Album Premiere & Track x Track: Malibu Spacey - 'Good In Small Doses'

Album Premiere & Track x Track: Malibu Spacey - 'Good In Small Doses'

Naarm/Melbourne purveyors of 70s-inspired folk and alt-rock take us through their eagerly awaited debut studio album a few days ahead of release

Image credit: Tom Wilkinson

After forming back in 2017 and following a couple of lineup shuffles, Melbourne’s delightfully named Malibu Spacey have readied their debut album, Good In Small Doses - out May 24 but premiering on Pilerats today!

A gorgeous combination of alt-folk, garage-rock with psychedelic overtones and plenty of pop sensibilities, Good In Small Doses sees the band channel the legends of the Laurel Canyon scene (the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield et al.), combined with the more modern (in a sense) sounds of the likes of The Lemon Twigs or Angel Olsen.

The result is a 10-song, 43-minute album of meticulous and melodic sounds, showcasing songwriter Evan Jones’ skills to craft a catchy tune while balancing authenticity and humor perfectly.

Jones explains “Musically, I’m always inspired to write songs that don’t feel obvious. Harmonically, I tend to like songs that take you to a place that just feels a little unusual, rather than predictable. I really like chord progressions that are out of the ordinary, songs that subtly change key, songs that are modal – but all still within a fairly typical pop song form that’s recognisable and approachable.

With the album out May 24 and a launch in Melbourne in June (details below), to celebrate the release of Good In Small Doses, Evan Jones was kind enough to take us through the album track by track as it premieres on Pilerats:

Boy

I’ve sometimes had a tough time reconciling the implied pressures of masculinity with who I am and want to be, and that’s kind of what this song is about. I guess it’s also about masculinity more generally in society and how dangerous the pressure to ‘be a bloke’ can be. Lyrically, this is my dark take on the sort of thing that Joni Mitchell did with the Circle Game – talking about growing old, generations passing their wisdom down the line, all of us creating that link.

Musically, this is one of my personal favourites from the album. It’s got an odd, circular chord progression played on the 12 string acoustic with a little eastern flavour (someone commented at a recent show that it put them in a trance, which I loved to hear) that always feels a little unsettled and flighty and then it somehow transitions into that wild riff at the end. There’s weird solos, chords that slot oddly into other chords, a pile of shimmering guitars. We wrote that crazy outro as a band and Zoran came up with the riff, unsure that it would actually work but it was so unusual that we had to keep it.

Danger Danger

Danger Danger is a combination of my attempts to write a proper country song and something that sounded like British invasion-era pop and I don’t know that either of those really come through. In the end, though, I think this is the best we’ve sounded as a band so far – Antony and Zoran play these intricately-linking guitar parts, the harmonies are huge, we lock in for a bridge that’s got alternating bars of 3/4 and 4/4 (Tim plays it straight 4/4 underneath which is a great effect). The lyrics on this are me having fun with a theme that’s actually pretty personal. There’s references to Arrested Development and Steely Dan and the Goodyear blimp but the song is actually about growing up with social anxiety, so it’s (hopefully) a nice contrast in themes.

Old Soft Shoe

This one was Nat’s musical idea, a tune that started life as a 70s stomper in the vein of the Faces or the Stones. We’re not really up to that level of swagger but I think, like everything, we shine it through our own little prism and what you get is a little bit more on the glam rock side with a cool syncopation in the chorus and leading up to a Jon Lord/Deep Purple organ solo in the bridge, which was Zoran’s overdub. The lyrics are another of my classic anxieties – this time, feeling left behind by the pressure of picking a career, making money and finding ‘success’ in professional life. Oh and I have to mention the 70s cookbook single art which me and my wife Georgia did one afternoon. Spent bloody forever trying to find a jelly mould.

Electrocutie

In late 2022, we went down to Antony’s family’s beach house in Rye on the Mornington Peninsula to have a crack at recording a song ourselves (we recorded our EP, Something To Do In The Desert, with Rohan Sforcina at Head Gap which was a great experience and it came out great). This is what we got. Zoran, having all the gear and the brains to do it, pulled a great result from our Electrocutie session and we thought we may as well have a crack at doing the whole thing ourselves.

This one’s been compared to bands like Foxygen, which I think comes from the fact that it dips into a little 6/8 thing in the verses to give it a brief uneven feel, plus a few other little psych/pop/folk flourishes. Electrocutie (a word that came to me thanks to mishearing a Babe Rainbow song) really driven by the 12 string acoustic and Zoran’s slide guitar, which is fab, particularly in the key change bridge. We did a video for this at the start of 2023 – our friend and video whiz Steve MacLean got a 1980s TV broadcast camera and we went full Old Grey Whistle Test.

