Despite being a sly sarcastic joke, the band name Miami Horror nonetheless evokes our city's essential duality -- a glitzy, neon-soaked tropical paradise on the surface, with a dark, seedy criminal underbelly, as mythologized by Miami Vice and Scarface.
"I liked the contrast of the two words -- colorful and tropical, yet dark," the group's Australian frontman Benjamin Plant tells Crossfade about his choice of moniker.
And because he's far from being a Miamian himself, it's easy to see the whole Miami Horror concept as a young Aussie's post-ironic romantic take on the flashy Miami lifestyle and its electronic soundtrack.
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Indeed, the exuberant visual punch of Miami Vice and sonic allure of Giorgio Moroder's vintage synth score for Scarface can be counted among the retro-kitsch '80s pop cultural references in Miami Horror's early incarnation. This was back in the late 2000s, when it was still Plant's bedroom-production solo project, and he was making his first international waves thanks to MySpace and the blog house explosion.
Of course, that version of Miami Horror also coincided with Australia's indie-dance music boom and the sensational crossover success of labels like Modular Recordings and acts such as Cut Copy, The Presets, and Sneaky Sound System, just to name a few.
"It was superexciting being 19 to 21 while a strong scene was developing," Plant reminisces. "Modular were touring a lot of international acts that we were playing DJ sets. The music seemed exciting and exactly like what I wanted to hear at that time, and consequently inspired me to take music more seriously.
"I think everyone seemed to be doing their own thing, but somehow it all felt consistent," he adds. "I can't pinpoint why, but it was just a consequence of similar influences and attitude."
Fast-forward to the new decade and Plant has expanded Miami Horror into a full band, with Josh Moriarty on vocals and guitar, Aaron Shanahan on drums, and Daniel Whitechurch on keys.
"It just felt natural -- I wanted to do something bigger and better than just DJing at clubs," Plant explains. "I also felt bored doing it alone, and loved having more inspiration. The live incarnation definitely inspired a [more live] sound and more song-based music."
Fans and critics certainly weren't complaining when the band dropped 2010's beloved Illumination, an ambitious multi-faceted album drawing just as much from the '80s dance pop of Michael Jackson and Prince, as the '70s stadium rock of Supertramp and Electric Light Orchestra.
And while Miami might have seemed like Plant's obvious destination of choice when relocating to the States, it was sunny, laid-back California that lured him and the band.
"The summery, dreamy vibe of the West Coast has probably influenced our sound quite a lot," he says. "When you consistently walk outside to a blue sky, lined with palm trees, it's hard not to soak up some of that -- which is a feel we always had in our music. Also, we're reliving a bit of that '70s L.A. vibe that a lot of our influences lived when creating their music."
That influence, Plant admits, is sure to shine through on the band's upcoming sophomore album and projects.
"We have almost finished the second album," he confides. "It's a step further than the last, but at the same time, not as 'party' orientated. We've also been working on other projects. Aaron and I are doing Wunder Wunder, which is like a psychedelic '70s version of Miami Horror, and Josh is doing a band called All the Colours."
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As for what to expect during Miami Horror's upcoming performance at Bardot for Wynwood's III Points festival on October 3, Plant says: "We are a five-piece now, so everything is a lot tighter. The live version of our songs tend to be more action-packed and less produced-sounding. It helps change up the songs from exactly what everyone is used to."
Miami Horror. With Dude Skywalker and Pirate Stereo. Thursday, October 3. Bardot, 3456 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $26 to $30 plus fees via showclix.com. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-576-7750 or visit bardotmiami.com.