Mikey Champan of Mallory Knox: '˜A lot of this stuff is a lot closer to home than previously'
Alt-rock stars Mallory Knox used their headline show at last September's Butserfest to draw a line under the end of the campaign for their second album, Asymmetry.
The Cambridge five-piece had already recorded its follow-up – Wired, released on March 10 – but wanted to put clear water between the two albums.
Frontman Mikey Chapman recalls the show at the South Downs-based drink and drugs free festival: ‘The gig itself was really fun. The day was absolutely miserable though, it was literally raining sideways – everyone was freezing, soaked, but they all stuck it out to the end, and it was just one of the most inspiring and grateful experiences we’ve had.
‘Usually with a headline slot, you think ‘‘this is a great position’’, but as the day progressed we were thinking: “Is anyone actually going to still be here?”
‘It was a real testament to how keen people were to see it – we’re really grateful for that, and it was a great way to see that album out and get us ready and raring to jump off of the back of that to do some touring for the new album.’
The Guide spoke with Mikey on the eve of the new album’s release. It has since followed its predecessor into the top 20 and been receiving praise for the leap in songcraft and lyrical content.
‘There’s always this aspect of nerves – not necessarily that people are going to hate it, but that it’s not going to be received in the way that you imagined.’
Putting Wired in the context of their discography, Mikey says: ‘With regards to the last two records, we kind of describe Asymmetry as like a diagonal step forward from Signals (their debut). They’re in a similar vein, but didn’t take any chances.
‘I’m not saying by any means that this new record is completely new, completely fresh and completely out there, but between the last record and this one we’ve had a growth and development within ourselves and as musicians, which has taken us in a particularly honest direction.
‘I use the word honest in a few senses – lyrically and content-wise we’ve been a lot more confident in portraying ideas and themes we wouldn’t have been so comfortable to talk about before in a personal context, a lot of the stuff is a lot closer to home than previously,
‘And also sonically the boys have done a phenomenal job that comes along with the vocals. Just the most “screw it” kind of attitude – it was a real pleasure to see them work in the studio and watch them hone it, the hours and hours they were putting in to achieving the right kind of sound.
‘It was real labour of love this one, and everyone was really enjoying the amount they learned between then and now, and putting a stamp on their aspect of the band.’
Mikey co-writes the lyrics with guitarist Sam Douglas, and Mikey is full of praise for his brother in arms – there are several tracks on the album dealing with mental heath and anxiety.
‘Watching Sam from my perspective as he’s moved from album to album, developing his ideas, the amount he’s put of himself out there from his experiences is astounding, particularly compared to earlier records. On the earlier records those more honest moments had to be squeezed out of Sam, but this time he really embraced it – and I think he felt more comfortable in his honesty, and I like to think it shines through.’
And Mikey reveals that it’s only retrospectively through talking with journalists that the album’s themes have become clear to him.
‘As we’re getting older – we’re 27 now - I was breaking it down to myself earlier today, and in talking to people like yourself, in terms of as individuals getting to this age, there’s sort of an air of accountability and responsibilty to yourself in getting to the bottom of things.
‘Conquering fears, feelings, and issues, that all comes with the culmination of your 20s, or I imagine it does. I think the same rings true with our creative process in the band. A psychologist would have a field day with our band!
‘I feel this record has been more honest, not only because we’re more comfortable with ourselves, but we’re more comfortable to talk about them because they are parts of us and aspects of us and our physicality.
‘That generalised coming of age realisation has certainly reflected in the themes on this record.
#It was definitely a natural implementation – we never really sat down and worked out what we were going to do and say in our songs, we’ve always taken pride on the natural development blooming of our songs.
‘We write the music, get the vibe, the atmosphere of the song sonically, and we find a lot of the time the lyrics and the mood is described to you by the guitars and things like that.
‘It’s only when talking about it in retrospect and analysing it myself – we don’t sit around having a pint and going: “Oh, I’ve just had a contemplation about that song we just wrote...” – that I realised those themes resonated through some of the songs – taking responsibilities for your actions, and behaviours, taking account for the things you owe yourself and to your own self worth and care, betterment of your life, all in some form or another seem to shine through on aspects of the album.’
* Mallory Knox play The Pyramids in Southsea on Sunday, doors 7pm. Tickets £17.50. Go to pyramids-live.co.uk