Interview: Mallory Knox [October 2014]

By Lais

A few weeks back, we headed to Be At One bar in Islington to talk all things ‘Asymmetry’ with Mallory Knox frontman Mikey Chapman and guitarist Sam Douglas. Before they were unleashed on an afternoon of Rocktails festivities, we had a good long chat about making their second album, which comes out next week. While debut album ‘Signals’ gave them a foot up in the rock world, ‘Asymmetry’ is almost definitely the record that will send them into the big time.

How are you feeling about the album release? I think everyone is gonna go wild.

Mikey: I really hope so. You can never say for certain but we hope that we can achieve something with this and maybe take a step up from ‘Signals’. Now we’ve got these amazing people behind us, it’s looking like it could become a reality which is amazing.

‘Signals’ actually only came out last year. It seems a lot longer than that.

Sam: Yeah, it came out in January 2013 which doesn’t seem that long ago, but for us, when we actually recorded that album it was January 2012 so we had those songs for an extra 12 months before anyone even heard them. Bear in mind we wrote them in 2011, so when it actually came to writing this album it took a while to get back into it because we went about a year and a half without writing a thing.
Mikey: Obviously we’re in October now, so even though you say last year, it’s almost been two years. And so much has happened in that year and a half, two years, that when you look back to that and then look at now, it seems like the distance should be a lot longer than it is just because of what’s gone on. It’s been so exciting but at the same time it’s kind of scary.

Last year you were supporting Don Broco in small venues, and now you’re about to headline big venues on your tour next month.

Mikey: Yeah man, the venues are amazing. They’re venues we’ve always wanted to play, even just as support let alone as a headliner. I think it’s a really nice time now for British music. Obviously Broco are headlining the Kerrang! tour which is amazing. It’s just one of those things you’d never expect you or your friends’ bands to achieve. So the jump from that to this has been wild and it makes you excited to see where it all goes and what happens.

I posted a little blog about ‘Asymmetry’ after hearing it at your listening party back in July and the internet went wild.

Mikey: We’re very blessed. We’ve got a lot of kids – no, kids is a bit patronising – people that really love us and it’s strange because it’s awesome when they just like your music but when people fall in love with you as a group of people, it’s a really nice personal connection. And that sort of happened, and it’s an awesome feeling to know that people, almost complete strangers across the world, are backing this album as much as we are.

How would you describe the album to people who haven’t heard it yet?

Sam: It’s interesting. I find it almost impossible to describe a song without people hearing it. I mean, if they’ve heard ‘Signals’, it’s just a progression from that point. We’ve said before, if you take the two years experience we’ve had in terms of touring and rehearsing and just hanging out, we’ve got to know each other a lot better, and I think when we were writing this album we bounced off each other a lot more. It’s always gonna sound like us, because when we wrote ‘Signals’ we wanted to sound like our favourite band and it was the same mentality for this, so it’s still gonna have the same bits we had before, I just think they’re a lot tighter and they’re a lot better and we’re more to the point this time on what we wanted to get. If we wanna be heavy, then we’re gonna be really fucking heavy, and if we wanna be melodic, then we’re gonna make sure that you ain’t gonna forget the chorus. That’s what we’ve tried to do because that’s what we wanna hear. People are just gonna have to listen to it and see what they think. I mean, I could sit here all day and say, “This song’s like a pop punk song”, but it doesn’t work like that. You’ll have to wait and see. If they like the last album, then they should like this one, and if they didn’t, then they could well like this one because I just think it’s better overall.

I think it’s just a bigger sound for you.

Mikey: That’s cool, because we keep getting asked what the meaning behind ‘Asymmetry’ is, and that’s sort of it in a nutshell. It’s ‘Signals’: it’s got the honesty of ‘Signals’, it’s got the us factor of ‘Signals’, but things are slightly skewed from that. Things are a bit more powerful: emotions are a bit more powerful and ideas and experiences that we’ve gone through have become stronger or changed or heightened for better or worse so now it reflects that. The album name kind of describes the change between ‘Signals’ and ‘Asymmetry’ quite nicely.

How did you find recording compared to ‘Signals’?

