After the shock departure of vocalist Mikey Chapman, it's all change for Mallory Knox. As he steps up to be a frontman, we spoke to bassist Sam Douglas about the new era for the band and what we can expect from their upcoming headline shows.
It’s been about a month now since the announcement of Mikey’s departure; does it feel like the dust has settled at all, particularly now you’ve put out new music?
Yeah I think so, I think everything got said that needed to be said. I don’t really feel the need to say anything more about it and it’s more about focusing on the song that we’ve released and what’s still left to come. People have made their mind up whether they accept it or not, there’s no more wondering what people think about it, it is what it is now. I just feel like we can move forward and put all that behind us now, which is good.
Definitely. Did you notice a change in people’s reaction at all once you’d put the song out?
Yeah. Originally we were going to be putting out ‘Black Holes’ on the actual day of the announcement and I’m glad that we postponed that, because I found that when we announced [Mikey’s departure], we announced it on a Wednesday and then we released the song on the Monday, and even then there were still people not listening to it as they should do a new song. They were constantly comparing it to what we were before and some people weren’t willing to accept that. But then, two weeks later you find the people that were saying certain things about it, saying things like, “Oh I jumped the gun too early, I actually really like this song, I’ve just got to listen to it as a new band”.
It must have been quite a relief once you’d seen that reaction and that people were starting to accept it again.
With Mallory, whenever we released a new song, I was always online and filtering through everything to gauge a reaction and obviously I did a little bit [with ‘Black Holes’] but not to the extent of what I used to. If anything this last month has taught me, it’s to just not take everything you see on the internet as gospel, it’ll just drive you f*cking crazy. I got to the point where we released ‘Black Holes’, that if people like it they like it, if they don’t they don’t, it’s as simple as that. That’s just how I’ve tried to take it since and how I’m going to try and take it going forward now, I’m not a 21 year-old lad who is desperate for everyone to like my band y’know? I’m 28 and I’m still very happy to be doing what I’m doing, but if people don’t like it, it’s not the end of the world.
Let’s talk about the new single, it’s definitely taking you in a new direction with Mallory Knox and not just because you’ve lost Mikey’s vocals, it’s grungier and a bit grittier. Is this the vibe you’re going for now? Is it a good example of what’s to come?
It’s a hard one, because when we were talking about first singles, at one point I wasn’t even sure if ‘Black Holes’ was going to be a thing, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it as a whole, but management and a few other people involved with the band insisted that that was the song we come back with. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily the correct indicator of what’s to come, but it’s definitely a peek through the window. I do think it’s grungier; it’s not as nice. I love Wired but I think we over glossed it in places, whereas with ‘Black Holes’ and the other stuff, it is what it is, let’s just go back to bare bones, four-piece rock band – guitars, bass, drums, vocals and just leave it at that if we can.
We’re so much more focused on what we’re crafting now. This time, if it doesn’t fit in with the certain criteria that we’re going for we’re moving on. It’s definitely the most pinpointed Mallory album that we’re going to do, that’s for sure, we’re definitely going to have a direction this time and I don’t think we’ve really had that on an album before.
Well that’s good to hear! What are the plans going forward then? Are you putting together a new album? Are you going to be releasing anything else soon?
It’s all very up in the air, this is the beautiful thing now, because when we were signed with Sony we very much had a schedule where you couldn’t really do much to change that, now… there’s not a lot I can say but we are going to be signing a record deal hopefully. I say that now and it’ll fall apart haha. There is a plan to release a record, but there is no time frame of when that record is going to be coming out, all I know is that this year we are going to be releasing a lot of music. I can’t officially say there will definitely be a song before the tour or not, it could change tomorrow.
We’ve written about 16 songs, but out of them I think I’m only serious about six or seven, again which is something mental for Mallory Knox. With Signals and Asymmetry, the songs you hear on those records are all we wrote. It’s all completely different this time, it is cool though, it’s fun, and it’s cool to write all the time. It’s really refreshing to be able to do whatever the f*ck you want and I’m loving every minute of that.
It’s been just over a year now since Wired came out and obviously a lot has changed in that time, would it be right to say that album campaign didn’t quite go to plan?
No, it didn’t. I remember we were recording Wired and people from Sony were coming down and going, “I think we’ve got a number one record here”, just filling your head with absolute sh*t. But with that being our second album on a major record label, there needed to be some sort of progression and I think people don’t realise that with Asymmetry, in that first week it sold 8,500 copies and it still only came 16th. Any other week of the year, if we’d released that we would have had a Top 10, if not a Top 5 album, but to sell again 8,500 records, they wanted progression on that and it was always going to be a bit of a tough ask.
