When Moriarty venture to Australia for the second time this coming January, the band again find itself somewhat oddly placed on the bill of the So Frenchy So Chic tour. Yes, the group’s core members grew up in Paris, but they spent their early childhood years in America, Switzerland and Vietnam.
Moreover, their sound is steeped in American bluegrass, with touches of 1960s rock’n’roll grit and skewed British new wave melodies. Singer Rosemary Standley sings in English, meaning they don’t even qualify as part of the quota of native-language music that must be played on French radio. Indeed, they’re hardly suitable ambassadors of a sound anyone would call ‘So Frenchy’.
It was government funding and an opportunity provided by their local record label that saw them first representing France on the So Frenchy jaunt in 2009, it turns out. “It was also still strange for us,” says Arthur Gillette, the band’s guitarist and pianist. “But on the other hand, we’re not completely Anglo-Saxon, either. We all grew up in France and I think we do have something European, if not French, to us. I don’t think we’re chic, though.”
With their line-up taking shape over a few years in the late 90s, the band are well and truly established and celebrated in their part of the globe. Their debut album, 2007’s cutely titled Gee Wiz But This Is A Lonesome Town went Gold in France and saw them undertake a solid 18 months of touring, playing festivals and stages from London and Spain to Japan and India.
It was during this relentless slog of shows that the songs for Moriarty’s second album, The Missing Room, were written. Out in Australia in November, the album sees the band introducing new instruments picked up during their tours to their palette, which already included a dobro, double bass and a kazoo.
A guitar “the length of an arm” was purchased in Sweden. A harmonium was sought out in India. On a shopping trip in Melbourne, Gillette bought a Silvertone acoustic, which was then branded by a local fan. “Some Australian kid wrote ‘Shane’ on it, which was probably his name, I guess, but in any case we call the guitar Shane now,” Gillette laughs. “We really like the idea that it came all the way from Melbourne and, for most songs on the album, that’s the guitar being played. It’s huge too. We had to fight with the airline to get it onboard.”
The Missing Room is the band’s first independent recording. Released earlier this year in France on their own label, following their departure from large indie label Naïve Records, it was produced by drummer Vincent Talpaert and features artwork by bassist Stephan Zimmerli.
Both the album’s lyrics and tone, Gillette says, reflect the “big picture” they were faced with while traversing the continents with Gee Wiz. It’s about the different sides of love, he says, and about death. One song, How Many Tides (After Sean Sellers), is based on the story of the youngest American given the death penalty. Largely, it’s about humans – the people they saw while travelling, and the people they spoke to after their shows.
“We did this very, very long tour and you start to think that all humans are the same. You’d think you’d meet so many different people – like Australians are like this and Indians are like this, or Indians from the north and south are different because of this – but in the end we’re all the same.”
Moriarty play So Frenchy So Chic with Féfé, Asa and Nouvelle Vague at Werribee Park on Sunday January 15, 2012.
So Frenchy So Chic are giving Broadsheet readers the chance to get early bird tickets for $64 + bf (instead of $74 + bf). To purchase discounted tickets enter FRENCHY at the checkout cartelldownload.com.au.