Sam: In every single way better, because we had time to really think about certain parts. For example, one day when there was a power cut for four hours: if that’d happened last time we’d be in the bin because there wasn’t enough time, whereas this time we took that time to sit down in a dark room, me on acoustic and him (Mikey) working on harmonies for each song. We really had time to figure everything out. For example, I did a vocal take about two weeks in and about two months later, I was like, “No, I don’t like it” and just did it again, whereas before I would’ve had to stick with it. Everything was to the point and it was really relaxed. I mean, recording with Gil and Dan – obviously before we went into the studio we were like, “Oh Jesus, we’re recording with Gil Norton here”, who’s a big big name, and we kind of worried that we might let that get to us a bit and not be as open as with someone we’d worked with before but after a week – I’ve said before, he wasn’t just like a producer, he was like a mate, so it made the whole thing just really easy to get through and talk about. Such a relaxed atmosphere and the whole recording process was just really easy, which I think is quite rare. You get bands who go into the studio and are like, “I’m stressed with this”. I mean, we had a fire, we had a load of stuff go wrong, but at the same time, it was so easy and so natural, so it couldn’t have really gone much better, apart from the fire.
Mikey: It could’ve not burnt down. We obviously got to know the folks at Moles really well over the time we were there and they were really nice, down to earth, hard working folks, regular, average Joes, and when you see someone’s livelihood go up in smoke literally, it’s a sad thing to see. Obviously it tripped us up in the process a bit but that was the only major hiccup. It was just the ultimate professionalism of everyone involved behind the scenes. Obviously we’ve got a great management team behind us, and Gil and Dan also have a great management team who sort all their aspect of things out. Also, Gil and Dan combined have more knowledge combined about the studio and the process than a lot of people across the world. So between everyone, we just had a huge knowledge base and a huge group of very capable people to sort out any problems that we encountered and they did that.
Sam: It could’ve been very difficult really because we did run over by three to four weeks. I know that sounds like it could be really stressful, but everyone was on the same page, so even when it all went really wrong they still made it so easy for us.
Mikey: It was fantastic, a real testament to them.
Sam: Gil trusted us enough to let us into his house for a week, so I think that shows how well we got to know each other. Like, “Alright lads, come and record vocals at my house for a week. I’ll book a little beach house, it’ll be fine”. It was sound.
Mikey: It was really cool. We got to have dinner with his family and really hang out. He really welcomed us into his home. I mean, the rest of the boys didn’t really get to experience it. It was just Sam and I but it was a really really nice way to end the recording experience.

It seems like a fairly quick turnaround since starting to record the album and release it.

Sam: I think that was the only stressful bit really. We did run over the recording process which obviously meant that the mastering side of it did have to be done real quick and before we knew it we were picking the single and the video. But the way it turned out, that was just how it had to be. But I guess in terms of finishing the recording and putting out a song it was really quick, but I like that, because we sat on the last album for a year, but with this we only sat on it for a couple of months before someone heard it so it’s still really fresh for us as well. When we brought out ‘Lighthouse’ last year we’d had that song for 12 months and it didn’t feel new anymore. But we really did get that excitement with releasing a song this time because for us it was new as well. It was cool.

Do you have personal favourite songs on the record?

Mikey: Well, this is part of the beauty for me. We finished the record and everyone listened to it – our parents listened to it, management listened to it, and so on, and we all sit there for about half an hour arguing about which song’s gonna be the single. Our parents come along and say, “This one’s my favourite, I don’t understand why you haven’t done that”, and it’s almost like a worrying thing because nobody can make their mind up. But I see it as a completely positive thing because everyone has their own favourites, and obviously for us they’re all our favourites in one respect or another because they wouldn’t be on the record but the same goes for us. Whenever someone asks us that question, I’m like “This one!” and then the next week I’ll be like, “Oh no, this one!” Kind of depends on what mood I’m in. I mean, there are a few standouts for you aren’t there Sam?
Sam: Yeah, there’s a few in terms of – I mean, you can have a favourite song but it doesn’t have to be a single – there’s a few you can imagine as a single. Mine do change every day but there’s one song that stands out to me which is ‘She Took Him To The Lake’ which is seven and a half minutes long. We never would’ve written that song two years ago. We never would’ve contemplated writing a seven and a half minute song. And even though it wasn’t intentionally written to be a seven and a half minute song – it was two songs – l love that we did that. It’s our second album – the tricky second album – and that shows just how relaxed we were about following it up like, “Fuck it, let’s write a seven and a half minute long song, let’s just do it”. I think if it wasn’t that long it’d be a single for me. It’s great.