It was a clusterf*ck from the start really, looking back, but then it’s weird because you have songs like ‘Better Off Without You’ which is arguably one of our most popular songs to date now, so it still had hints of good moments and stuff, but as a whole it was disappointing, that record didn’t fill its potential. That’s the sad thing; I think the songs are better than what they were given the credit for, in my opinion, people might tell me I’m wrong.
You’ve touched upon it already, but you must have taken so much from that experience and you have so many different ideas now for your next record, what do you want to do differently this time in particular?
I want to try more than I did personally. With Wired, I was being a bit lethargic and not being as motivated as I maybe should’ve been to write the record. I’ve learnt to not do that now. I’m definitely making sure that the songs are as good as they can be and there’s no cutting corners essentially, it’s weird though because I’ve always written on an acoustic and these songs sound f*cking awful on an acoustic.
We’ve had a couple of conversations with the label and management about what they think the next song should be like and you do have it in the back of your head that maybe they want something a bit more like ‘Shout At The Moon’, but that’s just not going to happen. If we end up writing something that sounds like it by chance then happy days, but we’re not changing the way we’re writing for anybody this time, not that we ever have before, but we’re so focused on a certain sound for this band for the first time ever and that’s just how we’re going to do it.
The upcoming tour is going to be people’s first experience of the new song live, and of the band in the new line-up, are you nervous?
Nervous might not be the word, I probably will be before I’m about to go on stage, but I definitely think about it every day. I’ve thought about it for a long time now, really since we made the decision it was going to be me fronting the band.
We’ve had to re-work a lot of the songs because Mikey’s key was two or three times higher than me, they still sound great, it sounds different, but sounds great. It’s more the interaction side of it; I don’t know how it’s going to be. I can’t plan how I’m going to be as a frontman, I’m not going to try and be something I’m not. I have to be me and I’m not even sure what that’s going to be yet, because I’ve never fronted a band before. This tour is just testing the water, hopefully when it comes to doing another tour we’ll have more new songs out and we can integrate them all in, because these new songs really do feel like home. Obviously we're making sure stuff like ‘Shout At The Moon’ and ‘Lighthouse’ all fit in the set; I don’t think you could play a Mallory Knox show and not play ‘Lighthouse’.
You do have a point there. Has it been weird for you in rehearsals working out where your place is as a frontman?
Yeah it was weird at first. We’ve played the set through three times now, in a re-ordered way and it’s completely fine, my voice doesn’t cut out or anything like that. It was all a learning curve, we’d play ‘Sugar’ in the same key that we did with Mikey and I just couldn’t do it, so we dropped it a couple and now it sounds great again.
It’s taken a while to get to this point, bearing in mind we’ve had to juggle this set around writing, so there’s been a lot for us to do and being the singer now has taken some getting used to. I guess it’s a bit like muscle memory with guitar, the more you sing the easier it becomes, your throat gets stronger, so I’ve found now I’m in a pretty good place with it. I know that I’m not going to be able to drink as many beers as I used to before going on stage, I’m going to have to watch it.
Everything’s going to be fine, promise. Finally then, what are your hopes for Mallory Knox going forward? Have you set yourself any goals?
Nope. No goals. We did that last time. I just want to write the best Mallory Knox album we’ve ever done. As a personal goal, by the end of this year I want to be able to say, “That new album is the best thing that I’ve ever been a part of.” That’s all I want from this at the moment, truthfully. I just want this record to be the best thing that I have ever done, something that I can look back on in 15 years’ time and go, “F*cking hell I’m so glad that we made that”, and then just go from there.
At the end of the day I’ve been in a band with Dave, James and Joe for nearly a decade now and we all want the same thing, we’ve done more than we ever thought we could do anyway, and all we want deep down this time, is to make this album the best it can be. We’re so excited, we needed this excitement back, we needed this enthusiasm back and we needed that injection of getting back to it. It does feel like a bit of a rebirth, almost like a new beginning and it’s up to us what we do with it. You can do the same thing for 10 years and you can slack, but 10 years in and we’ve never been hungrier so it’s a good place to be at the moment. People from the outside might not think it, but Mallory Knox is a very good band to be in at the moment.
If you want to be a part of the new chapter in Mallory Knox's career, you can catch them live in May.
O2 Academy Oxford: Sunday 6 May - Buy Tickets
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