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Mali Mali Shares Album 'I Was Told To Keep An Eye Out' + Interview

Mali Mali Shares Album 'I Was Told To Keep An Eye Out' + Interview

C.C. / Photo credit: Olive Jeffares / Friday 17th April, 2020 10:56AM

Tāmaki Makaurau's Mali Mali, the songwriting project of Ben Tolich, has returned with fourth studio album I Was Told to Keep an Eye Out – an intimate collection of philosophically inclined ballads, illuminated by tender piano and subtle flourishes of dreamy synths. Unluckily waylaid over the past couple of weeks with Covid-19, Tolich spoke with Brooke Singer (French For Rabbits) about the ideas explored on his latest record, live streaming plans, his experience with the infamous coronavirus and more. Open your ears to I Was Told To Keep An Eye Out and scroll downwards to delve into their conversation...

Brooke Singer: You’ve always been a prolific composer and producer – where do you find inspiration?

Ben Tolich: I started recording and mixing my own music back in 2015 when I did my second album As A Dog Dreams. Since then I've been able to keep the momentum going between writing and actually finishing albums as it's all in my own hands. Externally there are many people that inspire me but I was listening to a lot of Bob Dylan in particular and digging in to his life and process across his whole discography. His confidence in the song and lack of preciousness when recording was a source of inspiration.

What themes did you explore on this album? Do you return to some from previous records?

I see my last 3 albums as a bit of a trilogy. A process of internal revelation becoming more external. As a Dog Dreams was psychological, Azimuth was spiritual, and the new album is slightly more outward and philosophical. There's a song called 'Ajar' which feels like the seed in which the other songs come from. There are always moments in my own life to come back to and pull apart but the problems are bigger on this new album. It's not just me. There's a whole world gasping for wisdom and I'm wondering how to find it. I feel like the title I Was Told to Keep an Eye Out feels extra fitting for our current isolated pandemic times.

Any favourite song on the new record?

Hard to say! They all have things I'm proud of. I have a soft spot for the song 'Absconding' as it was written and recorded pretty quickly and I really like how it came out. I needed one more song for the album and that one nuzzled up to me from the ether and let me take it. Also the particular style of rhythmic / melodic piano playing on 'For the Wisdom to Blossom' was a little breakthrough for me.

I hear you’re one of the unlucky few to have had Covid-19 so far. Can you tell us about the experience of having it?

Yeah crazy right. It's been about two weeks of symptoms. It started gradual and got a little more intense. Body aches and fever were pretty persistent for about a week and I lost my sense of smell / taste. I have had a slight tight chest and cough but mainly have just been super lethargic. I've always been a bit of a hypochondriac so it's been strange talking to the public health doctors and not being able to get any clear answers about the symptoms because we're all figuring it out together! They are doing an incredible job though, dealing with patients and also trying to do intense detective work to trace how it spread. This whole pandemic has made me so very thankful to be living in this country, under our current leadership.

Given touring isn’t on the cards for the foreseeable future, how can people support your music? Will you be playing any online performances?

I'll do some live stream performances for sure. My Instagram is the best place for that. Other than that just listen to and share my music if you like it. Chuck a song on a playlist and buy my music from Bandcamp. I did a very limited edition run of vinyl for this new album with artwork from NZ legend Bill Hammond so grab that before it goes! Also don't be shy to reach out if you like what I do. That encouragement goes a long way.

'I Was Told to Keep an Eye Out' is out now on Home Alone Music - limited edition 12" vinyl and digitally via Mali Mali's Bandcamp page here, and streamable via Spotify.


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