Josh Moriarty On Dealing With Isolation Before It Was Mainstream
Josh Moriarty is a man with fingers in many pies. Breaking out as the front man for Ben Plant’s Miami Horror, he then plied his trade playing bass in rock trio All the Colours whilst simultaneously starting his solo project. As if there was any chance of him being left idle, he also ruminates with heavyweights from the alt music scene as host of his podcast The Bottom of It and is on the precipice of releasing his 3rd solo LP and revealing his 50s inspired collaborative duo Dick and Mary. However, as his latest single Isolation explores, Moriarty’s prolific portfolio is a double-edged sword; a means by which to cultivate creativity whilst also a source of loneliness and disconnect from home and friends.
A New Zealand native, Moriarty moved to Melbourne through his high school band, 1QA chancing their hand at the big smoke. “That band was more somewhere between Mars Volta, Blood Brothers, QOTSA, more hardcore alt-rock style. We were so passionate about that”. After pressing hard for little gain, Moriarty’s exhaustion with rock brought his first big success. “It didn’t go anywhere, and I was a bit over rock and over alt music. We started listening to Michael Jackson and pop and club and got really excited about pop. Then I just played with a whole bunch of other people’s projects and Miami Horror happened to be one of those”.
After scrounging his way through pubs, there was little hesitation in accepting the role as guitarist and vocalist in Miami Horror, where dream gigs would become a reality. “No, I was ready! In terms of being a front man with singing and directing and being a rock star in that silly respect, I was fuckin’ up for it. I felt very well trained to do that”. After heavy touring schedules and conflicts with Plant, Moriarty was getting creatively itchy feet, spawning his debut solo LP, ‘War Is Over’. “Initially I was fine starting a new project because I was pretty over Miami Horror by 2012. We’d just been away a lot, playing a lot of shows and me and Ben did not get on. We only started getting on 3 or 4 years ago. I was probably a prick a prude and we both had completely different ideas of what a band should be and what music got us excited”.
Retaining the electro pop-funk sound of Miami Horror, ‘War Is Over’ helped catalyse a creative freedom that guided Moriarty down different paths; “Ben Plant is the leader, producer and writer of Miami Horror so everything has to go and come through him. I think I had ideas that would never see the light of day in that project. Songs on that LP would have been from 5 years ago and I was still into the electronic, club, dance-ish thing. But now I feel like I’m a bit done with it, that was the real tale end of it”. Alt-rock trio All The Colours felt like a familiar return to form for Moriarty that helped re-energise his music “It felt really good to just play rock and roll again because I was getting over club music. I’ve got a real back and forth relationship with those musical worlds. I think, at my truest spirit, I’m a real teenage rock pig”.
More recently, Moriarty’s solo work has delved into the stylised world of the 50s and 60s instrumental era with his second LP, ‘Romantica’. As much of a departure from his prior sound as this record was, his latest track Isolation moves into another fresh space of psychedelia. His first time working with producer Tony Buchen, met whilst with Miami Horror, the sound of the single was the result of Moriarty relinquishing creative rights in favour of collaboration; “So I had those chords on the acoustic first and then I sung on top of it and after that I let him dictate and direct where he wanted it to go. Usually I have done so much of the production myself and I really wanted him to produce me”. Drummer Joey Waronker added an extra spice, managing to slip in for a session whilst touring with Roger Waters, having played with Beck, Atoms For Peace, Rufus Wainwright and Elliot Smith.
Recorded at the beginning of last year, Moriarty is quick to emphasise the personal battles which spawned the song; “I had been going back and forward a lot between Melbourne and LA and feeling really detached and not knowing which city I lived in. Each time I’d leave somewhere, friends would forget who you are and you would forget your friends and I wasn’t really feeling a part of anything”. An unwavering work ethic in an industry that necessitates a nomadic lifestyle lies at the heart of what Isolation is all about; “I think it was just leading up to making a decision to stepping away from Miami Horror for a while and working on stuff with All The Colours and the solo stuff and then another project and it’s like, ‘Who and what the fuck am I? What is important, what projects should I be working on, where should I live, what should I be trying to do?’. It all just compounded”.
Having worked through the issue, Moriarty is resigned to the fact of having to confront what is a universal emotion; “I don’t feel like I’ll ever resolve that issue. I guess it’s just a human quality that everyone experiences at different times but maybe mine get exacerbated by my line of work. I hope everyone relates to it”. It’s this ability to process emotionally adverse moments that he feels is integral to managing post-pop depression; “You walk off the stage, you’re excited and then 10-20 minutes later you start feeling really sad. It’s like post-coital comedown (laughs). I think that’s why most people and artists and bands get fucked up and drink, keep the party goin’. I’ve been sober for 5 years so there’s no escape from it anymore, you just have to feel it. Which is best because you actually process it and then a day later, you’re fine. But if you do the party one you have to party again and again and again and after 3 months on tour, your comedown is ginormous and horrible and you haven’t dealt with any of your emotions”.
With eyes fixed to the future, Moriarty hopes to venture into more intimate settings; “I would love, as the years go by, to accrue more notoriety and be able to play the Palais or Hamer Hall, those big beautiful theatres where people are sitting down and the room sounds magnificent and majestic”. He likens the graduation from the pub to theatres imbues a reverence to the artform in a way one particular radio station does; “I really enjoy listening to ABC classical FM because they talk to you so nicely, they treat you like a grown up. Whereas, if you go somewhere like Festival Hall and they metal detect you and they push you into a smoking pen, you can’t have a cigarette and a beer at the same time”. Whilst his teenage rock pig former-self may balk, Joshua Moriarty is excited by his next stride into elegance.
Joshua Moriarty’s latest single Isolation is out now through all good streaming services with his 3rd LP ‘Melancholia’ expected later this year.