The Evolution of Mallrat
Grace Shaw, aka MALLRAT, first started making music after a chance inspiration at an ALLDAY show when she was in high school. Taking it upon herself to just give it a go, she began to play around with influences like electronic music and hip-hop to make a sound that was undeniably her own, and it wasn’t long at all until people started to notice.
One EP down, many festival appearances, national and international tours, and a record deal now under her belt, Shaw is on the precipice of releasing her best work yet with her new EP, In The Sky. With her exceptional knack of taking what many might see as insignificant and finding the beauty in it, Shaw creates music that is so special because it’s so real. It’s no wonder she’s finding fans all over the world with her universal themes of growing up but with a point of difference. It’s not all glamorous and fun growing up, sometimes it sucks and sometimes people suck and sometimes the ordinary is the most extraordinary of all, and it’s in this that Mallrat comes to life. From her early days of making songs quite literally about not wanting to go out and party (‘Uninvited’) to more recently where she sings about not belonging and feeling like an alien on ‘UFO’, Mallrat takes a realistic lens to life and, on her own and working with her friends like GOLDEN VESSEL, ALLDAY, JAPANESE WALLPAPER and more, she makes it sound beautiful
In The Sky represents an evolution of Mallrat, developing from bedroom artist to a fully-fledged star on the rise. Impressive from start to finish, In The Sky is the result of hard work, rising to the challenge and having a lot of fun as she goes along. We got to chat to Shaw while she was cleaning her room to talk the year she’s already had, Kanye West, and why you should never let other people tell you what you can and can’t do.
You’re having such a big year this year, you’ve already been to SXSW and Groovin’ The Moo, plus a few tours and your new EP is just about to be released. Groovin’ The Moo looked particularly amazing, how was it for you?
It was so fun, especially the first weekend where we played Canberra, Adelaide and Maitland. We played a fairly early slot, but people came early anyway so that was really cool.
I saw a video where the whole crowd was singing the words to your songs!
We’re very lucky because our fanbase is very solid and dedicated, so at all our shows it’s just always a big singalong.
That must be such a special moment each time for you. This is all in the lead up to your next EP, In The Sky, which I absolutely love by the way.
Thank you! I’m so excited about it coming out.
I can imagine. You’ve spoken about how this time around, you felt like you knew what you were doing a bit more as opposed to back when you were creating Uninvited. By having that self-assurance this time around, do you think it liberated you to be able to try out different things?
I think so, but in general when I go to the studio, I never want to act like I know everything. I treat it playfully, so instead of being like, “It has to be this way,” it’s more, “Let’s just see what this sounds like.” Even though I know more now, it’s still very inquisitive and it’s more playful than serious when I’m writing a song. It’s just really seeing what direction things can go in.
When you’re in the studio, that’s with people like Golden Vessel, Tigerilla and others?
Yep! And my friend Konnie [Konstantin Kersting] who produced ‘Better’, and Japanese Wallpaper, so it’s a bit of a super star team.
‘Make Time’ is so interesting. It’s so different and you’ve clearly spent a lot of time and care on this track. It’s also interesting because BJ Burton produced that song with you, and amazingly it was recorded where Frank Ocean’s synths for Blond were recorded. Huge!
That’s what the guy told me when we were at the studio [laughs]. It’s always funny because I’m kind of reluctant to tell people that because what if he didn’t and the guy got it wrong? [Laughs].
You worked with BJ Burton on that song, who is someone new for you to work with, but the other people you work with are all your friends, so how did working with BJ Burton impact your work, if at all?
I was in LA for a few weeks doing sessions almost every day with all these producers, and he was one of my favourites to work with. He’s a really good listener and really cared. You could tell how much he loved different sounds, because I feel like a lot of people in LA – not to sound jaded – they have one big hit and they think they know everything and don’t want to listen to you. Nobody knows everything and every song is different, so why don’t we just try to make a good song? He really had a beautiful attitude and was so awesome to work with. It was really cool!
That’s awesome though. Did you take anything away from working with him that you might use for future songs?
Everything he played was beautiful. Maybe it was all the synths in the room, but he had this awesome vocoder thing which was pretty rad. He was so cool and made me appreciate the power of understanding analogue technology or in general technology. Sometimes I can be very DIY, like I’ll just make it work with nothing, which is a good approach too but he really showed me the value of understanding and collecting old things. Even though it’s not for me right now, it made me really appreciate it. Japanese Wallpaper is like that as well.
