Robert Conroy has the voice of an angel - an angel who’s lived a season in hell.
Conroy is one half of the exquisite pop duo, Misty Roses, whose beautiful and ethereal voice is married to the dramatic and mesmeric music of Jonny Perl. From when they first met, they understood each other. Call it synchronicity. Call it good taste.
Together they are Misty Roses - the most startlingly original and brilliant group of the past 5 years.
In an exclusive interview with Dangerous Minds, Misty Roses, Conroy and Perl, explain the who’s, what’s, why’s and wherefores of their music.
Robert: ‘I met Jonny in late 2002, when he was still living in Brooklyn. We had a mutual friend and, in passing, I mentioned to that mutual friend that I was obsessed with Scott Walker and Julie London. To which he said “There is only ONE other person ON EARTH who is obsessed with Scott Walker AND Julie London! That’s this English guy I know, Jonny Perl!” And I found out he was a musician, and I was intrigued - so I got Jonny’s number and I called him. We met soon afterwards, and we just realized very quickly that we were on very similar frequencies. I mean, after our first rehearsal - which was three hours long, maybe - I think we came away with working demos of three or four songs that ended up on our first LP. We understood each other - musically - from the get-go.’
Born and raised in NYC, Robert had performed with a range of bands “post-punk, goth, electronic” over the years, and says he “was lucky enough to have a front row seat for a lot what happened musically over last decade or two.” The range of experience only confirmed his talents and focused his ambitions.
Robert: First and foremost, I am a singer - I’ve trained with some serious vocal coaches, in my day. And I like a lot of different kinds of music. So if I dig the people and I dig how they write songs and they dig how I write songs, then I’m game.’
British born Jonny has always been musically gifted, as a child he learned to play the cello, piano, and saxophone. Before Misty Roses he had played in a variety of combos, and was playing with a surf band in NYC when the conversation about Julie London brought him to Robert.
Jonny: ‘The synergies between our musical interests seemed so strong that we both figured it was worth giving it a shot.’
Together, they create music that is the perfect fusion of cabaret and cinema, of torch song and widescreen. You are listening to the score for a dream by Kenneth Anger or Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Douglas Sirk or David Lynch.
Robert: ‘We have been described as Lynchian - which we take as a great compliment. (And we did cover a David Lynch/Angelo Badalamenti song on our disc Komodo Dragons - so it sort of fits, don’t it?) But we both love the way Mr. Lynch takes something seemingly innocuous and pretty - such as a song like “Sixteen Reasons” or “Blue Velvet” - and discovers all these inherently disturbing elements beneath its surface. I hope we create a similar kind of frisson with our best songs.
‘Musically, we are deeply influenced by non-rock popular music from the later half of the Twentieth Century. Soundtrack composers like Ennio Morricone, John Barry and Jerry Goldsmith, exotica, bossa nova and tropicalia records, dub and a lot recordings of jazz and vocal standards - Ellington, Julie London, Peggy Lee, Nina Simone and such like.
‘Likewise, the work of people we like to call “middle-of-the-road mavericks”- artists who were able to create music that was both very accessible and deeply idiosyncratic and more than a little odd. People like Scott Walker, Serge Gainsbourg, Bacharach and David, Dionne Warwick, Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra, Dusty Springfield, Jimmy Webb, Bobbie Gentry, etc. And these influences get filtered further through the “rock” music we like, which is primarily the “artier” end of the spectrum. Stuff like the Velvet Underground and its alumni, Bowie, Roxy Music, Sparks, Joy Division, The Banshees, The Associates, Soft Cell, The Smiths, The Pet Shop Boys, Suede, Broadcast, Goldfrapp, etc.
‘Jonny described our sound as “glamorous easy listening music” initially. I loved that. Jonny and I are really attracted to glamorous sounds. We love orchestrations - strings sections, and french horns and flutes. We dig those gleaming, cold textures of synthesizers from the 1970’s.
All the things that you’re supposed to reject if you’re into music that is “true” and “real”. We dig artifice.’
Jonny: ‘Yes - we had pretty much all these things in common as interests from the start. I will never shake off the Smiths/Postcard/C86 influences I had when I started to play guitar, but there has always been cross-fertilization - from playing in orchestras and ensembles to collecting old easy listening, Latin and Brazilian records.’
Robert: ‘And our music tends to drift into the shadows, as it were. Traditionally - until the last century, really - “glamour” was an occult term. Its a synonym for “spell”. One casts a glamour. And that connection to magic also suggests a sense of mystery - I think. Nothing can be truly glamorous without an element of darkness or strangeness. All my favorite music has some eerie, even creepy, aspect. And I find a lot of classic horror and science fictions films - like Forbidden Planet or Suspiria or The Bride of Frankenstein - wildly glamorous. Star Trek and Space: 1999 likewise.’
Their first performance as Misty Roses took place in an old East Village Buddhist tea house. Jonny played guitar and backing tracks, while Robert “channeled Dusty Springfield”. For both, it was a moment of magic, and the promise of greater things seemed almost within reach. Almost….
”Starry Wisdom” from ‘Villainess’ by Misty Roses
More from the fabulous Misty Roses, plus bonus tracks, after the jump…