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Interview: Malchicks Reflect On Their New Compilation 'Everything'

Interview: Malchicks Reflect On Their New Compilation 'Everything'

Gareth Shute / Monday 9th December, 2019 2:40PM

The Malchicks were New Zealand’s answer to My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Ride in the early 90s and now they have compiled their album, EP, and demos into a single album, Everything.

Those aforementioned UK bands have now reunited and are touring the world (Slowdive played Laneway NZ in 2018 and Ride played here in August) so the timing of this re-emergence makes sense. It’s also hard not to notice the return of fuzzed-out, dreamlike guitar in many recent releases by younger bands – in NZ you could point to acts like Fazerdaze, Dead Little Penny, and Water as picking up on this sound (an argument I’ve made at length elsewhere).

However the early demos included on Everything also show how the Malchicks were influenced by 80s acts like Sonic Youth and The Jesus and Mary Chain, so provide a more complete picture of the band. Also included are the group’s Lotus EP and their album, Mercury – available either via Bandcamp or as a compact disc with boutique hand made double gatefold packaging.

We caught up with founding member and singer / bassist Coralie Martin and guitarist Matt Dalzell to ask a few questions about the release and why now seemed like the perfect time to drop it.

Gareth Shute: The demos at the end of the new album show the early influences of the band, like Sonic Youth and The Wedding Present. Were there particular bands / albums that you heard that made you want to incorporate more dreamy fuzzed out guitars and ethereal vocals?

Coralie Martin: As far as the ethereal vocals go, I think to a certain extent that is just how they turned out. My voice probably has that quality to a certain extent – I have never been one to belt out a song. Plagued by a lack of self-confidence, I always insisted on loads of reverb on the vocals; it’s the only way I could stand listening to the sound of my own voice. So I don’t think the vocal sound was a direct result of the influence of any band in particular. Nonetheless, that suited the style of music we were playing, and I think married quite well with the male vocal.

Matt Dalzell: Some of it was multi-tracking the vocals – I still remember mixing in the Lab and Chris [van de Geer] was doing a Phil Spector impression with the “Wall of Coralies” in one song... And I was working with the limitations of my voice which I learned intuitively but also with Mark Tierney during studio work – there’s a register that fits what I write, not much range, and if forced it goes sharp and reedy. There’s your instrument, either go back to vocal bootcamp and learn how to use it from scratch, or make the most of what you’ve got and sit it in the recording just so.

I’m not sure our guitars got fuzzier, but we certainly slowed down so it might have given them some more space, and Simon joined the band so it all got fuller, more immersive, oceanic. The earlier songs are a bit closer to some 60s garage rock and local influences. Thinking back, 'Steamroller' was me trying to write a chord progression like the Gordons, without obvious success but when you’re 18 you don’t necessarily know what’s possible. I think you can hear some Sonic Youth in the breakdowns and mid-sections of the early songs, some atonal bits. As we became better guitarists there were more picking and melody parts, rather than “ok,1,2,3,4 strum like hell” and ... stop. 'Vanilla' and 'Fly By Night' are the “bridge” songs, a lot of elements in there that we came back to in tone and structure.

One of the bands most popular songs was undoubtedly, ‘Drive'. What can you tell me about how that track came about?

Coralie: I think Matt came up with the music for that one, and I worked out the vocal melody and wrote the lyrics. You see, I have never really enjoyed driving, I’m just too nervous. This situation wasn’t helped by my first car, which was an early 70’s Daihatsu Max with a two-stroke engine. Late one night I unexpectedly had to drive from the city to my grandmother’s place in Papakura. If I could have done anything to avoid it, I would have, but as I had no choice, I just grit my teeth and sent all 360 ccs of the car screaming down the southern motorway, maxing out the Max at 90 kph in the slow lane. I was terrified!

Of course, this was back when there were hardly any cars on the roads at night, and the motorway south of Otahuhu was not so well lit. My car’s little headlights didn’t seem to reach very far ahead in the dark so I had the impression of driving blind. I later learned how to put the lights on full beam. Anyway, we made it, the car and I, but when I finally closed my eyes in Nana’s spare room, it felt like I was still driving into the night. So that was ‘Drive'. Sorry if I have ruined the poetry of the song. But the music somehow suggested to me the sensation of that experience of hurtling into the void.

