Mallrat has been channelling fears, hopes, and obsessions into her music since its chrysalis. On her upcoming debut album Butterfly Blue, the artists’ songwriting flies into new territory.
When Grace Shaw sang “I raised myself and that’s alright” on hottest 100 bronze-winner, Charlie, something about the artist became adamantly clear. Grace Shaw’s life, like her music, is made on her own terms.
Exploring visceral emotions through pop, rock, folk, and hip-hop, the indie artist has evolved into an irreplaceable star, on the radar of Mark Ronson and other heavyweight contemporaries. On the latest singles Rockstar, Your Love, and Teeth, Mallrat spreads her wings even further than before, showcasing a growing self-confidence, and eagerness to juxtapose sonic realms. I caught up with the artist to learn more about the singles, and of course, the highly anticipated debut LP.
HAPPY: A warm congrats on your latest release, Your Love. It’s really amazing, but it’s really interesting, too. Could you tell us a little bit about how this left of field pop meets Memphis rap sample came to be?
MALLRAT: Thank you. Well, it’s just a reflection of what I’ve liked and have been listening to the last few years and the sort of beats that I enjoy making. Like when I’m producing, I find myself making more rap beats. Yeah, so it’s just how I like to produce and then the song happened. *laughs* That’s kind of it.
HAPPY: Yeah, sick. Sampling is an enjoyable part of the production experience for you?
MALLRAT: It’s so much fun. It’s something that I’ve only gotten into the last few years. I kind of got into Three 6 Mafia when I was living in America, and I would spend a lot of time at the studio with this producer called FKi First. And he’s from Atlanta, and he would always be chopping up old Three 6 samples. And that kind of rubbed off on me. And then when I came back to Australia, I kept doing that. And then originally the sample was a different thing. It was this rapper called Lil Gin, and then we couldn’t get that cleared and then replaced it with the Gangsta Pat sample.
HAPPY: Nice. Did you hear that “killa, killa“ and have a lightning bolt moment?
MALLRAT: Yeah. Well, it was kind of when we realised we had to replace the other sample because we couldn’t get it cleared. I spent so long trying to find things to replace it, and I had absolutely no luck. And then Nikki (tour manager) sent me this song. I was like, ‘I feel like this sample could potentially work.’ And it did. So a lot of credit to Nikki there.
HAPPY: Yeah, that’s awesome. Shout out, Nikki.
MALLRAT: Yeah, the best.
HAPPY: In the second verse of Your Love, you label yourself as a “writer” as opposed to a musician or something similar. It made me wonder, is songwriting a defining aspect for you as Mallrat?
MALLRAT: Definitely. I don’t feel like I’m a singer, even though I am. But it’s not one of my strengths. My passion isn’t singing, my strength isn’t singing. It’s songwriting and producing. And yeah, the process of making songs rather than performing them or using my voice in a literal sense.
HAPPY: That’s really cool. How would you describe your writing style? I read something about how you like it when artists tell it how it is instead of using airy-fairy metaphors?
MALLRAT: Yeah. I think my writing style changes a little bit from song to song. But yes, very much that. My biggest pet peeve and writing is stupid cliches.
MALLRAT: And pretentiousness. But with that being said, it’s not that I think everything should be autobiographical or literal. But I do appreciate when people could paint a picture or use words that are really engaging and memorable and string sentences together in an interesting way. So that’s why I always try to do: things that are a little bit unexpected and sticky, but also hopefully capture a feeling or a memory or picture that you can visualise.
HAPPY: Yeah, I like that. So kind of visual, real. I’ve been listening since Uninvited, and have noticed with your discography that there’s always a really catchy part in every track. So I was wondering if you had any advice about writing hooks?
MALLRAT: I mean, it’s a really good question. I don’t know how it happens, to be honest. I just listen to a lot of pop music and I know what I like and don’t like. And I think sometimes people are kind of afraid of pop music because they don’t think it’s cool or something. And so they strive to make the most boring shit thing they possibly can. I would just say, don’t do that.
HAPPY: I love that. Well, you’re speaking to me because back when I was you know, maybe 17, 16, and looking and being trendy felt so important, it was like, ‘Oh, we don’t listen to pop.’ But now I’m like, ‘ABBA write fucking amazing songs.’ Is that kind of what you’re saying?
MALLRAT: Exactly. Yes. This obsession that people have with being cool and underground and unsuccessful is so harmful. It’s self-sabotage and it comes from insecurity. And I think that, yeah, fear of pop music kind of plays into that.
HAPPY: You shot the music video for Your Love with James Robinson and Amy Deller in Tassie. How was that experience?
MALLRAT: It was really fun. I really love James and Amy, I think they’re so talented. And it was nice to just have a small crew of us three and be able to go to a different place and just go with the flow during the day and the evening, rather than have to stick to a super strict schedule. And I’ve always been obsessed with… I’ve always wanted to do a shot with something that feels like stadium lighting and really cold white light in an open dark space. So it was cool to be able to do that with the oval scene at the end, and that happened really spontaneously, and it just turned out even better than I had imagined.
HAPPY: Oh, that’s really cool. And the sprinklers at the end too, was that planned?
MALLRAT: No, that was… We were like, ‘Let’s film at the oval.’ And then the sprinklers came on and we were like, ‘Let’s just keep filming.’
HAPPY: Love it. In previous single Rockstar and also in Your Love, there’s kind of this dramatic switch in energy or vibe right at the end. Are we going to hear some more curveballs from Mallrat?
MALLRAT: Yes, definitely. I think that’s where my love of production comes through and my excitement about keeping people on their toes and seeing how far you can push a song, without necessarily just thinking about lyrics and melodies. So yeah, there are definitely some songs on the album with really surprising… they just don’t go where you expect them to go, and they’re the songs that I’m most proud of.