I was listening to an interview you did on triple J recently when I learned that you and Golden Vessel had put a sample of Kanye West’s voice into ‘UFO’! I’m so sad it was taken out.
I know, me too but it happens. He’s there in spirit.
You obviously love Kanye a lot, and I’m a huge Kanye fan as well, so I wanted to know what is it about him that you try to bring to your own music or that you might relate to the most with him?
In his music, all of his albums are good and they’re all different from each other. It shows it’s important to always progress and take risks and he’s never scared of taking risks which I think is really cool. Just his approach and his story of how he moved from producer to rapper and how everybody thought it was so ridiculous but he just had that belief in himself. I was listening to a podcast recently, do you know FlexMami from Sydney?
Yes, I love her!
She did a podcast and I was listening to it this morning. She and Kanye have that similar thing where it’s like, nobody has the right to tell you you’re not qualified to do something so why not just say you’re qualified to do it and if you have the resources, figure it out as you go. That’s something I really appreciate about both of them that I try and do. That’s the reason I started music. I had no “reason” to think I was qualified to start doing music, but I just decided to call myself a musician and to try it anyway. I think that’s a really important skill to learn: believing in yourself even when maybe your circumstances don’t match the qualifications that you need. There’s no reason.
Your music is all about building feelings rather than explicit narratives saying, “This song is about this.” You encourage your listeners insert their own stories into your music, is that how you feel this EP is going to go as well?
Yeah, spot on!
Do you think that kind of focus has allowed such a strong connection across the world and allowed those special moments you’ve had at your shows where people are singing back to you?
Thank you. I think the main reason it connects with people is because it’s genuine, and then that other stuff is apart of it being genuine. I don’t want to force anybody. Some people, when they write a song, they want to force a narrative and say, “I love this person so much,” or it’s about heartbreak, because they don’t know how to make it sound beautiful if it’s not dramatic. Things don’t need to be dramatic or grand to be important or special. Lots of little things and insignificant relationships can be important too so there’s no need to dress it up. I just see the value in telling things the way that I feel them rather than trying to make it a bigger deal than it is.
I think that translates in that genuineness that you were talking about. You have a genuine song because you have genuine intent behind it, therefore it’s obviously going to connect with lots of people. One song in particular on the EP that is super genuine is ‘UFO’. You’re on it with Allday and you guys are such close friends, and it was actually at an Allday show that you first clicked that you wanted to and could make music, that’s right? It feels to me like a full circle moment because you’re about to release this EP he’s on the record, does it feel like that on your end and how special has it been to have him on your EP in this moment?
So special. He’s the best. Even working on his music is the same if not more valuable to me, because I love so much what he does and I really appreciate him making room for me on his songs. It’s really cool. Sometimes you have to trust your gut instinct on when a situation or person is going to be important to you. That was really cool because that was the first time for me taking that leap of faith and going with what my gut instinct was telling me and now it’s paid off!
Looking forward now, you’re about to go back on tour for your EP tour with Ninajirachi and Eilish Gilligan, such a good line up! It’s really exciting to see this camaraderie between emerging artists in Australia at the moment, how important has this community been for you in your journey?
I really have been surrounded by such cool, supportive and nurturing people and it just turns out they make music. When I first started doing music, I had a lot of beautiful friends but I feel like the most important and kind friends I’ve met in my life, I’ve met through music like the CUB SPORT people and ALLDAY. Just about everybody I come across is so genuine. I’m probably a bit lucky, not everyone has that experience but yeah!
Obviously it’s going to be a great time for you when you release this EP, but I wondered if there was anything in particular you’re looking forward to on this tour or for the rest of the year?
I want to be a better producer and I want to produce and write for other artists. That’s something I’m working away at. Also going overseas. I don’t know, I feel like there’s so much happening and a lot of the stuff that will happen this year I’m sure I don’t even know about so I’m sure I’ll see when the EP comes out!
In The Sky is out June 1 via Dew Process. Pre-order it here.
Catch Mallrat touring the country with Ninajirachi and Eilish Gilligan at the dates below:
MALLRAT 2018 ‘IN THE SKY’ NATIONAL TOUR
Saturday, June 16: Jack Rabbit Slims – Perth (18+)
Friday, June 22: The Factory – Sydney (Licensed All Ages)
Saturday, June 23: Northcote Social Club (U18)
Saturday, June 23: Northcote Social Club (18+)
Saturday, June 30: The Zoo – Brisbane (U18)
Saturday, June 30: The Zoo – Brisbane (18+)
Tickets available from lilmallrat.com
Image: She Is Aphrodite
Interview by Emma Jones