fit in with that, having played in all kinds of places from churches to parks, palaces to (I ‘kid’ you not) creches.

Taking the songs Pisshead, Hungover and Chestnut Sunday (about cocaine addiction), and our propensity for liquor, we started off calling it ‘bar-room chamber music’ – but that didn’t really fit with the song for my mother (I hope). We do think there’s a bit of intensity in the music and the lyrical subject matter though – a bit of fire in the belly – and so we’re toying with ‘fiery chamber music for (song) lovers’ at the mo. There’ll probably be a new one in a month or two, mind.

Miss You In The Days cover
Who inspires you musically – I think there’s a definite jaunt to your music that calls to mind the theatrical big band festival scene. Has this been a factor in your development?
I think you’re right; there is indeed a certain theatrical flourish to what we do. Not that we planned it – and apart from my soft spot for Kate Bush, Grace Jones and Peter Gabriel, it’s not really there in the bands that we like – Will loves Loney Dear, for example – hardly known for his overblown music or stage shows….. I don’t know – I guess it just sort of came out that way. I do remember talking to the band before some of our first shows and agreeing that it didn’t matter if we hit a few bum notes, as long as we put emotion into the playing. It’s probably ramping the emotion up that gives it this element of theatre. We might play one or two less bum notes nowadays (we might not), but we still try to maintain that level of intensity.On the other hand, it might just be because we’re an incorrigible bunch of drama queens, completely divorced from reality. Sounds much more fun that way.

The Miserable Rich by Beth Crowley
The Miserable Rich by Beth Crowley.

How big is the current incarnation of your band – and who plays all the different instruments?
We’ve always been a five piece, with Will Calderbank on cello and occasional piano, Mike Siddell on violin and Rhys Lovell on double bass. This is the first time Ricky Pritchard has joined us on guitar and piano, and we added a drummer (!) this time round. Last album, we made a rule that we all had to play at least two instruments and sing on the album, so we shared the drumming, but on this album we got a real live drummer – David ‘Badlace’ Schechtriemen – to pitch in and help out. Myself, I used to play bits of piano, guitar, percussion and mandolin on the records, but they’ve gradually wrestled all the toys off me and made it clear I should just stick to singing….. Spoil sports.

Your album Miss You in the Days is described as “a collection of witty mischievous ghost stories” and is being released on Halloween. Have you always been fans of the otherworldly and the paranormal, and how or why did this love come about?
It was just one of those •spooky• coincidences, really. If we were going to record another album, I wanted us to go away and have an adventure – and so I came up with this idea of going to a haunted house and writing an album based on ghost stories. I’d noticed that we English – myself in particular – found it difficult to write about sex and death, and I thought this might be a good way of exorcising those particular lyrical demons. After I’d sold the idea to the band, I started reading only ghost stores and went around on tours in the UK and Europe, telling anyone who’d listen our plan, hoping someone would say ‘Come record at my house – it’s haunted as hell‘. In the end, a friend who had offered her haunted attic suddenly ‘remembered’ she was living next to Britain’s most haunted stately home, the Jacobean Palace of Blickling Hall – birthplace of Anne Boleyn. Introductions were sought, deals were cut with the National Trust, and off we went, hope in our hearts and ghouls in our heads.

Two rough diamonds from The Miserable Rich by Rhiannon Ladd
Two rough diamonds from The Miserable Rich by Rhiannon Ladd.

You recorded parts of the album in the haunted Blickling Hall – any good stories from this period? Mysterious creaks, ghost sightings – or were the stories of the place enough to work on your imaginations? 
Blickling is an amazing place, incredibly beautiful and evocative. Visiting its lonely windswept and tree-lined roads on our first visit, seeing the palace loom out of the darkness, it was easy to imagine people losing their wits in the deep dark Winters. Perhaps we did ourselves. David said he saw faces at the window on more than one occasion, the mics kept picking up German voices, and though the caretaker once told us in thick Glaswegian tones ‘The only spirits you’ll find here are whiskey, vodka and gin‘, Ricky and our manager Howard will tell you something very different about the unexplained voice they recorded late one Friday night in the West Turret Bedroom…….

Anything’s Possible

Anything’s Possible cover art by illustrator Stanley Chow.

How does the erotic element of the album present itself, and which songs is this felt in the most?
I had been thinking about how the word ‘possession’ is both a supernatural and a sexual term. We hope to possess or be possessed by our lovers, or by the act of lovemaking. I’d also been mulling a little playfully on the meaning of words like ‘moaning’ and ‘groaning’. If you hear someone moaning in an old, empty house, say, you might draw very different conclusions to those you might on hearing the same sound through a hotel room wall. These ideas, and the idea of ‘love across beyond the grave‘ are suggested in the songs Laid Up In Lavender, On A Certain Night, Honesty and True Love – but I hope it’s not too heavy-handed.

YouTube Preview Image

What is going on in On a Certain Night? The lyrics sound quite stalkerish… who or what inspired this tune, and whose house was the lucky venue for the video? 
My first love was possessed. Many may believe this of their own experience, but in my case, these were her own words. She told me that a bright shiny light would enter the room, enter her body (as I hoped to do myself, but in quite a different way), and tell her what to do. I wasn’t sure if I believed her, or if I thought it a brilliant and elaborate method of getting out of responsibility for one’s actions…. When we started writing the album, many years later, I remembered the story and thought I’d write a slightly disturbing pop song from the perspective of this possessing spirit. There may be a little revenge in this – he is quite a lascivious devil, isn’t he? As for the video, it was all shot in one night, after hours in our new favourite Brighton pub, The Chequer Inn, run by a lovely and accommodating couple who had come up to me in various other pubs and told me they loved the band, and once memorably giving me a packet of twiglets.

On a certain night cover
Some pretty nightmarish make up featured in the video too. Do you have any special plans for this Halloween and what will you be dressing up as?
Hideous, isn’t it? That’s what happens if I don’t have time to properly put my face on before going out……. At least it ensures the video doesn’t look like Losing My Religion…. Yes, there will indeed be a bit of dressing up – and for this tour we’ll be playing in some churches, crypts, castles and even palaces, so anyone who gets into the ‘spirit’ of the nights will get a special ‘ghost hour’ radio mix I’ve made. I think we’re going to be imprinting a lot of memories on this tour….

YouTube Preview ImageHungover

The new single On A Certain Night is out on 24th October and the album Miss You in the Days is out, fittingly, on 31st October. Both on Humble Soul. Not to be missed. Check out The Miserable Rich soon! There are a few free tracks to download on Facebook here.


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