Adelaide’s Botanic Park, transformed into a multicultural bohemian wonderland for WOMADelaide 2013, will not be the most unique setting for French band Moriarty. The six-member alternative folk/blues/rock outfit has performed in an intriguing range of venues since their foundation in the mid-90s, from prisons to castles to tiny basement bars. However, with a staple crowd of tens of thousands in Adelaide, WOMAD will top their performing repertoire in scale. “It’s very exciting, we have never been part of an international festival that big,” says singer Rosemary Moriarty.
The travelling musical ‘family’ includes Rosemary (singer, xylophone, thumb piano, spoons, tambourine, scotch-tape trumpet), Zim (double-bass, acoustic guitar, music box, suitcase drum), Thomas (harmonicas, kazoo, Jew’s harp), Charles (electric and resonator guitars), Vincent (drums, double-bass) and Eric (drums). Childhood friends from Paris, each has adopted the surname Moriarty in tribute to the main character from their favourite novel, On the Road, by Jack Kerouac, which documents the road trip of young Americans across the United States in the late 40s against a backdrop of music and drugs.
The last member to join in 1999, Rosemary, says the family dynamic of the band is obvious onstage. “The audience feels like we know each other really well. We feel each other without looking at each other, the energy.” Speaking from a Parisian apartment not far from Montmartre, Rosemary explains in her charming, matter-of-fact way that the band’s style has changed many times since its inception. From electric blues and rock covers, she points out the progression to “cutting all the wires” and turning completely to acoustic sounds and more original work. “When I came into the band there were only two songs that were written,” she says. “We started to write songs all together. I don’t know if I inspired them to do that. I hadn’t written songs before, maybe some poetry in French, but not songs. We had this little basement on Ile St-Louis in Paris – nobody lived in the apartment above. We would sit there writing and playing twice a week in this ten-metre square basement, like a little spaceship.”
Indeed, what was generated in that space began to reflect more closely the personal heritage of the group. The musicians were mainly raised by American parents in France and knew intimately the confusion of belonging wholeheartedly to two cultures – a conflict felt particularly sharply in Parisian schoolyards. “People like to pigeon-hole everything. When you’re at school either you’re French or American,” says Rosemary. “When we met later, we all had something missing. You can’t be 100 per cent of something and 100 per cent of something else.” A sense of displacement is the inspiration behind the song Jimmy on the highly successful album Gee Whiz But This is a Lonesome Town, which sold 70,000 copies in France. “The song spoke to a lot of people, because who doesn’t have a grandma or relative who left home and never came back? Sometimes they have a good reason, sometimes they regret it all their lives.”
The band explores family, travel and the quirkiness of artistic life against their ancestry in France, Peru, Switzerland and Vietnam. WOMAD audiences will pick up their inspirations from the Rolling Stones to The Cure and Debussy, and relax to the more gentle melodies of their tracks Cottonflower and Enjoy the Silence. The musicians’ spontaneity and eccentricity will delight WOMAD-goers who appreciate diversity – and show that something good can come from being misfits. “It makes you creative,” says Rosemary. “The in-between is something else and you express it, you invent something that makes you comfortable in the world. Why can’t we have everything?”
Friday, March 8 to Monday, March 11