October 10, 2016

Interview: Mallrat

Australia's Mallrat on taking control of her music career and the dance party of her dreams.

I’m kneeling on the floor of my room, prodding at the dying fern by my bedside. I’m nearly twenty-one, about to graduate from my university degree, and, embarrassingly enough, I still can’t manage to keep a plant alive. Lately, this is all I’ve been able to think about. By my next birthday I won’t be able to hide from my adulthood anymore. I don’t know when I’m going to stop feeling like a confused, fumbling, lost dog; sure, I might be an adult technically, but I’m still terrible at eye contact, not very fun at parties, and a terrible dancer. When I finish my degree and get a real job will I miraculously evolve into a cool girl, with an exciting career, and a cute dog? Will my plants come back from the dead? Will I suddenly know how to dance; how to have fun at parties? Probably not. But that’s okay – I’ve been listening to Mallrat’s latest EP, Uninvited, and been very reassured. This girl (real name Grace Shaw), 18 from Brisbane, is flourishing – she’s putting herself out there, writing and releasing her own stuff and blowing up. But she still feels a bit unsure of herself sometimes; she writes about quietness, and other nervous youthful feelings that I always find myself relating to. So if a girl like Mallrat still wants to sit inside in silence, maybe it’s okay that I’m not always my best at parties. I spoke to Mallrat about these kinds of feelings, and managed to get a bit of life advice out of her. We talked songwriting, trusting your gut, and dancing. I forgot to ask her how to bring my fern back to life, but that’s okay. I’ll google it. 

The Le Sigh: So, let’s get straight to the vital information – there are quite a few pictures of you with a golden lab on your Instagram. Can you tell me more about this sweet-looking dog? 

Grace Shaw: Yes! His name’s Charlie, he’s my best friend and I love him to bits.

TLS: OK, now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about you – introduce yourself! 

GS: My name is Grace, I’m 18, and I make music as Mallrat.

TLS: I’ve noticed some references to Brisbane in a few of your songs. Do you think that being from Brisbane has influenced you as an artist? 

GS: Well, it’s definitely influenced me as a person so that’s naturally reflected in what I’m making. Right now I’m itching to travel and explore so Brisbane feels especially boring and small. That’s probably a bit harsh but I think that feeling is also a natural part of growing up for some people.

TLS: As a sister Australian, I have to ask about the name – Mallrat. What inspired the name choice? Was the local Westfield a popular hangout in your area? I was definitely a Westfield rat, myself, as a young teen.

GS: Yeah, Westfield was so popular in grade eight and nine! Westfield Chermside was my local. I actually got the name from a song by The Orwells called "Mallrats (La La La)."

TLS: In an interview, I read that you DIY’ed your first demos and sent them out to producers. What was it like putting yourself out there, straight off the bat? Do you have any tips for young, new artists that are nervous to show their work? 

GS: It was very very scary but I was just following a gut instinct. Being a new artist is a tough situation to be in because the first steps are the hardest ones. It’s a struggle of not wanting to present something that isn’t your best work and needing to get the ball rolling. My advice would be to trust your gut and to make something honest.

TLS: Your genre is pretty hard to pin down – I’ve heard the word ‘bubble-rap’ thrown around a few times, which seems to be the closest description yet. Who influences your sound? 

GS: I think it’s hard to pin down as well, I listen to pretty much every thing. Allday was the person that inspired me to start making music, his honesty really cut through. So there’s a strong hip hop influence from people like him, Kanye, Chance The Rapper and A$AP Rocky but I also listen to stacks of folk music, electronic, rock, pop, RnB. I just like any song that makes you feel something. At the end of the day I’d say I make pop music because it’s catchy and accessible, but I hope it’s feels-y and unexpected.

TLS: What was the writing process like for your EP, Uninvited?

GS: Usually I’d sit in my room and sing over the top of beats I’ve been sent, make a GarageBand demo, and then go to the studio to record it. This EP feels like me learning about the process so I’m excited to keep experimenting with that.

TLS: I’m sometimes a pretty socially anxious person, so listening to your song "Inside Voices" really resonated with me. What did you hope your listeners would get out of a track like "Inside Voices"? 

GS: I’m so glad it resonated! That’s why I wrote it, I think I was looking for a sense of community in being alone.

TLS: Your song "Uninvited" seems like an anthem for anyone who doesn’t feel like making an appearance at a dud party. What’s the worst party you’ve ever been to? 

GS: I think it was probably too recent to mention, I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Any party that lacks dancing is a pain.

TLS: If you were the DJ for the dancefloor of your dreams, what would make the playlist? 

GS: So Fresh 2009- 2011, Kanye, Justin Timberlake and SOPHIE.

TLS: Do you have any dancing tips for socially-anxious party-goers (i.e. me)? 

GS: If you don’t vibe what’s playing save your energy for something you do vibe, and then let loose. Bring or otherwise make a friend who loves to dance.

TLS: What’s up next? 

GS: I think I’ll be focusing on writing lots of music, playing shows, and working on my production.

Listen to Mallrat on soundcloud.

Madalyn Trewin, a scrawny Australian with way too much time on her hands, endlessly staring up at the sky. She likes to pull words out of the air and put them back together as well as she can. So, most of the time, she’s pretending she’s a poet all over her blog.