Brig’s Cameron Watson got a chance to speak to the new front man Sam Douglas and guitarist James Gillett before Mallory Knox’s intimate gig at Glasgow’s King Tuts.
The last 12 months have been quite eventful for the newly reformed four piece from Cambridge. After releasing their third album Wired back in March 2017, the band looked as strong as ever. However, backstage there appeared to be many issues. From record label interference, not feeling as passionate about the music they were creating and culminating with the bands frontman, Mikey Chapman, announcing his departure from the band in February 2018.
Things looked tough for the lads; however, with the announcement of Chapman’s departure the band revealed a new tour hitting some of the most intimate venues in the UK and released a new single a week later – ‘Black Holes’. The band refused to quit and feel a new sense of power and energy, evident both form the live set and speaking with Sam and James before the gig. Here’s the full-length interview.
So, you’re half way through your tour, how’s it been going so far?
Sam: It’s been good, refreshing for us, really. Did about 12 months of doing sweet f**k all, so getting back out and playing shows has been good. Bit of a rebirth really, getting back to these venues and feels like were starting off fresh. We needed something like this though, a bit of a kick up the arse.
What’s changed since the release of Wired back in March 2017?
Sam: I think we’ve learnt a lot between Wired and now. I think it’s the most we’ve learnt since being in a band in terms of taking hits, not just with Mikey leaving but more so in terms of … what we need to do as people to make this band as successful as possible. I don’t think we flatlined, but speaking from a personal point of view, I think I lost a bit of drive with everything that had gone on.
Not just with Mikey, but I feel I could have done better from a personal point of view. I mean, I love Wired, but I think if only I had done a little bit more in terms of what I know I could’ve done. I think you realise once you take the foot off the gas; this is a quick industry and you can soon be f*****g forgotten about. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind 12 months, but I feel we’ve come out stronger and with a lot more know-how on how we can do things our way.
When you’re with a label like Sony, there’s a lot of people trying to dictate which way the band should go, but what we’ve learnt – and it’s so obvious – is that no one gives a sh*t about your band as much as you do, and I think we’ve learned that – hence the leaving of Sony, signing up with a new record label that we feel gets us and gives us control again over what we want to do.
With Mikey leaving, how are you finding continuing without him?
James: Going back to what Sam said – the drive and the passion, the whole Sony thing and Mikey leaving – it was a huge kick up the arse. The actual working relationship is better now because, out of everyone, he was the one that – I’m speaking on his behalf here but – doesn’t love music. Sam goes home and he’s writing songs, Joe and I play guitar every day, we’re so invested in music. Whereas Mikey was naturally gifted with an amazing voice, but it wasn’t a passion as such to him. Like I said, I’m speaking on his behalf, but he just fell into a band and was happy with that at the time, but as we’ve gained a drive to do more and try and put everything into it, he’s just got other plans.
When the announcement was made there was a lot of comments online saying Mikey has such a unique voice and it would be hard to replace that. Was it hard to read those comments, knowing you wanted to carry on?
Sam: Yeah that was a s**t time. F*****g, that day. You thought you had prepared for it but then you announce it. I remember announcing it at 9am and by 9.03am we had this influx of comments. I had to stop reading it cause it was sending me round the twist so we ended up just going to the pub for the day. We didn’t turn our phones off, but we tried to take our minds off it for a bit. But you’re always going to have people think that man. I’m at a point now where everything feels refreshing again.
The reaction we’ve had on this tour has surpassed what I thought it was going to be. I genuinely came in worried thinking there would be people who had bought tickets going, “Where’s Mikey?”. It was a genuine concern of mine but from the shows we’ve played so far there’s been literally nothing but support. That’s the thing, man, this is why the internet is a dangerous game: you give them a phone and everyone’s a journalist in this day and age, and they can say whatever they want and its so easy to find what people have said about you, so I just stopped.
