Chat! Miamigo in Brighton

During The Great Escape, I got to meet up with Brighton’s hottest new band, Miamigo. After they had played a brilliant show on the New Street stage, we decamped to the Brighton Dome where I sat down with vocalist Liam Fox and keyboard player Jamie Verney.

Although your music is influenced by the sounds of the 80s, considering how you began making music in your bedrooms using Garageband, making videos with your iPhones — in many ways. you’re actually a prime example of a very modern group. Is that how you see yourselves? Or was it simple needs-must?

Jamie: I think it’s the latter. Miamigo began as a side-project. When we started we had absolutely no expectations. Now that we’re getting to perform with a band, it’s becoming much more real. And it’s really good fun.

Liam: We’re both 25, and I think we were born into that generation where we had this world of creativity at our fingertips and we could do things that previously would have been beyond most people. We could make films with iMovie and make songs with Garageband and that’s how we learned our craft.

Jamie: We’ve never studied music. Both us come up with the sounds, but Liam writes all the lyrics.

Like so many Brighton bands, you’re not originally from Brighton, but from North London. You came down here to study, not at BIMM, but at Uni. What did you study and how come you stayed?

Jamie: We’ve known each other for about ten years, before we came down here. So we started making music in Barnet on our Macs.

Liam: We both went to different Unis. I was studying film analysis and theory and Jamie was doing digital music. We both hated Uni and neither of us completed our courses. The mistake we made was studying something that we loved. I love film and I love making films, but I don’t think I should have studied it. We stayed here because Brighton was the perfect place for writing our album.

Have either of you ever had a job?

Liam: Yeah, yeah. I used to work in B&Q.

Jamie: And I worked at Dr Martens here in Brighton.

The music scene down here is thriving right now with so many bands and musicians based in the city. What is it about Brighton that you think is so conducive to being a musician?

Jamie: Well, it’s so close to London, but you do feel like you’re a million miles away.

Liam: There’s so many bands down here and on almost every road there’s a place you can play. That’s so important when you’re starting out. And of course, as we saw today, Brighton is full of music fans.

Having lived here a while, what are your favourite places in Brighton. Where’s best for coffee?

Jamie: Small Batch! No question!

Favourite bar?

Liam: The Temple Bar on Western Road.

Jamie: Or there’s The Black Dove on St James’s Street.

Best restaurant?

Jamie: La Choza, a Mexican street food place on Gloucester Road.

Liam: And there’s a great pizza place in Hove called Morrelli Zarelli on Western Road.

And where’s your favourite place to shop?

Jamie: We don’t really do that much shopping. We do shop at American Apparel, but we tend to get most of our clothes on the road at charity shops. The shirt I’m wearing today cost me £3 from a place in Berlin!

Best venue to see a band?

Jamie: The Haunt. There’s something about the sound there. We’ve never played it though. It’s one of the few places we haven’t played in Brighton.

Is there one secret place in Brighton or nearby that you always take visitors to?

Jamie: There’s a really nice rock garden near Preston Park that not many people know about.

Liam: Millionaire’s Row in Portslade is another nice little place to go and chill out by the docks.

Jamie: And St Ann’s Well Garden in Hove is another great spot. It’s somewhere we’ve filmed a video in.

“I want to get higher than I’ve ever been in my whole life” you sang on What I Want. We’ve just lost the Wheel, and the i360 will soon open.

Liam: You’re kidding me! The Wheel’s gone? Why?

Jamie: I saw it in half the other day.

Living in Brighton, you know the i360 is a controversial project, one that divides many. What are your thoughts on it ?

Liam: I think it’s such a shame they blocked Regency Square. I think it’s absolutely terrible. It doesn’t even look nice. There’s not one redeeming feature about it.

Jamie: I don’t see the point of having the i360 there. All you’re seeing is the sea and who cares at looking over Brighton?

Something else we lost recently was Beach of the Dead. I’ve heard you’re into your vampires and stuff like that. Did you ever take part in the zombie walk?

Liam: No, I’ve never seen it.

Any local bands that you hang out with?

Jamie: We’re good buddies with Fickle Friends.

We’re speaking on the first day of TGE, and you’ve just played on the New Street stage, what was that like for you?

Jamie: We made our live debut here at The Great Escape a year ago.

Liam: That was great, but today was even better. It was the first time we’ve ever played outside. And it was so nice to play to such a large, appreciative crowd. It was also our Brighton debut for our new single.

