Thursday, July 21, 2011
Miracles Club This Friday
Miracles Club is a new Portland dance band featuring singer Honey Owens (Valet, Jackie-O Motherfucker), knob-tweaker Rafael Fauria, and dancer Ryan Boyle. Combining elements of Chicago and acid house, experimental pop, and contemporary dance music, Miracles Club has added a vibrant, creative energy to the West Coast club scene over the past year. Tracks from their latest EP, Light of Love, were recently remixed by Cut Copy and release on their fittingly-titled Cutters imprint in April. In advance of their performance this Friday at KFN, our friend and co-conspirator, Andrew Clapper did a little Q&A with them.
To start, could you talk about how the Miracles Club came together in the context of the Portland scene?
Portland has always had a small dance scene. In the 80's, there was a RnB boogie/funk scene; in the 90's, the rave/techno and electronica scene started; and then in the 2000's, there was an underground disco/punk scene that sprung up. More recently, in the last 3 years or so, lots of underground house parties started happening. Promoters started bringing international DJs and live acts to town. Around that time, we started writing our first tracks and playing out. It was harmonious with what was going on.
Musically, how did you arrived back at an early house sound? And what inspired cover versions of classics like "Can You Feel It" and "Jack Your Body"?
Since we've started, we've always focused on being a live band. We wanted to pay homage to the classics in a similar fashion as, say, a punk band would play "Louie Louie" at a house party. So, we would play "Jack Your Body" at a house party, or "Can You Feel It," etc. It was also a way for us to understand how house music was written and experienced.
The video for Church Song is, in a sense, a "cover" of dance shows like Detroit's "The Scene." What was the aim behind recreating that aesthetic?
We were just really loving the old dance shows and the positive energy of the people putting them on. With "Church Song," we were just sort of wanting to perpetuate that vibe, get people into the playfulness of house music and dancing family-style. We have a lot of dancer friends (and a goat) in Portland that we collaborate and just hang at the clubs with. It was funny to see them dance in this particular video because they were so toned down (due to it being Sunday morning), civilian style. [Laughs] The whole video was totally improvised. The only thing we brought aesthetically was some foil fringe and balloons. It was shot at the local cable access TV center, where we had literally two takes, and it ended up pretty much capturing the energy and aesthetic of our small scene.
How do you mediate performance in a club setting? Traditionally, the club mentality is that music is played, not performed. The DJ is not (necessarily) the focus, it's the music and the dancers. What does the spectacle of performance bring back to the dance floor?
One of the members of the group, Ryan, is a dancer/performance artist who, I guess, you could say does the mediating. We don't necessarily want to be the focus of the show, that is why it was important for us to have someone interact with the audience on a physical level. We are pretty much there to guide the trip, like a DJ. Our hope is that there is a deeper connection with the music, being able to see how it is created. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.
Do you think live performance is something that has been, perhaps, overlooked in club culture until recently?
House music hasn't had a strong tradition of being played with live instruments, though it was not unheard of. We got the chance to meet Larry Heard recently, and I asked him about playing live. He said that he used to play keys over a DAT tape in the late 80's/early 90's with Robert Owens. Also, some of the first house trax were live drum machine sequences with tiny loops or MCing over top. So, there are roots. I think it is easier now, and you are starting to see live productions more and more because the technology is there and more accessible. When we first started, we were using older technology like drum machine triggers, CV, and Din Sync, along with live looping and playing. It was fun, but chaotic. Since then, we have been using an MPC to manage the old equipment that, in our opinion, is essential to the sound.
In your experience, what sets a great performance apart from a good performance?
It's really all about a connection between the music and the audience. If we give it everything we have, and the audience is open and the environment is there, that's pretty much the combo. Honestly, it's hard to pinpoint because energy is so ambiguous, yet so crucial. When it happens, it's almost like magic. And when it doesn't… tragic. [Laughs]
Listen to Cut Copy's remix of their recent single, Light of Love...
The Miracles Club - Light of Love (Cut Copy Re-vision) by cutcopymusic
And for those of you in Philadelphia...
Miracles Club (Cutters/Portland) performs live this Friday (7/22) at Keep It Casual, along with DJs Jeffrey (The Magic Message) & Dave Tidey (Fish N' Chips). Click here to view the Facebook event.