Venus In Blurs

10 January 2013 | 7:15 am | Kosta Lucas

“Kurt Cobain has done his thing and it was depressing, so I try to do it in a way that is light and won’t make you want to top yourself.”

Many years ago, Nadéah Miranda was involuntarily committed to a mental health facility on New Year's Eve. She even wrote a song about it called An Asylum On New Year's Eve. Her admission to hospital, according to the song's lyrics, vaguely had something to do with “provocative clothing and star-spangled words.” (Seems unfair considering the standards on New Year's Eve, doesn't it?) Nowadays, Miranda chooses to indulge far more wholesome pastimes that are less scandalous. “Well it felt crazy for me, cooking for vegans, vegetarians, normal eaters and children,” says Miranda. Laughing, she admits, “We were all just drinking chamomile tea.” Chatting to Miranda on New Year's Day, she sounds tired, but relaxed. She is no doubt coming down from a year of touring the world with her debut album, Venus Gets Even, as well as entertaining friends and family all night. No wonder then that 2012 saw her have such a great run in Europe; she works really bloody hard.

Since her Australian tour in mid-2012, she has visited more destinations in Europe, North America and the Middle East, and somehow, she's ready to come back to promote her Whatever Lovers Say EP. Notwithstanding a gruelling and unglamorous touring schedule, Miranda concedes, “You wouldn't want to do anything else. But you know when you're doing left-of-centre music; it's not glamorous hotels, it's 12-hour trips in a van in the day. I think a lot of the most rewarding gigs are when you play arsehole pockets of nowhere.” Thankfully for us, it appears that those “star-spangled words” are very much in tact too.

Moving to France in her earlier years (“Aussies have such a love affair with the sophistication perceived with the French”), Miranda was armed only with self-taught talent, bodacious beauty, a wicked sense of humour and a dream (poor thing). The subsequent journey of working in posh restaurants to catching the attention of the super chic Nouvelle Vague collective provided her with the fertile life experiences that bore fruit in her solo debut. Hollywood could not have created out a more fascinating anti-heroine if it tried. In the blurry Nadéah Miranda personality matrix, attributes like “go-go dancer”, “model”, “busker” and “rock goddess” (formerly one half of the aptly named LoveGods) swim amongst others like “former mental hospital patient”, “cowboy hat burner at an airport”, “deportee”, “almost-widow” and “carer” (as a result of an accident that left her then-partner in a wheelchair). A cocktail of personality traits and experiences, you'd think that these experiences would weigh more on Miranda emotionally, but that doesn't seem to be the case at all. If anything, her robustness probably comes as a result. Reminding her of the fact that our conversation is taking place on the day after the anniversary of her involuntary hospitalization many years ago, she shows her tragicomic optimism; “I forgot to think about it, actually,” adding, “I actually thought it was a great experience… I got to hang out with another sector of people that many people don't get to.'”

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Despite Miranda sounding a little hazy and scattered due to fatigue, her warmth, worldliness and unrefined charm remain unwavering during our conversation much like it does on Venus Gets Even. An album combining sophisticated French-tinged pop (yé-yé, cabaret), blues and folk, the hook of Venus Gets Even is not so much the dark and startlingly frank lyrical content as it is in the way that these anecdotes are expressed. Picturesque chamber arrangements provide a sepia-toned hue over the film portraying Nadéah's life, and she is the charming protagonist re-enacting these dark moments in a light-hearted way. Even Miranda will tell you that humour is central to her craft. “People's defences are down which makes them more likely to receive what you're giving. It's hard to be in a judgmental state when you're laughing.” It's a far cry from her more serious grunge days in the LoveGods as a now worldlier Miranda opts for charming self-deprecation instead of dirge-like self-indulgence to captivate her audience. “Kurt Cobain has done his thing and it was depressing, so I try to do it in a way that is light and won't make you want to top yourself.”

It should come as no surprise then that Venus did not arrive out of the ocean in a huge clam and a splendour of sea foam. Poetically, it just wouldn't make sense in the context of Miranda's life. As a self-taught musician trying to push her creative boundaries, Miranda enlisted the help of classical conductor, Nicola Tescari, who proved quite the iron-fisted mentor during Venus' conception. “When I was making it, I wanted to make use of the fact that I had all of these classical musicians around me.” But like the most worthwhile endeavours, it was often far from fun. “It's such a different world. Spontaneity is not there. There's too much training, too much understanding of what's going on, which is great, but it means they'll say 'but you can't do that' and I'll say 'but why?'” But such is the struggle for self-improvement and the tough love of a family and Miranda wouldn't have it any other way. “The fight is kind of the marriage of the album.” In fact, a recurring theme with her seems to be this constant struggle to maintain a sense of family in her life.

Miranda is quick to point out just how much she relies on the minds and hearts of the people around her. “Look at those artists in the R&B scene that bring an entourage of like 50 billion people. In that realm it is essentially about arse licking, but I think you need a balance between the ones that prop you up and the ones that tell you the truth… well at least their truth.” After all, she still sees people like Tescari and former LoveGods band mate Art Menuteau as regular confidantes. “My drummer, I really respect his ear, and my bassist, he's classically trained. He's also my boyfriend so he's a real pain in the ass [laughs].” Later on, she sums it all up with a simple sentiment; “I feel much better in collaboration.”

In terms of other plans for 2013, Miranda also hopes to release her second album, which she describes as “pretty blues rock with a double bass.” She admits that the album will address the “banal” topic of love but not the romantic stuff. “Over the summer, I got dropped by someone for the first time in my life. That was good material (laughs).” Having written most of it, she is now on the hunt for a producer and she's scouting the big guns. “I asked this great guy, but he is not free when I need him.” The great guy in question just so happens to be John Parish, famed PJ Harvey producer (no biggy!) But given her Sliding Doors timing with Parish, she's brainstorming other options. You can just imagine it like Venus deciding whom to make fall in love with her next. So who's the lucky guy? “Kevin [Parker] from Tame Impala!” she gushes, “I think he's brilliant! I want to speak to Kev!” His efforts on Lonerism and Melody's Echo Chamber have rocketed him into the stratosphere and into Miranda's heart. If anything can be gleaned from this discussion it's that mere mortals need not apply; the Love Goddess is looking for someone with an equally God-like touch capable of shattering planets.

Nadéah Mirandawill be playing the following dates:

Thursday 17 January - Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide SA
Friday 18 January - Fly By Night, Perth WA
Sunday 20 January - So Frenchy, So Chic, Werribee VIC
Monday 21 January - So Frenchy, So Chic, Town Hall, Sydney NSW