The Midnight River Crew – Perfect Strangers | Disconnect
‘Perfect Strangers’ is a lovely old-school indie pop-rock piece about parasocial interactions following alienation and disconnect. The way I hear it, the track embodies the feeling of missing someone you only know in your head, a caricature that you construct from imagination and expectation rather than who the other person really is.
The Midnight River Crew is a seasoned four-person band with nine years of experience together, and so feel comfortable tackling these nuanced themes. The newest member, Isabella Coulstock, only joined this year but fits the ensemble perfectly with her rich and character-filled vocalisations. Duets between Mark Johnson and Isabella create a powerful bridge that is punctuated by their solo bits – allowing for the song to feel vacillating and dynamic. Johnson sounds like an 80s rock singer with his crisp voice, and provides expertise and texture to the track like no other.
Perfect Strangers uses quite the assembly of instruments to create a dynamic soundscape for it to truly pop. Unlike most of the MRCs music, it isn’t a violin infused piece, yet manages to find the unique and narratively consistent melody. A pop-rock melody inspired by a George Michael performance, it emerges as something new for both the band and the listener. Do check out the track! Following is the textionnaire we sent the MRC:
Do tell us about MRC, and its journey as a collective.
The MRC is an invited ensemble of musicians that gather to record my songs. We take each song separately and treat it as an individual piece. Working on them one at a time. I work out in advance which instruments and arrangement of voices that are needed to suit each song, and send those selected musicians a home demo for guidance. I also rehearse the songs with them individually before the recording session. Long standing Producer, Paul Midcalf is key to achieving the great sounds that work for us in the studio. The song features singer-songwriter Isabella Coulstock along with long-time MRCrew-member Mark Johnson.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves? How did this collaboration come to be?
I first became aware of Isabella through Al Drake-Brockman who worked as a sound engineer at The Grey Lady, a live music venue in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK. Isabella and Myself had both played there but not at the same time. I was working with writer and broadcaster Robin Nixon on a song cycle of songs and spoken word poetry called ‘Fair Game’. I needed a female voice for one of the songs on ‘Fare Game’ called ‘Fragments’. I contacted Isabella through our mutual connection Al. She came into the studio and sang it beautifully. Isabella is now developing her own solo career. She is very adaptable and enthusiastic in the studio. And brings with her a lot of great arrangement ideas. Following that, I had a song written that I set aside for future recording. I redrafted this song and rearranged it for a Male/Female vocal duet with a country waltz flavour. Isabella is a big fan of country music so I sent her a demo and she agreed to do it. We then recorded this track ‘The Night Still Falls’ with Paul Midcalf producing. The results were very good, we had a blast doing it, and we have maintained our music association since then.
Perfect Strangers is a delightful track, could you share a little of the conceptualisation behind it?
The song ‘Perfect Strangers’ initially came about after I saw a TV documentary about George Michael. Featuring a live performance of George at the historic Palais Garnier Opera House in Paris. It was broadcast just after he died and was deeply affecting. After seeing this broadcast, I set out to write a song in his style.
MRC seems to want to make a statement about violin music, could you elaborate on that? What would you say your biggest musical influences are?
The Indie world of music is, at least to my ears, currently oversaturated with guitar bands. Although I do write the material on an acoustic guitar, The MRC are not a guitar band per se. We are, in the current incarnation, a melodic pop band, acknowledging certain Country and Folk stylings. Utilising the violin as our lead/main instrument. At the time of writing, our Fiddle player Judith Hillier has plans to move away from our area. So I am now looking for a new Violin player for our upcoming sessions. I would say my main influences are = Ray Davies (The Kinks), Graham Parker, Nick Lowe, Curtis Mayfield, Smokie Robinson, Gladys Knight, Nina Simone, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, and Dusty! And then a host of others!
Is there anything you’d like to add about the MRC, or its experiences?
A while ago I attended a week-long songwriters retreat hosted by Ray Davies (The Kinks). This collaborative songwriting experience was a life changing event, and this experience lives with me still.
Do you have anything you’d like to use the platform for? To say things to other artists maybe?
The most important thing in a person’s musical development is to maintain the quality of your work to the very highest standard. Whether it be writing and/or recording, keep the quality high by engaging the best supportive people that you can.
Part-time writer but full-time music enthusiast, I write some of the features on here. I think appreciating a multitude of genres and styles makes me good at my job, so clicky here to see what I've written!