It actually doesn’t feel that long.

Sam: No, and that’s the great thing about it. If it felt like a seven and a half minute song then that’d be a problem, but I listen to that song and before I know it I’m putting it on again because it feels like it’s gone just like that. But yeah, I’m proud of every single one. When it came to taking three songs off for the standard edition – obviously they went on the deluxe – but taking three songs off, I say it was heartbreaking because it was. You don’t wanna lose those songs, but I think it shows how much we think of these songs, all 14 of them. I couldn’t really pick a favourite, it changes every day.

Once you finish the recording process, do you listen to the album over and over or never again?

Mikey: I’ve done my very best not to simply because I wanna talk with the same passion about these songs in three or four months time as I do now. By talking about them too much it loses that unique quality. The last time I listened to them was at a signing in Reading and it was such a nice experience to listen to it over a sound system in somewhere I’ve never been before, like “This is actually a real thing, not just on my phone or my laptop anymore, it’s out there and it’s gonna be even more so very soon”. It’s a very cool feeling. Sam’s more thorough with the whole process, with the ins and outs of it and all that kind of finer detail, so it makes sense for him to do it, but for me, who’s not hugely musically minded, it’s less of an importance.

Do you think you’ll be playing a lot of new stuff on the tour next month?

Sam: Yeah. This is the thing we’ve been talking about already: what songs we’re gonna have to drop out of the set that have been in it for the last three years. We’ll probably just spend the whole time arguing about which songs to play [laughs]. But yeah, it’s exciting and it’s gonna be interesting to see how they all fit and which make the cut. We’re gonna hopefully be touring this record for the next 18 months or so, so every single song will eventually get its time. The album’s only gonna have been out for a few weeks and we won’t be able to judge which songs will go down well, so I reckon we’ll just see how we feel. We could rotate a few. It’s gonna be good to play a set where we don’t have to play songs we don’t wanna play anymore. Like ‘Oceans’, but that’s just me.

You played Reading this summer. How was that?

Mikey: Reading was amazing. Last year we did main stage which was obviously a very unique experience, and I thought getting to Reading and playing the second stage was gonna be an anticlimax. I thought, “How can you really top main stage?” but the experience we had on second stage was just as good if not maybe a little bit better for me personally than the main stage experience, just because that kind of thing happens once or maybe twice a year at different festivals and I don’t think you can ever prepare yourself. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of that. I think maybe when you’re Iron Maiden or Metallica and you’re doing it every other year, five or six times across the world, it might get a bit boring. But that rush, that buzz, is just outstanding. It was such a nice feeling, and the crowd response was just such a humbling, beautiful thing. It’s kind of hard to put into words how it feels without standing up there. It’d probably take me about two and a half pages of writing to accurately express the first 30 seconds, but yeah. Phenomenal experience.

Was that your highlight of the summer?

Sam: It was the highlight of the summer for sure. Without a doubt. We starved ourselves of shows this year recording the album. I know we had Slam Dunk which was rad but Reading was the one it was all leading up to. That was the “Hi we’re back” show, the starting point for this new album, so definitely the highlight of the year, and one of the highlights since this band started for me, because it felt like a moment.

It’s all pretty impressive considering you only formed five years ago.

Mikey: It’s crazy. We started this band so humbly and without intention, and to have taken it as far as we have, and the fact we could potentially take it even further, is shocking really. If you said six years ago to any of us that we’d be in a band and this is what we’d be doing we’d probably have laughed at you. To do these things after ten years would be an honour but to be able to be considered worthy at this level is a real honour. It really is a privilege.


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Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]