Premiere: Meet Mal de Mer and their funk-fuelled new single, Smile
The Perth-based outfit make sweet indie-funk, blending the worlds of rock and electronic in a brilliant way.
If you're at all familiar with the Perth live music world, then chances are you're already familiar with Mal de Mer. They're a supergroup of sorts that showcase the community-built aspect of Perth's live music ecosystem, plucking members from some of the city's most exciting acts - Almond Soy, Grace Armstrong - and combining them into one project that moves with a certain energy that's difficult to find elsewhere in the state, let alone their country; their sound fusing genres and textures to create something distinctively Mal de Mer.
Over the last two years, they've become real favourites in Perth's indie world, taking what you'd expect from the genre - sun-lit guitar melodies, steady bass grooves, an emphasis on strong vocal hooks and great songwriting - and mould it together with elements of funk, disco and jazz. In the process, they're able to showcase the peaks of all of the sounds they take from, bringing the best bits together and creating weapons that make Mal de Mer's music stand out from the crowd, something they've been able to show time and time again.
Their last single, last year's Goodbye Headache, was sweet relief packaged into three-minutes-thirty, capturing the energy of acts like Art Vs. Science and Architecture In Helsinki, only re-modernised and brought forward to 2020. Their new single Smile keeps this going, layering bass grooves and upbeat percussive rhythms with an explosion of melodies that erupt for the single's chorus; vocalist Saskia Fleming leading the way above a heavily-layered rush of melodies and harmonies all kept in place by that moving percussion rhythm.
It's a single that's hard to place alongside comparables, but that's exactly why it's so good. At times, Smile feels like it borrows the psychedelic euphoria of acts like Tame Impala. At other times, it feels like it takes nods from groups like BADBADNOTGOOD and King Krule, largely due to their juxtaposition between jazz, funk and indie. Elsewhere, moments of Smile erupt with the indie crunch of Ball Park Music and then, to top it all off, there's a trumpet solo at the end that need of these acts would think to do. It's distinctively Mal de Mer, and that's what keeps us coming back.
Premiering on Pilerats today ahead of its official release this Wednesday, Smile packs the rich potency of Mal de Mer at their best, and with more in the pipeline, there's no better time to introduce yourself to the group if you're yet to be acquainted already. So, do so while you dive into their new single a little bit early below:
Tell us about yourself?
I’m Saskia, the lead singer of an indie-funk band called Mal de Mer. We began in 2018 and have been going ever since! We have John Harvey on guitar, Josh Wright on drums, Julia Wallace on keys and trumpet, and Regan Dale on bass - the instrumentalists in this band are an absolute powerhouse!
What’s the vibe music-wise?
We’re going for an indie-funk vibe I’d say. Sprinkle of disco, a hint of psych- we kinda just feel it out every time and I’d say our set is pretty eclectic.
As the lyricist I generally touch on topics such as mental health, pain, relationships (who doesn’t), and now politics in our latest release! I’m usually coming from a place of frustration and anger when I write, haha, I’m pretty pissed off. Mal is my space to really let go and not have a filter - I just feel.
I think this is the proudest I’ve been of a track to date! Our new member Julia really blew me away with her Trumpet solo, gets me every bloody time, and her jazzy keys spice up the tune so much; I’m bopping my head just thinking about it. Reg is an absolute legend! He started out as our drummer and is now our killer bass player - a true wizard; it’s such a privilege to work alongside him you have no idea! John has been here since day one - I’m so proud of how far we have come as musicians together, and he never ceases to amaze me with the crazy shit he pulls out of that whacky noggin! The way his mind works musically is really bloody incredible to witness, and I’m really lucky to be able to combine our strengths and better ourselves together with every song! And gee whiz Josh is just nuts. His ear is wicked - he’s the drummer and he’s able to give constructive feedback on every single instrument- he comes up with better vocal melodies than me sometimes! I feel so lucky to be working with these multi-talented lovely humans - being able to hop on stage with some of my favourite people is one of the best feelings in the world - I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m feeling kind of homesick for the stage at the moment, I miss our jam space and I can’t wait to get back to it - my internet is pretty average so video jams are pretty bloody hard!
What are your production and writing processes like?
Originally, me and John would sit in a room and just mash our ideas together until something clicked. It always did, which is still pretty crazy to me. Now we all are writing together - pushing each-other as musicians, and having a lot of fun. Josh usually starts us off with a beat, and then one by one we’ll come in and try to mould our ideas together. I’ll usually feel out a rough melody during the rehearsal, and sometimes I’ll have lyrics that just slot in, but pretty often I’ll take a voice memo of the tune home to write them. I’ve made it my mission this year to try and not write about any relationships - it’s been an easy fallback for me, but I want to push myself and step out of my comfort zone; I’ve done it with this new one which is exciting!
Can you tell us about your new single, Smile?
Smile is the first time I’ve really gotten political with my lyrics - I wrote it in Canada when I was travelling while the bushfires were raging back home. I felt really helpless, really pissed off by the lack of action that was being taken by our leaders, and really sad for those who were affected by the fires. I was lying in bed, jet-lagged and wide awake, and I was just flooded with this creative, angry energy. It just kinda came up like vomit, I had so much more to say. I wrote five verses but I think that woulda been overkill, haha!
The instrumental is boppy, jazzy, sassy and full of feeling. The rhythm section is so bloody tight, feel the funk. The trumpet’s wistful, the guitar is jangly and rhythmic and brings such a nice flavour to the song.
What does 2020 have in store for you?
It’s already been such a hectic year so far and all our plans have kinda been frozen in time! We were looking at going on tour this year- and we had a bunch of other sick stuff lined up too. But for the foreseeable future we cant record, we can’t physically jam, and we can’t tour, so we’re just working on getting a few demos together by just pinging ideas around in the group chat. Josh is gonna lay a groove and I think we’ll just build from there and see what happens. For now, 2020 has a lot of writing in store for us, and we are really excited to get a stockpile of new music written and ready to play for our audience the minute we can get up on a stage again!
What do you want people to take away from the project?
I really want people to listen to what we have to say, to be honest. A lot of my generation has been feeling pretty disgruntled by our country’s lack of action on climate change, and we’ve kinda just had patronising stuff like ‘focus on your education’ thrown back at us. We need to save our planet in order to continue to learn, grow, educate, and be educated.
And we ARE educated on this topic, more so than ever- that’s why we’re speaking up, it’s why we’re loud, and it’s why we’re so fucking angry.
I recognise that we are also facing this huge issue at the moment with the outbreak of COVID-19, and this release is not taking anything away from that (it was written well before the outbreak); but the climate issue will not go away and I think we need to remember that crisis as-well.
Where can we find more of your music?
Oh and PS: We’ve got some sweet merch designed by Alice Ford, and printed at Hammerink up on our Bandcamp at the moment! It’s the best way to help local artists right now - it goes directly to us and we can save it for the day we come out of hibernation and bring more music!
Follow Mal de Mer: FACEBOOK