Matt: 'Drive', also known as “Concerto for 8 Guitars and Voice in Gsus4”... I was playing around with an alternate tuning that had a great drone to it and just moved a chord shape around to see where it was sympathetic or dissonant. The tuning drove the chord progression and that was the main verse-chorus part. We had a lot of harmonic movement going on with suspended fourths, full tone bends and so on. It could have been quite a standard song - verse-chorus, verse-chorus, middle with solo, final chorus, end. That’s the formula. But it’s not what we ended up with… it has some quite strange elements but mostly keeps its divergence hidden. The customarily brilliant drumming provided by Jason [Ennor] ties it all together, so when the structure changes it’s really subtle. A music theorist could probably explain how and why it works and modulates its tension and release but that would be a bit like eunuchs talking about sex. We just did it through intuition and feel.

Musical styles seem to loop back around into popularity, but that dream pop sound seems particularly enduring. Have you found yourself noticing similar bands over the years in that style?

Matt: My theory is that it’s the cyclical return of 60s folk rock, with different guitar effects each time. It happens about every five years. Why? Because it’s easy to play, feels good, is still quite adaptable, and is a great vehicle for vocal expression and other instrumentation. I’m not suggesting bands set out to mimic Joan Baez, CSNY, or Gene Clark – and they don’t sound exactly the same, but it comes from a similar cultural root. My Bloody Valentine songs can in fact be played on an acoustic 12-string. I didn’t listen to much guitar music for ages, mostly trip hop and downtempo, I guess because my records were all in storage and the nearest CD store was a 3-hour flight away. What’s caught my ear recently… maybe Daughter, Lali Puna, SPC ECO, Fever Ray, UNKLE, the recent Lamb and Swervedriver albums are superb. I like Covet but that’s more baroque guitar fusion. I don’t just incline to stuff that’s complex or dense, I also love discovering music where a deceptive simplicity hides real genius – Beth Orton, Cat Power, Chelsea Wolfe, Kathleen Munroe – maybe it’s just me mentally filling in guitar lines and strings over the top which I have a tendency to do. Where were we? Ok, me proving I have no idea what dream pop is!

Coralie: I could never get away from guitar bands. I have been listening to some pretty good stuff recently that you could put into that genre if you really wanted to. Rev Rev Rev from Modena, Italy have a great album, Des fleurs magiques bourdonnaient, which makes me want to pick up my bass again. Also, there is some great stuff coming out of Russia - bands like Gnoomes, Pinkshinyultrablast and Your Friend Polymers are on my playlist. There is a whole world of amazing music out there, so easily accessible; it’s a very exciting time.

How did the idea for the Everything compilation come about and how are you feeling about it now that it’s ready to go out into the world?

Coralie: The initial impetus for the idea came from the fact that we had nothing in a digital format. People had started asking me if they could find the Malchicks on iTunes or anywhere, and the answer was sadly, no. So conversations with Rob ensued about the possibility of getting something into digital format, which he was totally on board with. Luckily for us, because I doubt if we would have managed to get anything together if it hadn’t been for his infectious enthusiasm for a project. Now that it is together and actually happening, it’s a very satisfying feeling.

Matt: Partly also it was Simon [Matthews, second guitarist] and me separately dealing with stuff that had been in long-term storage and finding boxes of recordings, masters, final mix-downs, and live stuff on different formats – cassette tape, DAT, reels - and wondering what to do with it, if anything. The first step was to figure out if the recordings were even viable but it turned out they were technically salvageable, so we had a bigger slate of material to work with. Rob Mayes [owner of their label, Failsafe] applied some serious magic to the remastering and in the process suggested a different song order, which i think is great and makes me feel like it’s not only harmonically richer and better balanced, but is very much a new product. Yes there is material I wrote and recorded as a teenager, and some of that is identifiable, but it’s all part of the process of developing as a musician, songwriter and as a band, all part of Everything.

'Everything' is out now on deluxe double CD and digitally via Failsafe Records.


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