Interview with Loretta Miller from JAZZ PARTY (Q&A)
Made for the bar room not the ballroom, Jazz Party is a loose collective of jazzbos known for their sporadic take-over residences in unassuming rooms across Melbourne. Playing a slippery mix of jump blues, boogie, and rhythm n blues á la New Orleans. Shouting, drinking and slow dancing with strangers all encouraged. Darcy McNulty, Jules Pascoe and Loretta Miller are all former members of Clairy Browne & the Bangin Rackettes. We caught up with Loretta and asked a few questions.
Congratulations on the single Talking In Your Sleep, which will have its official launch at Howler in Melbourne on Friday March 31 st . The song has been described as a “dreamy wall of sound; a heartbreaker with an edge” (Loretta Miller) and “a brooding doo-wop soul ballad” (www.musicworldmedia.com.au ). Was the song written with these musical styles in mind?
I don’t think so particularly, Darcy wrote the bones of a few songs (with me in mind to sing) it was fairly basic but I was immediately attracted to the line “Talking in your sleep” I liked how it felt mysterious and kind immediately brought me to that sinking in your stomach feeling we all get when we hear or see something we don’t want to. So we went with that and it really grew into something big from there.
The song is seemingly about a woman who hears her man talking lovingly about another woman while he sleeps. Has the song been created from pure imagination or has it been based on some woman’s or some man’s personal experience?
Well Darcy likes to say that his songs aren’t about anything. I reckon it’s up to the listener to decide their own truth for it, but we wrote this one together so I can tell you it’s not directly personal, but inspired by our experiences with sleep talking partners does that clear things up? probably not haha.
You deliver the song beautifully, moving between delicate whispers and then powerfully soaring vocals that the listener can’t ignore. Esmerelda1, online, said “Wow wow wow! The song makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up in the best possible way. The lyrics, the vocalist and the amazing musicians really bring it. Song of the year!!” I unreservedly admit I love the song and have played it over and over again. Did you and your Darcy realise you had created such a gem of a song?
Thankyou! Thanks for listening to it. I know that when we first started working on it I loved it immediately but I wanted it to really take off and be powerful. I was actually babysitting our manager’s son Raphie and I would take him on walks through the mean streets of South Caulfield and sing to him. It was there that i had this idea for a musical part, which I later realized, was the chorus and that big outtro. At the time I was nervous to tell Darcy about it because I’m not a very confident writer, I sat on it for about a week before I came to him with it and I told him it was a bit dramatic and silly but he was into straight away, very supportive. Then when we got the boys on those BVs I was in love.
Once it was done I thought “shit this is probably the best thing I’ll ever do” so I don’t care if everyone hates it because I’m so proud to have been a part of creating that.
As I listened to Talking In Your Sleep countless times, I could hear the soulful songstresses Amy Winehouse and Dusty Springfield singing their own versions of the song. How would you feel about singers of that caliber covering this song?
OH You would feel so honored! If they heard it and wanted to sing it wow… but knowing me I would be jealous because they’d do a better job of it then I would and then
I’d feel sad inside hahahah mixed emotions!
Along with the release of Talking In Your Sleep, you will be hitting the road, playing festivals throughout March and April. You have said that your gigs tend to attract well-dressed freaks, musos and self-confessed jazz haters as well as rebellious pleasure seekers who enjoy your New Orleans inspired revelry and punk attitude (www.beat.com.au), where drinking, dancing and shouting is highly encouraged. How rewarding is playing live and what is it like to have such an enthusiastic, fun filled rapport with the audience?
Playing shows with JP is generally my favourite kind of gig. We encourage the crowd to be a part of it and they feed off of you and you feed off of them. I believe that particularly in Melbourne because we’re spoiled with so much great music & art, audiences have forgotten a bit how to give back and don’t realise that the artist you’re seeing needs your energy and that the feeling in a room can change how they feel about that show. JP tends not to have that problem so far. Our audience generally comes to be a part of the experience and bring a lot of energy so everybody in the room feels high, its like being at the best House party dirty and crazy but you’re in a bar. Not all shows have to be like that but that’s how we roll and I love it.
It has been said that your musical influences are eclectic to say the least: From Fats Waller and Hanni El Khatib, Prince to Patsy Cline, David Lynch to Robert Rodriguez. Also, that the genre of music you play cannot be constrained by one musical style: That you are inspired by music from New Orleans, gospel, rock, blues, garage, alternative and indie. When creating your own music, do you “throw” those influences at a wall and see what “sticks”?What is your songwriting process like?
Aside from ‘Talking In your Sleep’ Darcy has written all the JP originals thus far, but I’ll speak for him. I don’t think he really works that way at all. He waits for inspiration, usually lyrical, maybe a phrase that sounds good and then he might focus on a rhythm or groove and they grow from there. So yes that inspiration could come from any genre or era but I don’t think he sets out to pick and choose from other music in that way.
Over the last few years, Jazz Party has held month-long, Monday night residencies at a range of venues in Melbourne and you have said that Monday night has always been your favourite night to play. Why is that?
Monday night is the musos weekend. There is a strong community of very hard working and talented Jazz players in Melbourne and they’re always busy all weekend with 5000 other gigs, so if they wanted to get together and play non corporate/non soul destroying type music and just let loose, Monday is the perfect night. That and who else is throws a party on a Monday?
Your line up constantly changes, with guest appearances from The Cat Empire, Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rackettes, Daniel Merriweather, Husky, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, and Mojo Juju. What is it like to perform on stage with such a mix of musicians?
First of all guest appearances from Clairy Browne isn’t quite right – Darcy McNulty (sax), Jules Pascoe(double bass) and myself (Loretta Miller) are all ex members of the Rackettes so that’s that cleared up! Other then that, we have had all those people get up and do a tune with us or fill in and it’s the best, to have their energy and talent to keep things alive and surprising. Although we are having to tighten up and solidify a little at the moment in order to play bigger shows and our original songs and arrangements. I think for Monday night parties though we’ll always have guest performers when it works.
Your first single Rock N’ Roll Graveyard could be considered quite a departure, musically, from Talking In Your Sleep. It has been described as a “messed up house party”, a “disconcerting mix of alcohol, drugs, sex and violence” and debauchery and is a track about love, death, jealousy and nostalgia. What inspired the exploration of such funeral themes?
Ummm personally I read the song as a struggle to create honest and soulful music in a world where you can remix a Nina Simone tune put it to a beat, release it and not even have to say ‘featuring Nina Simone’ when it’s the whole catchy part of your song and its blasted on the screen at my gym AHHH my own issues.. No maybe searching for something that hasn’t already been picked clean? but this is all my own take and I didn’t write it ! That’s the beauty of music. The funeral themes I would say have always been heavily featured in old New Orleans music, blues, rnb and jazz, any traditional music from anywhere really; death is a big part of life so naturally it’s a strong theme. I don’t see that as a departure for us. The sound & the way we recorded it was definitely different to what some expected but we loved seeing it reach its full dramatic potential and doing something in the studio that we can’t always do live.
Lilli May Waters, said the following about Jazz Party, “Best band ever. These kids will blow your socks off with their soul filled talent and Loretta is the best damn voice your ears have heard in a long time, you will not be able to forget these guys.” A two part question: First, what is it like to receive such positive audience reviews? And secondly, are you going to perform in Sydney so potential fans like myself can enjoy your shows as much as our southerly neighbours?