Malaki chats national touring and their music process!

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Recently, I sat down with Malaki out of LA for a conversation I don’t get to have much really these days anymore. Malaki just finished their first major national tour opening for Atreyu and it was great to sit down with them and kind of chat about how it was going for them opening for such veteran acts that also included Beartooth and Wovenwar. We also talked about their writing and recording process as well as their music release plans. Catch this talented band when you can!

To start it off, the three things you must bring with you while on tour to survive?

Ellsworth: Bourbon, patience and baby wipes.

Josh: I second patience, absolutely. I’m from LA so I didn’t bring a jacket so I kind of had to buy my own band’s hoodie just so I could survive and honestly like little protein bars so I’m not always eating like shit. You really don’t have any options when you’re on the road. Gas and go, gas and go since some of the drives are really long. As long as you have something to munch on that’s not too unhealthy, you can make it work.

Ellsworth: Five hour energy.

Josh: Oh yeah, Five Hour energy!

Ellsworth: I’d love to get sponsored by them.

Josh: If them or the Kirkland Costco variety wants to throw us some bones, that would be pretty nice.

Ellsworth: There’s one in my pocket right now.

Ready to go! Then this tour is kind of a unique one where obviously Atreyu haven’t been on tour in a little while and you have Beartooth with you who are dropping off in a few days to go out with Slipknot. Wovenwar, clearly the majority of As I Lay Dying minus Tim Lambesis so obviously really all pretty veteran acts. Caleb of Beartooth was in Attack Attack for a very long time. So a very big veteran tour. Maybe how has that kind of been, being on tour with all these bands?

Josh: You know we’ve actually been pretty accepted by the other guys in the bands. They haven’t treated us like the bastard step-children of the tour or anything like that. This is our first national tour with a band such as Atreyu. We’ve done our own runs. We did SXSW last year. Those are more self-contained. This run, the expectations from the venues, the bands, the management, are all much higher than it has been in the past. We really have stepped up our game to basically make sure that we’re not in anybody’s way and that also allows us to have drinks with them and sort of bro down so to speak. So far, they’ve been very accepting.

Ellsworth: I mean, beyond accepting. We were in Irving Plaza and there was actually a point at the end of Atreyu’s set where they literally stopped playing and were like give it up for Beartooth you know them you love them. Give it up for Wovenwar, you know them you love them but these cats Malaki. We all had to start at some point. We’re lucky enough to have all of you to love us but give it up for these kids coming out from LA trying to make it work. It’s been really, really rad that every single time that it’s an even thing. We’ve all got nicknames for each other now at this point. Everyone busts their chops a little bit. I used to work at Hot Topic. I folded these t-shirts a long time ago. I worked at a theater in LA. I worked the door security for them and now I’m swapping stories with them on the bus. It’s amazing.

Then you talked about how they’ve been really accepting and maybe really open to you guys but still it is kind of your first big major level tour. Like you said you’ve toured before, you’ve gone to SXSW. Maybe what’s been like the highest  part of it and maybe like the lowest part, like the biggest challenge.

Josh: I think the best part is literally playing in front of all these people that have never heard us before. That’s the biggest thing. That’s why we wanted to do this tour so badly is because it’s like okay, we can go do regional tours. We can go out to Texas and play in front of twenty thirty people that have heard of us but we’re basically exposing ourselves to anywhere between five hundred to a thousand kids a night that have no idea for the most part who we are. The acceptance has been awesome. That to me is the highest point on this tour is feeling that our place is here and kids are accepting of what we’re doing. The lowest point I think was the twenty seven hour drive that we had to do from New Mexico to Madison, Wisconsin. Like we did a couple of pick up dates on our way to join them in Pontiac and that was definitely a challenge and everybody was super frazzled. I mean the driving is a necessary evil. You know, what are you going to do? We’re in a van, we have a trailer. I was talking to the manager of Atreyu the other night and he was like you guys need to enjoy this time because it’s just going to get more complicated. Things are going to get bigger, more stressful as you go. I’m looking at them in their bus and I’m like how can that be but the reality is that the logistics of all the things they have to do I can understand how that would be maddening at times. Us, we’re very self-contained so even if we have minor annoyances with oh god we have to drive all this way and we have to swap out every six hours, if that’s the low point I’ll take it.

Ellsworth: Absolutely. I mean it’s definitely one of those situations and scenarios I feel is great. We can become a family. There’s no other way around it. The thing with family is that, someone steps out we’ve got their back a hundred percent. At the same time, you want to throw them from a moving vehicle at times. Every night, every day, we have to deal with all the nonsense and all of the who done this blah blah blahs. Music hits, it’s game on. It’s time to go work and that’s what we’re all here for in the first place.

Josh: All the annoyances will sort of accumulate over a twenty four hour, forty eight hour period. Then once we play a show, that twenty five thirty minutes that we’re on stage it just sort of resets the clock for everybody and everybody is cool again after that. Because that’s your church, it’s like what Ellsworth always says. Once you go there, you feel that you’re basically clean and you can basically start over and get annoyed at people again. Over and over again.

Ellsworth: That’s exactly what it is. In the band together, I know I’m going sort of off topic but I will say we’ve got thirty five, forty years of combined experience in this band. We’ve each been close to success but never really had that chance. So to be on something like this, we know how to maintain ourselves. Know how to behave more or less. Some of us might make bad choices. Last night. And they fall asleep on stage which I may or may not. We’ll see what happens.

Take a nap, you don’t have too much time but you got a few hours.

