Poetic Memory: The Miserable Rich (List)

When I listen to Brighton, England’s The Miserable Rich, I feel like I should be chasing a wheel of cheese down a cobblestone street somewhere in the South of France.

Well, not all of their songs make me feel that way. The song I speak of is called “Somerhill” — off the band’s excellent Of Flight and Fury LP — and it just has that old-timey, European feel to it. Their sound is typically referred to as chamber pop, but after a deeper listen, the plucky folk influence begins to shine through. If you’re a fan of Beirut or Fanfarlo, The Miserable Rich are a must-listen.

The band’s swirling, whimsical orchestral arrangements can feel lighter than air, but it is front man James de Malplaquet’s sincere, quivering croon that keeps the songs from floating away. De Malplaquet decided to create a list of the things that keep him grounded. His Poetic Memory is below.

Almond croissants: I live near a patisserie in Brighton, and one of the ways we used to make the mixing of the first album a bit more pleasurable was by having almond croissants and tea while we listened and adjusted. Very civilized, and a helpful incentive for Will [Calderbank, cellist] to cycle all the way over from his house. It also sugared the pill of staying inside getting a studio tan on what always seemed like lovely balmy sunny days whenever we mixed.

This time the album was mixed by Al Scott, so no studio tan, but alas no pastries either. We do, however, impose a biscuit tax on anyone who is more than 15 minutes late for rehearsal — something likely to happen a lot less now that we are rehearsing at Will’s house mostly.

Red wine: We do like a tipple or two, and rarely manage a sober gig. It was pointed out to us quite early on that beer can and bottles weren’t quite the done thing, and we have now managed to get out of the habit of drinking straight from the wine bottle – so gigs usually start with the topping up of wine glasses and a suggestion that we “do a good one tonight.” Without the one, it seems, the other is an impossibility.

Seagulls: Whenever I’m talking talking to a family member and they hear the seagulls in the background, they always tell me how lovely it is to be reminded of the seaside. Those of us who live in Brighton don’t really feel the same way. The seagulls wake you up at five in the morning, scatter your rubbish everywhere, and frighten off all the other beautiful but smaller songbirds. They also make it really difficult to record at home with the windows open in the summer (see studio tan above). In the end, we just left them on the recordings so people who don’t live by the sea can get a bit misty eyed.

Weetabix: Not the biscuit-shaped breakfast cereal with the pseudo-skinhead advertising campaign in the 80s, but the card game also known as contract whist. Touring can be very boring as well as exciting — there are long periods of inactivity and waiting around punctuated by random fascinating stuff and gigs. To keep from going insane, and as a part of group bonding, we play a lot of games — A-Z games naming band or celebrities that are puns, table football with fruit, and quite a lot of card games. Undisputed king of the card games is Weetabix, and we’ve played it all ’round Europe, in the U.S., and back home in Blighty.

On tour we often run a league table to see who’s won the most games. Mike and Will usually top the chart, and Rhys is definitely a relegation contender.

Johann Sebastian Bach: People always ask us how we would describe our music, and we usually have a spot of bother pinning it down. We did have a go at defining it as “burnt chamber music” or “bar-room chamber music,” but we got told off by the NME for that. “Chamber pop” keeps getting bandied about, but it’s a bit too close to chamber pot for my liking. We think we’re really an alternative indie rock band who just uses violin, cello, and double bass instead of electric guitar and drums (most of the time) but the chamber thing keeps coming back, so we’ll go with everyone else, I guess.

We do have one song — “Somerhill” — which sounds pretty chamber-like in the arrangement, but we also have some rocky little numbers too. Mike says the whole idea of chamber music is that it was music that could be played in the home — not just in an orchestral hall — and that’s one of the advantages of our line-up. We can play anywhere, and we have rehearsed in Jim’s, Rhys’s, Will’s and my houses, as well as the parks in Hove, Hamburg and Austin. It also means we can play without a P.A. — something we sometimes do in the set for a bit of fun. That said, there’s not too much Bach in us. You certainly could say we’ve been a bit Brahms and Liszt on occasion though.

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