Miami Horror teleport audience to halcyon days with synthpop

Eugene W. Lau/Staff

The fellas of Miami Horror are very nice boys indeed — well-spoken, sunny men you could bring out for brunch with grandma. I sat down with the Melbourne-based disco pop quartet before their Thursday night show at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco to discuss their influences, their ambitions and some tough life choices.

It all started before everything began. Benjamin Plant had been mixing on his laptop and producing at home for five years, earning himself the Pitchfork stamp of approval almost overnight. Wanting to steer Miami Horror away from the dance/electronica DJ typecast, Plant reinvented the project into a beguiling live act: Keyboardist Daniel Whitechurch, Plant’s high school friend, joined the project along with drummer Aaron Shanahan and guitarist/vocalist Josh Moriarty to fill out the skeleton of Plant’s vision.

Their first full-length album, Illumination, dropped in 2010, uniting the efforts of the current band members, as well as guest cast that includes the likes of Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo in addition to female harmonizations from MAI and Kimbra. Despite the plethora of musical ventures, however, Illumination still retains a distinctly unostentatious flavor. The self produced record seasons ‘70s disco with weighty bass lines and deftly woven licks to give the finished product a revived sonic hue.

Polished and finely honed, Illumination displays the musicianship and meticulous approach of the ensemble with its interesting technical composition and seamless transitions. Even through its delivery of pop anthems and summer ballads, the nine track LP relies on hazy dream-like sequences and mind-warming swells of harmonies to teleport listeners to a niche in recent memory littered with a few wistful smiles and elusive yearnings of unremembered passions.

Miami Horror’s live set doesn’t quite translate the contemplative nostalgia that shines periodically in their record. Instead, each track is undressed to an abrasive rendition of a generic dance tune: catchy, but insubstantial. Their set at the DNA Lounge followed one-man band Jeffery Jerusalem, who roused the crowd with his multi-instrumental performance and innovative dance moves. Moriarty’s jovial smile made everyone feel at ease, while his lively hip thrusts won him a fair few lipstick-sealed napkins.

The boys delivered tracks off of both Illumination and their 2008 EP Bravado, including the single “Sometimes” to a fresh chorus of cheers. Not much was said, as not much needed to be said. Moriarty did announce a brief intermission, during which he requested that everyone in the audience shout in unison “Shut the fuck up, San Francisco” — and then proceed to make as much noise as possible.

An expected encore – following thirty full seconds of anticipation – capped off the evening, as concert-goers poured into the streets of San Francisco with ringing ears and soaring hearts.

Plant and co. are planning to relocate to the City of Angels to see what America will throw at them. Their follow-up album is not yet in the works, but upon their return to the other side of the Pacific, the boys are anticipating long hours in the studio as they explore other avenues of music.