As 2014 wound down, Abbotsford four-piece MALK just started winding up. They played a pair of release shows for their Prehistoric EP in December, first at 333 in Vancouver, then back home at Aftermath a week later. Perhaps most importantly, MALK advanced to the semi-finals of SHiNDiG!, CiTR’s annual battle of the bands (just one look at the prizes, and it’s no wonder why the top spot is so coveted). That show takes place on Tuesday, January 20 at the Hindenburg. Four nights later, MALK open for Toronto’s warped and wicked garage-punks Hooded Fang at the Biltmore.
Unfortunately, the release shows hit a snag: the tapes weren’t ready in time for either. But MALK persevered by making the EP available for free download on their Bandcamp for one night only. The distribution mishap didn’t put a damper the shows’ spirits either. MALK singer/guitarist Alex Smith fondly recalls: “We hadn’t played in Abbotsford in a while. Vancouver was great because we got to play to a bunch of fresh faces, and Abbotsford was great because we got to play to all of our friends and familiars.” And Santa saved the day for all: the tapes landed in the band’s hands on Christmas Eve. “A little holiday miracle!” Alex says with a laugh.
MALK draws inspiration from a wide range of musical influences. Late 80s/early 90s alternative including the Pixies, Nirvana, and Sonic Youth, and proto-punks the Sonics and the Stooges always remind Smith why he pursues the crazy dream of being a musician. He’s also played in a number of bands including Bertha Cool, the Stolen Organ Family, and the psychedelic cabaret-punk group Elvis Was a Blonde. Meanwhile, Neil Young and the 70s power pop of Big Star largely colour lead guitarist Kyle Schick’s musical world. And drummer Jaydee Bateman remains busy in jagged dance-rockers Queen Bee and the Buzzkills.
All of the wisdom Smith has gleaned from his time in various bands, from the musical aspects to how to book shows, has culminated in MALK. With that greater knowledge comes a boost in confidence inside and outside the studio. “I’m writing the best material that I’ve ever been writing, and I’m playing with the best combination of people that I’ve ever played with, so I feel comfortable now actually putting a lot of effort into it… We have a solid group of people who are ready to take it seriously…”
But being a serious musician is a constant learning process. MALK has discovered as much in working with producer Felix Fung at Little Red Sounds. As Schick told Discorder, Fung really kicked their asses in the studio. But Fung’s vigorous work ethic was precisely why MALK sought him. “I wanted to work with Felix because I knew [his reputation],” Smith says, rightly believing that if they can get through sessions with Fung, they can get through much more. “We were better off for it,” Smith says proudly. “It was a challenge for sure, but we made it out the other end, smiling, with a great sounding record.”
That great sounding record translates into great sounding live shows. Although, seeing MALK perform, one might notice that while they’re still dark, surfy, and noisy, heady shoegazing bliss prevails. They even swing a little, with hints of R&B. Ultimately, environment enforces their live/recorded dichotomy – the instantaneous feedback from a crowd pushes the band in different directions than those guided by Fung. Smith gives due credit to the producer, who had his hand deep in the writing process: “He helped us craft the songs. He came up with as many good ideas as we did…”
Prehistoric is by no means one-dimensional, but MALK work tirelessly to bring their live stylistic fluidity to their future recordings. Encouragingly, Smith has never had such ease working with other musicians. Moreover, collaborating is only getting easier for him: “I haven’t found it hard being collaborative at all, with Kyle especially. We come from totally different places, but it’s super-organic,… We seem to kind of understand where the other one’s going.”
Cover price for night two of the SHiNDiG! semi-finals will be announced soon. Tickets for MALK with Hooded Fang are $10 in advance at Red Cat, Zulu, and online.