Premiere: Mal De Mer - Sanguine EP
Genre blurring WA indie-funkers walk us through their new EP, premiering today ahead of July 8 release
Over the last few years, Boorloo / Perth six-piece Mal de Mer have been making a name for themselves with their unique, constantly evolving sound that merges the catchiness of indie pop with the complexity of jazz and the, well, funk of funk. Across both live stages and recordings, the group have now readied their biggest recording to date in the form of the awesome Sanguine EP.
Featuring six dynamic, engaging tracks, the Sanguine EP takes you on a journey into “that” Mal sound, being emotional, deep and just damn catchy from beginning to end. Released July 8, you can take an advanced listen to the EP premiering on Pilerats today.
Saskia Fleming (vocals, synth) and John Harvey (guitar) from the band were also kind enough to talk us through the story behind each track on the record - have a listen and get to know below!
John: This song means the world to me. I wrote the first verse chords during a very depressing time in my life which completely contrasts the upbeat sound of the song. Showing this one to the band was extremely rewarding- their enthusiasm for it gave me confidence in my writing again. I love everyone's parts in this. Julia’s piano line in the verse is perfect, Ashton’s riff in the chorus is huge and so catchy, Bella as usual is laying it down with James’s steady beat. We were so lucky and grateful to have Will Pethick, an incredible trombone player, and Tom Beech (Your Girl Pho) playing his saucy sax on our EP, which you can hear in the middle 8 of this song creating a reprieve from the upbeat chorus and verses.
Sas: Yeah, when John showed us this track I couldn’t stop grinning- he just nailed it! He’d been struggling with imposter syndrome for a while and I think creating this track and watching it blossom into what it is today gave him the reality check he needed! The lyrics are pretty on theme with the rest of the EP - to me they are a giddy farewell to a toxic relationship. I feel like this song captures that moment where the penny drops and the fog lifts and you get your shit together and get the hell out.
Pray to You
John: It’s a classic banger. The first verse and intro lulls you into the sense that it's going to be a slow sad song, but instantly the whole vibe changes when we hit the chorus. I take my hat off to Ashton on this one - he really shines through the whole song with his tasteful guitar licks, he went full rock n roll hall of fame. Julia's piano in this is beautiful - we were lucky Brod from Tunafish recording studio let us use his magnificent upright piano, it sounds so pleasant to the ears. My favourite part of this song is the bridge where James plays a bossa nova beat inspired by the works of Sergio Mendes. Julia’s trumpet comes in harmonising with Ashtons riff coupled with Saskia’s “some day” harmonies, creating my favourite bridge on this EP!
Sas: This is the one track on the EP that doesn’t fit the lyrical theme. But that's because I wrote it in 2019 on my guitar and really didn’t think it was gonna be heard by anyone. Julia persuaded me to show it to the rest of the band last year and I’m really glad she did! It’s a mixture of fun and daunting to release a song that was in no way intended for public consumption- when I perform it I honestly feel naked on stage. I don’t usually release my sappy bedroom train-of-thought songs but it’s a nice change. It showed me that songs can come back to you after being dormant in the back of your mind for years and transform into something you never could have imagined!
Do You See Me?
John: Sadly I wasn't here for the writing of this one, I was having a holiday in Melbourne. But I love playing it, especially following Bella’s Bass line- it's so much fun!
Sas: Making this one was a good kick in the gut for my imposter syndrome- and I think it was the tipping point where I realised that I could bring a song I wrote (with chords) to the band. I only started playing synth in July last year, so previously I was just singing melodies I’d written acapella-style to Julia or John and they would find chords to fit underneath them. So ‘Do You See Me?’ was the first song I wrote on the synth and I genuinely had no idea whether it was any good at all. So I brought it to Julia who loved it and that gave me the courage to show it to the rest of the band. Watching it grow with the addition of everyone's parts felt really surreal! Julia’s catchy synth line makes me smile everytime I hear it- it’s just so tasty! James always understands the assignment- the stops and builds into the choruses are so well done. This was also the first track we recorded with Ash and Bella and they both just blew us out of the water- Bella’s verse bass riff and Ashton’s rhythmic guitar in the chorus are added flavours the track needed. When we all link up on the breakdown riff (2:24) and James and Bella line up the kick drum and bassline it just changes the whole dynamic of that section and it is so bloody fun to play live! ‘Do You See Me?’ was the catalyst that basically opened the floodgates for the creation of the rest of the EP.
John: This is one of our slower, sadder songs that starts with some pretty keys and synth accompanied by Saskia’s haunting voice, very moving stuff. I think Sas and Julia had been working on this previously before showing the band down south, another time where I think everyone deserves a pat on the back for adding such intelligent parts.The chorus hits pretty hard with everyone coming in, Ashtons riff is really interesting and enticing (just you wait though) Saskia’s vocals haunt me in the chorus- you can hear deep tones of fear and frustration. The post chorus floods your ears with a lovely piano line by Julia- there was some debate about how long it should be but im glad we kept it as is. It adds an escape from the heartwrenching chorus in my mind. The outro is my favourite part of the song with Ashtons latin riff joined by julia’s keys and Saskia echoing “get out” . It really ties the whole meaning and expression of the song together in a neat little knot.
Sas: This song is an amalgamation of a few different themes. The verses were written about two consecutive Summers that I had experienced, while the chorus was about processing trauma. This one is a really raw, personal track so I’m not going to dive into the meaning behind it, but I encourage people to listen to it themselves and take away what they want from it.
John: I love James’s brush work on this track, he’s a very intelligent drummer and always plays exactly what’s needed. This is my favourite track on the EP for vocals-, I have a strange fondness for the line where Saskia sings “together” with an inflection at 0:33. At the time i’m not sure if it was intentional or not but I asked her to keep it, as I felt like I had been shot with a nostalgia gun. Then the Chorus hits with a dope synth line Saskia whipped up in the studio outta nowhere- I felt like that was the missing link we needed in the chorus. The outro really show cases the vocal talent of Bella, Julia and Sas with their incredible harmonies and why not another rock n roll hall of fame solo by Ashton- I can’t get enough.
Sas: In View is about refusing to be palatable to make other people comfortable, and being unapologetically loud as an afab person in society. I told the band that I wanted the song to start off really laid back but slowly build into a big wall of sound style ending, and they really captured that. I think the instrumentation really highlights the lyrical message of the song, and I hope in particular that our afab listeners feel seen by what I talk about in the track.
John: Easily my favourite song on the EP, I don't know why but every time I listen to it I get vibrations all over. This started with Sas bringing both the verse and chorus to the band at our little writing trip down south. Instantly everyone recognised the potential of it. The lead riff in the post chorus was actually a part I wrote for Mirage I think? For some reason it didn't work so we copied and pasted it into time flies and it fit seamlessly! Having Ashton join me with a harmony lead line at the end is so rock n roll too, haha. Bella wrote the tastiest subtle bass run in the chorus- you can catch it at 2:22! It’s my favourite bass run from our whole discography- so cool! Also James’s tom work on the tubs make the song feel so large and grandiose.
Sas: I agree with John here. When we got back the master of this one I sat in my room listening to it and just bawled my eyes out. I think it’s because we managed to find the perfect concoction of sounds to capture the way that relief and joy floods you once you prioritise yourself and your life again. This song is the car ride home, your bags are packed and you’ve made it out the other side- so it felt fitting to have it as the last track of the EP.