Gelatine

This might be the oldest song on the album. I remember in 2019 driving through a sandstorm outside of Palm Springs in the US and coming up with whacky song and EP ideas for a solo project, thinking that I’d do some little 60s pop thing, call the EP and the song ‘Jelly’. Things have a way of getting off track and instead my little ditty became a big rocker when I took it to the band instead. The lyrics are perhaps the weirdest on the album (at some point I had a reference to the film Blades Of Glory for some reason that got cut and there’s a line about the needle in the strawberry controversy that made the recorded version). The best part of this is Zoran’s off-kilter tapping part in the bridge. The guy never does what you’d expect and we’re always better for it.

Everything’s Been Done Before

Another one that I thought would be a soft, folky number that became a fast rock tune – the opening riff (which, I think, is alternate bars of 4/4 and 6/4) lived under the name ‘CROSBY’ on my phone notes for a long time if that’s any indication of what I thought it would be. The lyrics here are about trying to find originality and meaning, connecting with the past instead of destroying it, figuring out how to make things in your own way. As an aside, this is another testament to a David Bowie maxim that holds up my songwriting – never throw anything away. The second part of the verse (“rehash/rework/retune/reboot/rephrase/recalibrate and reconfigure”) is ripped straight from a really old song I wrote that never got off the ground, but it fit with the theme of this one. The chorus lyrics came to me while walking in the freezing night around Castlemaine and thinking about, as the title says, how everything’s been done before. The outro riffage is a lot of fun and maybe the highlight here.

Career Ain’t Dead

I think the idea of this song’s theme owes a bit to Alex Cameron’s all-time classic The Comeback. The imagined scenario here is a washed up 80s pop artist, way past their prime, watching videos of themself on YouTube and getting the feeling of maybe getting back out there, meeting those fans that have been uploading old videos and posting in forums. I’m really keen to tell this story as a music video, so maybe watch this space?

Musically, this is pretty simple country/folky pop song on the face of it but I think we got a fantastic sound out of it for the record. It’s really shimmering, driven by Antony’s warbly fingerpicking and Zoran’s little Tommy Emmanuel harmonics that give the impression of a pedal steel being played way up high. The little harmonics solo that precedes the second verse is magic, and I can say that because it’s not me playing the part.

Willis, Drill That Asteroid

Tim brought the music for this one to the band, and initially it was a zippy little number. In classic wuss rock fashion, we slowed it right down but it’s ended up feeling heavier than if it was played uptempo. Zoran is on drums here and Tim’s on guitar and Antony’s playing lead and we get the chance to do something really quite different – it’s like a mental exercise to shake you out of predictability when you’re not just playing the same role every time. Reckon this ends up a bit of psych number, which is fun.

The title (which is, of course, an Armageddon reference) came from something someone said at a band dinner. That line inspired the lyrics which vaguely tell the story of taking a date to the drive in and coming home in a body bag. We’ve all been there, right?

I Tend To Forget

Whenever I set my mind on autopilot and let it roll, the lyrics are about my fuzzy old brain. That’s maybe what happened in I Tend To Forget, a song I think I wrote start to finish (bridge excluded – that was everyone’s contribution) in about half an hour at some point during lockdown. I wrote the riff, found the chords that fit under and rolled a demo. This has ended up reminding me of 80s Oz rock, with that jangly riff and quick little chorus. There’s not much to this one – it’s pretty straight ahead with some catchy three part harmonies. A two minute palate cleanser in the vein of those little 60s album track rockers.

Memorial Diamond

We kinda knew this would be the last track on the album – it just has that feeling. I hope that doesn’t mean people won’t get to hear it as much as the ones up front, because it’s truly one of the more interesting pieces we’ve got. Musically, this is all Zoran – he came to us with a fully formed demo of music and I just wrote the melody and lyrics.

I love the way this builds from the clean, easy guitar riffs of the verses and flowy solos and contracts into a couple of tense instrumental sections before exploding out into that riff section at the end. I get to make some pedal noises and play a harmonised riff while everyone raises the volume. We end most of our shows with this these days, slotting in where Powder Keg from our EP used to often go – for the same reasons, too, being an understated, pretty song that builds to a big finale. I really like how the vocals came out, too, with a couple of weird harmonies (think I’m singing a low 9th and 6th in places) with lyrics that were inspired by a tough run of deaths around me (a memorial diamond, by the way, is a diamond made with the carbonised remains of the deceased, hence the line about being ‘fashionably late’).

          - Evan Jones (Malibu Spacey)

MalibuSpacey ALBUM

‘Good In Small Doses’ Album Launch

Saturday June 15th - The Bergy Bandroom

with support from Kelsey Jean & The Bad Health, Curly & The Fringe

Follow Malibu Spacey: Instagram / Facebook

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