HAPPY: Oh, that’s awesome. I’m so excited to hear them.
MALLRAT: Thank you, Manning.
HAPPY: It’s always so cool when you know that the artist is going to throw some shit your way that you’re not expecting.
MALLRAT: Yay! Yeah, I really appreciate you saying that. Thank you.
HAPPY: No worries. Now, onto your upcoming debut album, Butterfly Blue! I noticed in the Your Love single cover that you’ve got a butterfly tattooed on your arm as well. What’s the significance of the butterfly to you?
MALLRAT: Well, I just have always been obsessed with insects, in particular, butterflies and I’m just really drawn to them, and I find them really interesting, and I don’t really know why. I could rationalise it and try and explain some things that I think are amazing about them. I’m pretty obsessed with the process of metamorphosis. I think it’s so incredible how… OK, I’m going to nerd out for a second.
HAPPY: Go for it.
MALLRAT: The metamorphosis from a caterpillar to a butterfly is so insane because when caterpillars are inside the chrysalis that they build, they completely digest themselves with digestive enzymes. And then basically like stem cells… do you know much about stem cells? They basically rebuild themselves with these cells and they become this butterfly. And despite the fact that they’ve digested themselves and become a whole new animal, they still have certain memories from their life as a caterpillar.
HAPPY: Oh, wow.
MALLRAT: Which I think is really, really cool. And they’re obviously just beautiful to look at and I don’t know. I always kind of associate them with angels and just heaven and life after death and transformation. I just think they’re so special.
HAPPY: Yeah, that’s really interesting. Would it be like a fair comparison to say that the transition stage of caterpillar to butterfly is almost like becoming a teenager, discovering yourself and then becoming an adult?
MALLRAT: Yeah, I guess so. Yeah, I think you can apply it to all sorts of different transitions in life. Always a nice… I don’t know. It’s nice to think about transformations in nature. I find it really comforting to be like… also, like you think about a caterpillar building a chrysalis, they’re just tucking themselves into this giant sleep where they basically die, then they come out of it so different. And I don’t know. They don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s just instincts they have that they follow. So I think that’s really cool that they don’t know what they’re doing when they’re building that chrysalis, but they come out of it transformed because they’re following intuition.
HAPPY: We just got a free science lesson, huge points. They said we were a music magazine, fuck that shit.
MALLRAT: Yeah. Don’t let them box you in. *laughs*
HAPPY: Yeah. *laughs* I think you mentioned angels before, I read that you were balancing two thematic themes on Butterfly Blue, angel choirs and monster trucks, which grabbed my attention. Could you tell me a little bit more about that?
MALLRAT: So when I first had that thought, when I was making the album, it was more textures that I really liked because I love sampling vocals, and using artificial choir sounds as well as real vocals in production because I think it creates an immediate connection and emotion in a song when you can feel the human voice. So there’s that for the angel choirs, just because I think it’s a beautiful, beautiful sound that I’m always drawn to.
And then the monster trucks is another beautiful sound and energy, like that really aggressive, really distorted… not even just guitar, but anything that you can distort so much that it’s just feels… I don’t know. It just adds so much emotion and energy to me, and I love the juxtaposition of those things together. So that’s what it started as. And then, yeah, it’s not really like a lyrical theme, but I do think that energy kind of came across of finding confidence and strength and power in yourself, but still finding… I don’t know, still being gentle and loving and all these different things. I think it’s really cool when those qualities can exist together and hopefully that came out in the music.
HAPPY: Oh, 100%. I heard your track Teeth last night. As soon as you said juxtaposition, I was like, ‘Oh yeah’, because Teeth is so beatsy and vibey (angel choirs), and then it just breaks into that distorted section (monster trucks) There you go. It’s all going as planned!
HAPPY: You’ve said that the music we listen to when we’re little really shapes us, which is so true. Are there any artists from your childhood where their influence might have subconsciously seeped into the Butterfly Blue?
MALLRAT: Yeah, definitely. And even not just childhood. Well, as a kid, mum and dad always played a lot of country music, and I think that Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton have definitely stuck around me. But then as an early teenage girl, lots of Lana Del Rey and also I really liked that band FIDLAR, love Violent Soho.
HAPPY: “Hell fuck yeah“.
MALLRAT: So yeah, some very different things that I still love.
HAPPY: Revisited Norman Fucking Rockwell! recently, far out. That’s a good album.
MALLRAT: So good, so good. Venice Bitch and Mariners Apartment Complex. They’re two of my favourite songs.
HAPPY: Nice. Will give them a re-listen. You’ve got THIS THAT festival coming up in Newcastle. Is there anything you want to let your fans know who are coming the show?
MALLRAT: Oh, I just know it’ll be good. Newcastle is so fun. We were there the other week and the crowd was amazing and I can’t wait to go back. I’m excited.
HAPPY: Sick, Newcastle’s got a really good music scene.
MALLRAT: Yeah, and there’s an amazing band called Raave Tapes that I also really love.
HAPPY: Rave Tapes?
MALLRAT: Yeah, but with two A’s in the rave.
HAPPY: Ah, yes. You’ve always got to throw a little a little thing in there, hey, with the artist name. Change the ‘S’ to a ‘Z’ or something like that?
MALLRAT: Yeah, exactly.
HAPPY: It’s been such a pleasure to chat. Really excited to hear the album.
MALLRAT: Thank you so much, Manning. Have a beautiful day.
HAPPY: You too.
Mallrat’s forthcoming debut album Butterfly Blue will be out on May 13th. Pre-order here.
Listen to more from Mallrat below:
Interview by Manning Patston