Miami Horror Makes Musical Pulp From Its Influences

New genres seemingly can appear out of nowhere.

Take the case of Miami Horror. When Illumination, the band’s debut album, was released five years ago, the words “indie electronic” were used to describe the Australian quartet. When pressed about the difference between indie and non-indie electronic music, band leader Benjamin Plant offers a boastful but honest explanation.

“It’s because no one can put a name on it,” Plant quips. “It’s a mixture between electronic and some sort of indie disco. There’s no real genres when you draw from different influences.”

The members of the dance-pop band say their second album, All Possible Futures, sounds more accessible than Illumination because it tackles the universal themes of love and pain.

“Everyone in the band has had a breakup in the last two years, which I guess is pretty normal,” says Plant. “We just decided when we were writing this album that we wanted to focus more on our experiences. Once we started drawing on that, the songs started getting more personal. Some of them were obviously related to the breakups and the emotion around that.”
The video for their dreamy, rhythmic, ’80s-influenced single “Real Slow,” on the other hand, doesn’t focus on those subjects. It’s five minutes of sexy, expressionless teenagers moving in slow motion, seemingly trapped in a real-life Patrick Nagel painting. Plant’s explanation for these artistic contradictions is his love of the cinematic, striving hard to have input into the band’s optical output.

“The one thing with the visuals is that it’s pretty hard to control what you want,” Plant says. “You make your best attempt to align the images with the feeling of the music, but you also have to let the director do that for you. It’s often hard to be happy with everything but I really try to have it all tie together as much as possible. ‘Real Slow’ was an experiment. We wanted to pull off a lot of visuals with the director. Obviously, it looks very American. It was more of a stylistic thing.”

It shines through in the video for “Colors in the Sky,” where a young boy looks longingly at the guests of the world’s sexiest masquerade ball as the song’s electronic grooves whisk us away.

“The song is about a combination of childhood nostalgia and dreaming big,” Plant says, “It uses all those metaphors like ‘look a little higher’ and ‘feel all the colors in the sky.’ When it came to the video, it was a reference to that excitement of being young and stumbling upon new things, which is what happens in the video. You can’t quite tell if the boy is dreaming or not.”

Being in America is a strong theme in All Possible Futures. The opening song is titled “American Dream” and the cover features the most American of cars, a Ford Mustang. The band recently moved to Los Angeles, the perfect fit for a group that, like Talking Heads, Michael Jackson, and Prince, places an equal focus on the visual and the aural. “I’ve always been influenced by American culture, and you don’t realize how strange it is until you’re not from America,” jokes Plant. “It seems always fantastical.”

No one should be walking out onstage in a giant gray suit when the tour begins in Phoenix, but keeping more than one of your senses engaged will help Miami Horror win over the ears and eyes of listeners.

Miami Horror is scheduled to play Saturday, May 23, at Crescent Ballroom.
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Jason Keil was the Phoenix New Times culture editor from August 2019 to May 2020.
Contact: Jason Keil