Ellsworth: Exactly.

Then you released the Black EP right at the end of July. July 31st. I know this band it’s not a work in progress but members have come at different times. Like I know your singer was kind of the last, she just came in.

Josh: Yeah, so Shauna has been in the band for a little over a year now. It has been a work in progress. It can be very easy to form a band of professional people but once the opportunities start coming in like doing this tour and just getting out there and doing regional stuff, the schedules of people that are committed often they have to make choices. The reality is that not everybody can do this. Not everybody can take the time off from their jobs and everybody works a day job. Everybody does what they have to do to survive when they’re home. A lot of people, they can’t make the leap and say okay this is what I really want to do and I’m going to sacrifice everything for it. That’s why with our last singer Alan, great guy. Awesome dude. He just felt it wasn’t for him and he wanted to move back to the Philippines. Thankfully it only took four months to find Shauna. We really hadn’t even thought about having a female singer up until that point and she sent us a version of one of our songs that she had recorded and it was surprisingly good. I say surprisingly because we never even considered it before and so she basically flew out. She tried out for us. We rehearsed twice. I’m an engineer so I made her record for five hours on two consecutive days just to make sure she could hack it. After a few days, we put her through her paces and she really owned it. She seemed like she was going to be a good fit and she belonged.

Ellsworth: It was definitely one of those you’re the chocolate to my peanut butter and the peanut butter in my chocolate kind of moments. You didn’t go in with that mindset but hey, that’s not a bad idea.

Then speaking of that, that EP hasn’t been out for long at all. Just about two months or so but I know you probably have been writing a ton of songs. Is it something where you think a full length could be like in the first half of 2016, do you think that’s still going to be a while?

Josh: The thing with a full length is especially if you’re a band at our level, Atreyu can put out a full length and they have a built in fan base and people are going to feed off that for a while. They do a long touring cycle if they want but a smaller band like us that are trying to basically crack, the reality is that I’d rather just put out music continuously. Give people something fresh all the time so we’re basically releasing a series of EP’s, three songs at a time. So instead of putting out a full length, it’s not that we don’t have the songs in our pocket but we have three songs that we can sort of focus all of our attention on and then get those out every six months so people always have new music to listen to. A lot of times, bands will put out a full length record then they’ll disappear from the consciousness of a lot of people that like the band because there is nothing new and current. We’d rather keep it fresh. Keep people into what we’re doing as possible. What’s also cool is that the music is going to grow. It’s going to become different and it’s going to evolve. I like seeing a band not completely change their style from record to record. I like to see that sort of progress happen naturally and organically. You can see that if you’re releasing new music every six months.

Ellsworth: We actually watch a lot of The Wire and we realized you give them a taste, they’ll keep coming back for more. You can’t give it all away.

And how do you guys go about the writing? Is it all you kind of bring your own ideas, is it more collective, one person?

Ellsworth: A lot of it really comes down to Josh’s brainchild. He’s been kind of the mad scientist behind everything. For certain things, he’s like I have this idea. He’ll ask me for a thing or our drummer Dave, he’s like oh I’ve got this thing what would you do here? Lyric wise, sometimes Shauna will bring something to it. I mean it all comes down to Josh started this project. So he tasks each of us individually for certain aspects and flavors but at the end of the day, we try to make it as group oriented as possible. Weirdly enough, bands can’t be democracy based. They have to kind of be oligarchic or just straight up ruling fist, iron manned.

I’m well aware of that idea. For example, I interview We Came As Romans a lot and it’s like Joshua Moore, the guitarists like brain child. He doesn’t scream, he doesn’t sing but you’ll see him like singing the words because he writes everything.

Josh: I do the same thing onstage. I’m like singing along. I did it out of necessity initially because it was just me and I was sort of finding my way through recording and how I can get my ideas across. Once I had enough songs demo-ed, I was sort of able to fully flesh out how I wanted my music to sound and sort of what I wanted to do. At that point, instead of collaborating then sort of being unhappy with the end result, because maybe one person’s influence is not correctly placed, I’m usually presenting a song that’s eighty to ninety percent sort of there in terms of structure, arrangements, etcetera. Then we all collaborate on our parts. Like I’ll write the bass line but the reality is, I don’t want to do that. I’d much rather have him do that because he’s way better at it than me. So the basic idea is there but then he basically completely changes it and alters it to his style and his influence. The reason he’s in the band is because I trust him to do something that’s going to be representative of Malaki. Same with drums, same with vocals. I mean I think with Shauna it’s going to be more of a collaborative process rather than me just handing her lyrics and handing her melodies. It’s definitely going to be more collaborative because I want her to fully embrace and believe what she’s singing. The only way you can really do that is if you collaborate on the song and it becomes a part of you.

Ellsworth: I mean it’s almost like, to use an analogy for it, he’s coming up with the dishes but it’s our job to plate them. We all have our jobs to get done one way or another. Especially at show time as well, we all know what note we’re supposed to be on and what we’re supposed to do. It’s Josh’s job to get sassy, it’s Shauna’s job to look desirable and it’s my job to destroy things.

Josh: Sassy?

Ellsworth: I mean you’re is pulled black.

Josh: Sassy?

Ellsworth: It’s like Urban Outfitters.

Josh: That’s such like a Clueless reference or something.

Ellsworth: We are from California, I think it’s appropriate.

Josh: Anywhere from LA, it takes twenty minutes.

Ellsworth: Forty five minutes. You know that damn line.

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