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Interview: Mallory Knox

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Time is a proven recipe for success. It produces the best wines, the most famous cheeses, and also - the best albums?

Mallory Knox

Cambridge five-piece Mallory Knox are certainly hoping that this is the case. It’s been just over two years since Asymmetry was released.

It was a success for the group, peaking at 16 in the UK albums chart. Not bad for a follow-up album released one year after the alt-rock group first burst onto the music scene. 

The band announced in November that their third album, Wired, will be released early next year and there’s a sense of excitement when I speak to bassist Sam Douglas.

"It’s pretty cool to be able to listen back to something you’ve spent over a year creating.”

There’s a tone of frustration too, given the March release date. "All we really want is to get it out there now and show people what we have been working on.” 

The three years since Asymmetry was written have been long and life-changing.

“Life doesn’t wait around for you”, Douglas explains.

It’s inevitable that the time spent immersed in the industry will have had a profound impact on the band, particularly given their prominence in the festival scene over the last couple of years.

“I think we’ve all grown up a lot, but our love for music has never died”, he muses.

There’s something else rather unique about the group - since their formation in 2009, the line up has not changed once. As bands grow up alongside one another, members often come and go. Not here. 

"Mallory is kinda the glue that holds it all together.”

But why the long break? Given the use of tech, and the equipment on offer to the band, it seems baffling that they’ve not had the chance to really get new music out.

Douglas shrugs this off. “We aren’t the kind of band that can make music on the road using computers. We’re the kind of band who need a rehearsal room where all five of us can play and be a real band.”

It certainly doesn’t seem that tech will take over and dominate the band’s sound. 

"There’s something about writing a song in a specific moment that I don’t think a computer will ever be able to recreate.” Douglas cannot give their method enough praise. “It gives it a soul, that way."

It’s this that he feels differentiates Wired from the band’s previous works, and the band from others.

“When you get down to it, everything just feels real. We recorded everything using our hands and our voices which is how this band should be.” The band recorded their album in a somewhat unconventional studio - an old chapel with a “beautiful sounding room”.

“Fake pianos and computers don’t work for us.”

Douglas takes a moment to reflect on the influence this musical honesty has upon the content of the album. “I guess that goes back to the emotional side of the album, we just wanted people to be able to believe in the songs and what we had to say, so how could we do that if everything on the album wasn’t completely real?”

It seems to have had the desired effect. A glance down the released song titles for Wired seem to suggest this album will be as emotion-driven as their previous ones - ‘Mother’, ‘Falling in Love’ and ‘For You’ certainly point that way.

“[It] is in my opinion, the most personal of them all, whether that be lyrically or sonically. We’ve really stayed true to ourselves with this album and done everything our way."

Mallory Knox’s music has always been personal. ‘1949’ of Signals is perhaps the band’s most emotional song to date, but Douglas thinks ‘Mother’ is definitely a strong contender.

"The song as a whole just feels really emotional, even without the vocals the music almost makes me want to cry, it’s just a really heartfelt piece of music but in a really up lifting way.” The focus on family is a conscious sign of love from the band, and Douglas feels that writing ‘Mother’ has given him a line he’s incredibly proud of. "'This broken home kept me safe & warm when the wind was cold ’s one of my favourite lines I’ve ever written because of that. It’s almost a gentle nod to your loved ones, going thanks for being there for me.” 

So far, two tracks have been released from Wired. Opener ‘Giving It Up’ was debuted alongside the album and tour announcement, and more recently the lyric video for ‘Lucky Me’ was put out. 

‘Giving It Up’ is a powerful track that best encapsulates what Mallory Knox are about. Their musical fingerprint is evident within the roaring guitars and the wide-ranging vocals. It’s anthemic.

“It just felt like the perfect song to come back with.” Douglas explains. "It was one of the first songs we wrote for the album...  it made complete sense for people to hear this one first. The whole song just has this really cool attitude running through it, it’s full of frustration and bitterness”.

It’s a rock song, no doubt about it. There’s an underlying threat running through the lyrics, as it feels the band are toeing with a breaking point. At some points, it feels almost as though the group were singing about giving up on the band.

“It wasn’t about giving up on Mallory Knox in general”, Douglas is quick to clarify. There’s a tone of frustration, however, as he continues. “When you work so hard on something and people at the top make stupid mistakes and show absolutely no sign of caring then of course you question why you try so hard? We put our hearts and souls into this band and all we want and expect is for people to understand that when they’re involved with this band and sadly that wasn’t always the case.”  

The track got its debut on BBC Radio One, as Annie Mac’s Hottest Record. It’s an accolade for sure.

“It was a bit of a rush to be honest with you.”

The band have good relations with Radio One, who debuted their first release from Asymmetry, ‘QOD II”. Douglas is grateful for this, but is also fully aware of the platform Radio One has given them, and how this has affected the band’s chances in an industry which is unforgiving and fast paced. 

“They’ve been behind us since the beginning really and we’re forever thankful for the role they have played in taking Mallory to where it is today. Back when nobody would give us a chance they started playing us and if wasn’t for that I doubt some people would have given us a look in.” 

As well as the internet-inspired lyric video for ‘Lucky Me’, Douglas is specifically excited about the release of ‘Citalopram (Better Off Without You). It’s the song that means the most to him, “just because of what it’s about.”

Citalopram is an antidepressant, and to Douglas, it documents a personal journey. "Anxiety is one of those things that affects a lot of people and I suffer with it daily and struggle to talk about it openly and in a way this song was a release from that and pushed me out of my comfort zone and almost forces me to talk about it.”

He’s aware of the impact music like this can have with destigmatisation and awareness of mental health problems. “I’d like to think people will be able to understand what I mean when they hear it."

Sam and the band are itching to get back on the road. They’ve been playing the same tracks over the last few years, so March’s tour will give them the first chance to play Wired live. "As fun an experience it was to record this album what it really comes down to is playing live and these songs were meant to be played live.” 

Till then, the band are going to take it somewhat easy. "We just need to make sure as many people as possible know that this album is coming. We’ll practise and make sure we do this album as much justice as we can when we hit the road in March.”

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