Who gives a f**k what they’ve got to say? I don’t care anymore, if people are into our band then I’ll appreciate those guys that come down to show their support, if they never liked Mallory anyway then I literally do not care what they have to say. That’s where my mentality has shifted over the last 12 months, I spent a lot of time worrying what people would think but now that we’ve got “Black Holes” out there, we’ve signed our new deal, I’m ready to be in a band again and not let all that BS get in the way.
Was “Black Holes” in response to that whole idea then?
Sam: Yeah. Yeah,yeah exactly. Even people in the industry think they know everything about us and they speak some of the most s**t out of everyone. People forget, we’ve been in this industry for nine years now, we know a lot of stuff as well. I know when someone’s talking bullsh*t to my face. I see what people say about us on the internet then see what they say to my face and play Mr Nice Guy – it’s like, f**k off, man.
So looking to the future, what can we expect?
Sam: I think this time around with writing, with the line-up change, its allowed us to not have to look back and worry. My voice is so different to Mikey’s, not that we tried to find a sound that suited my voice, we’ve just fell into this sound now that we’ve found, and it took us a while to get there. We wrote songs first that we thought were it, then we wrote a few songs after and thought, ‘Hang on, this doesn’t sound like that at all’. So, we shelved those songs however much we loved them, and focused on what we’re doing now, and it’s the first time we’ve ever really focused on an actual sound for a record. That was my gripe with Wired, we had some great songs on there, but it didn’t sound like a record in places, the sound was f*****g all over the place.
Going off that, in a previous interview you said about that album that ‘Saviour’ had one sound and ‘For You’ had a completely different sound.
Sam: Yeah. And I love ‘Saviour’, and I love ‘For You’, and that was the issue, we thought we should just put them all on there. James tried to say it’s a bit different, but this time we’ve all bought into the idea that the record needs to sound like a record. Each song needs to compliment the rest of the album, they all need to be linked in in a way. Not saying that they all need to sound the f*****g same, but all these songs have an arrogance and a swagger that this band has never had before. That’s the words I would use to describe the album: it has an arrogance and a swagger that has never been seen in Mallory Knox’s music before. ‘Black Holes’ was a weird one, I didn’t want that to be on the record at first. So, the fact that it is the first one out, we all were in agreement, the label wanted it, but we didn’t. I was speaking to James and was like, ‘F**k, man, that song isn’t even in my top ten. Why are we releasing it?’.
James: We nearly made a stand. We had a call round and the night before it was released we went into the studio and said, ‘Listen, this time round we’re not backing down’. We had just left Sony and got the power back, and all of a sudden we were having a conversation where our management and our label were going, ‘This song’s amazing’, but we didn’t see it and didn’t get it. We’re happy with it, but it wasn’t first-single-comeback song in our heads. We had a group call and were saying, ‘Are we really gonna do this? Are we gonna go through with something we don’t agree with again?’, and when we spoke to management straight after it’s like, maybe you do get lost and don’t realise. Like I’m chuffed it’s out there now, but I think you can overthink things and we definitely overthought that.
Sam: The exciting thing is that the reason they wanted to release it was they didn’t want to scare aware old Mallory fans. They thought it was like a bridging song. And the cool thing is if you think this song is different, wait till you hear the rest. I had a couple of songs that I wanted to come out, but they said, ‘You just can’t release that now it doesn’t sound like anything you have ever done before’, and I thought, ‘I don’t care that’s what I want to do’, but I get it. They want to ease it in.
James: I think the main thing with all the new songs is, we thought we had this cool new edgy rock sound but there are old fans saying it sounds like Signals stuff, which they were chuffed about. That’s so cool because I do like the rawness of Signals; the songs are a bit, I describe them as emo, they were what we were doing at that time. So, the new stuff is like, well they’re not emo though, but I sort of get what they are saying about the rawness.