As a new band, how important is it that there are festivals like this that give exposure to new artists?

Jamie: I think it’s really important. As long as music keeps getting made, I think there will always be a need for events like this where you can get to see so many live bands in just a few days. And hear so many different genres of music.

Liam: People want to come and see live shows more than ever.

Growing up, your musical influences were bands like Tears for Fears, The Cars and The Killers, three artists whose music still stands up today. Did you get to see any of them play live?

Liam: I saw The Killers at Reading — nearly 10 years ago — and I’ve seen Brandon Flowers a few times since. He’s a big influence.

Each of those bands had an immediately identifiable sound. As a new band, how important is it for you to have that?

Liam: It’s important to know who you’re listening to within the first 10-15 seconds of a song. And I think Jamie’s production has a signature sound.

Jamie: But so much of being distinctive is down to the voice.

Listening to your music, you’d never know it wasn’t recorded in a studio. In fact your new single, Forever, which you only put out yesterday has an extraordinarily fat sound. Tell me about the song…

Jamie: It came together really fast. The first couple of sounds we tried just happened to work.

It reminds me a little of Peaches by The Stranglers.

Jamie: That’s funny, because that’s one of my earliest musical memories. But this is the first time I’ve made that connection.

How difficult is it to replicate the recorded sound live on stage?

Jamie: It’s pretty hard. Some songs are easier than others. We used to use a lot more backing tracks, but since we’ve got the band the only stuff that’s on track now is some percussion. We want it to be as live as possible.

I first came across you with What I Want, a song that I felt really deserved to be a hit. You released your Soda Lime Love EP on your own label Indian Hop Recordings. Why your own label? Was it about having control?

Liam: It was more about everything being kind of home grown. We also thought if we had our own label we could later on take on other artists. We write so many songs, most of which we won’t get to record ourselves.

On the strength of What I Want and hearing a few other tracks of yours, I named you as one of the bands who would make it big in 2016. On that song you sing “I wanna be better off than anybody that I know” So, just how ambitious are you?

Liam: I wasn’t thinking about being ambitious when I wrote that line. I was just thinking about the rat race as I was walking to Waitrose and it came to me.

Talking of being better off, the music industry is very different today. Making money from selling records is the preserve of the few. Indeed many bands now see releasing music as a marketing tool to get people to come and see them play live. How challenging is it economically to be a new band these days?

Liam: It’s pretty hard.

Jamie: We were both working up until a year and half a go. We’ve been fortunate in having the support our families. If one month we’re a bit strapped for cash they will help us out.

Whilst you now have your own label, you realised you couldn’t manage yourselves as well. How did you hook up with Three Six Zero Group?

Jamie: It was simple really. Our manager joined them and took us with him.

Three Six Zero also manage Hurts who you’ve just come off touring with in Europe. How was that?

Liam: That was amazing! It’s been so much fun.

What did you learn from the experience?

Jamie: That the bigger the crowd, the easier it is to do. Most nights we were playing to 4 or 5,000 people and when it’s that big you can’t see everyone. Smaller gigs are far more daunting!

Liam: They’re such cool guys. They’re so good onstage and obviously we’ve not played that many shows, so watching them every night was a great education.

I love your song Opinions, which I think is the one song of yours that reminds me most of Hurts, especially the chorus.

Jamie: That was the first song we ever did as Miamigo!

Like Hurts, when you play live you’re augmented by a couple of extra musicians: a drummer and keyboards/bass player.

Jamie: Yeah, Lewis, our drummer, was a friend of my girlfriend. He also used to work at Small Batch!

You’ve got some festivals coming up this summer. I bet you can’t wait!

Liam: Yeah, we’re doing Pink Pop in Belgium and that’s huge!

Jamie: And we’re also playing Secret Garden here in the UK.

You’ve already put out a bunch of songs, you’ve said you’ve got about three hundred, but we’re still waiting on an album. How will you narrow down those songs to the ones that will go on the record?

Jamie: I think we know which ones we want. We’ll decide on which ones go down well live. Today we played seven songs. Of those I think three or four will go on the album.

Liam: It’s on it’s way to being ready.

When can we expect its release?

Jamie: I’d say the beginning half of next year. A lot depends on when the time is right to release it.

Follow Miamigo at @miamigomusic

Miamigo’s new single Forever is out now

Behind the image: All these images were shot handheld with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and either the 12–40 2.8 Pro or the 75 1.8 lens without a flash or any lights. Shot in Brighton on 19 May 2016.

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