Earlier this week, we had the opportunity to chat with Melati Malay of Young Magic, a musician who is equally as talented as she is enchanting.
Only about a month ago, the band released their second album, Breathing Statues; a beautifully assembled body of work, in which they further solidified their electronic and experimental foundations with notes of psychedelic rock.
So without further ado, here’s the interview; we talked about the new album, travelling, unusual gear they’ve recently picked up, amongst other things:
Murmur: Hey Melati! What are you up to at this very moment?
Melati Malay: Umm… I just got back home and hung my pants up to dry after an impromptu ride in a canoe. We found two abandoned goose eggs in the reeds but they smelled pretty bad so we put them back. A typical day.
M: In your new album, there is a sense of maturity to the quality of your sound when comparing it to Melt, however it seems like you were in a constant mode of discovery when creating it– did the process for Breathing Statues ever feel like a sensory overload?
MM: I think so. We’re constantly learning through the process, and this is the part that is the most exciting to us. I mean we discover new things through the act of making them, so in a way we’re actively encouraging a sensory overload, and hopefully finding some kind of simple beauty in this chaos.
M: You guys are very well-traveled. Breathing Statues was recorded during some of your explorations– Would it be too much to ask of you to choose three songs off the album, and tell us your location and mood at the time it was being written/recorded?
MM: “Waiting For The Ground To Open” was recorded in Iceland. We wandered into this little music store one day and came across a beautifully tuned mbira and took turns secretly recording them. If you listen closely, you can hear whispers of a conversation in the background and the creak of a door. The strings grew later that evening, looking over the harbor of Reykjavik. It had a stillness and clarity that could only be found in Iceland. We had spent the day watching ice sheets fall slowly from this incredible moonscape of purple flowered lava fields… It all crept in. It’s a strange and wavy one, but we really liked that we wouldn’t be able to make something quite like it again.
“Captcha” happened on the other side of the world on The Sunshine Coast in Australia…. a place called Kau-in Kau-in, which means “red like blood” in the indigenous language. There was a tangible feeling of a post-world environment in this one – this idea of a cyclical pattern constantly returning in new shades. We were interested in a subtlety with these songs -sometimes not quite noticing where one had finished and another began…something half dreamt. It started as a simple bass delay and ended up with harp swells improvised over a looming climax back in the city. Our friend Jacqui Cornetta lugged her ornate 1920’s harp up a 6-floor walk-up in Brooklyn and recorded late into the night.
“Foxglove” was written and recorded in The Catskill Mountains. This past winter was clinical, icy and long, and coincided with the loss of a family member who meant the world to me. It was a time of coming together with family and celebrating life, and looking backwards and inward at my own life. I was searching for solace and beauty in an extremely difficult time… a loss that still lingers. This was one of the last songs we wrote for the album, and for me encapsulates my personal world at that time. Rumi said it first but it didn’t ever resonate properly until now: “Sometimes the deepest cuts let the most light in.” The album became very much about this.
M: You mentioned a lot of interesting gear, but have you picked up any unusual ones in recent travels? Did you use any of them in the album?
MM: We kept returning to a friend’s Prophet 600– I love that Prophet, but a few of the voices were broken so it would behave erratically… a quality I became really attracted to and even encouraged over time. Often mid-take it would drop into an arpeggiated sequence, or bounce back and forth between 2 voices, making these lovely unexpected delay effects and loops happen, which we’d flip– like the end section of “Fall In”.
M: What’s your trick to absorbing as much inspiration and culture as possible when visiting a different country?
MM: There’s no trick. Most of the time we’ve been lucky enough to travel it has popped out of the blue, like a last minute offer to house-sit for a friend or stranger in a place we’ve never been, or visiting family. I grew up in Jakarta at a school where my friends were from Hungary, Finland, Japan, Canada and Australia so I grew up thinking this was normal, having people around me from everywhere. Now my family and friends are spread out all over the place, my brother in Bristol, my other brother in Singapore, my mum in Indonesia, my sister in New York– which makes it hard to see everyone all the time but definitely means I’m moving a lot, and naturally, always recording.
M: Magic, witchcraft, spirituality– essentially, otherworldly concepts, are somewhat of a recurring theme in your songwriting. Where did this interest stem from exactly, and is it something the band mutually developed as it grew, or something you guys shared from the very beginning?
MM: I think we’ve always shared an interest in the states that exist outside of language– states of being which are common for everyone (like the dream-world we spend almost a third of our lives in) and yet somehow remain on the fringe of daily conversation. Maybe it’s because these things are so difficult and almost impossible to explain with words that they’ve become the most interesting parts of our lives to explore with music. I guess I’ve always been generally interested in the “other” world of every epoch and culture, but I don’t belong to any of them. The only things I have semi-religious feelings toward are nature, the cosmos and eternity.
M: It’s a mood you convey well in your performances as well. I remember the show you played in Montreal back in 2011 with Youth Lagoon– Loved the incense and mood candles. Do you have any special stage magic planned for this tour?
MM: We’ve been working a lot on the visual side of the set recently, and expanding so that all the projections are played live. It’s a first for us. Both the sound and image will be in a constant state of movement. We’re excited about this new direction.
We’d like to thank Melati Malay for taking the time to answer our questions. Don’t forget to catch Young Magic at La Sala Rossa, this coming Tuesday!