That’s what I would say about the songs now, we sound like a band now. We used to put so much effort into the music side of things, we would be there for hours, days making sure the riffs are right but we became a band from Asymmetry to Wired that it didn’t matter how much work we put into the music because people just wanted to hear Mikey’s voice, or there was a big percentage of people. That’s why, as soon as he left, we found out who loved Mallory Knox and who loved Mikey. Maybe that’s what is shown in ‘Black Holes’. You can hear the guitars and f*****g drums and the power and the aggression in Sam’s voice, and they’re, ‘Like f*****g hell! This is conically great’, as opposed to, ‘Oh, they released that pop rock song, did you hear the guitar solo in it? No I’m just listening to Mikey sing that belter note.’
Sam: It’s the coolest thing like, its like when a football team loses its best player but it allows the team to play better as whole. I wrote a lot of my music based around how he would sing it and I don’t have to do that anymore and it’s f*****g great.
And to round everything off, favourite song from each album?
Sam: Signals – ‘Creeper’, Asymmetry – ‘She Took Him to the Lake’, Wired – ‘Mother’.
James: Signals – ‘Beggars’, Asymmetry – ‘Dying to Survive’, Wired – ‘Wired’.
Favourite song to play live?
Sam: ‘Psycho Killer’ (unreleased off the upcoming album)
James: ‘Better Off Without You’
Biggest influence on your own music?
Sam: Blink 182’s self-titled, that album got me to pick up a guitar for the first time.
Thanks guys and can’t wait for tonight and good luck with the rest of the tour!
Together: Cheers boys.
The interview was such a great insight into a band that, although has been going for nearly a decade, are still learning and growing and personally I cannot wait for album number four. I then headed down to the bar before what was truly an unparalleled gig.
Judas and DEAD! opened the show, two incredibly talented up and coming bands. Both London based bands, Judas has a confidence I have never seen from a band that are so little known on the circuit, but thoroughly deserve all the attention they have been getting and will no doubt blow up soon. Songs ‘Ceasefire’ and ‘Big Mouth’ expertly demonstrated their ability, and when the band does drop their first album I’ll be sure to pick it up.
DEAD! followed suit with an even heavier sound which complimented the rest of the line up to no end. I had heard the band before coming to the gig and was looking forward to seeing lead singer Alex’s live vocals. He has a very distinctive voice and it came through just as perfectly as I imagined on stage. Songs ‘You’re So Cheap’ and ‘Jessica’ were personal highlights but the louder sounds of ‘Enough, Enough, Enough’ and ‘Up for Ran$om’ also have to be noted. A band with unrivalled aggression and charisma that, like Judas, are sure to blow up soon.
Mallory then came out onto an electrified stage, opening with new single ‘Black Holes’, demonstrating what the band will be about from now perfectly. Sam’s voice was such a great thing to experience live, after providing back-up vocals for the last nine years, it had an aggression and a swagger I wasn’t expecting, and I found myself falling in love with the sound all over again.
The band then went through the past three albums, picking out a mixture of their biggest hits as well as their personal favourites, heading back to the Pilot EP to play ‘Keeping Secrets’, a personal favourite since I began listening to the boys, as well.
Fan favourites ‘Wake Up’ and ‘Lighthouse’ were played along with ‘Mother’ which hasn’t had a live debut till this tour. Songs ‘Sugar’ and ‘Better off Without You’ were my personal favourite for their almost bluesy rhythm in places and ‘Wake Up’ for being one of the most powerful fist-pumping tunes I know.
The biggest surprise being the performance of ‘Psycho Killer’ and ‘Livewire’, songs currently unreleased off the next album. Both these songs demonstrated the swagger and arrogance that Sam was describing in the interview and left the audience stunned and excited. I personally wanted ‘Psycho Killer’ to be played again after it finished which can only be a good sign for the full album release.
Overall, the gig proved that Mallory are going nowhere but forwards. In the midst of one of the hardest 12 months for the band, they have managed to pull through and, not only survive, but thrive. This is a band that, even after ten years, still surprise me and sound fresh on the scene.