Kansas City native Rachel Mallin has either a) already written or b) about to write your next favorite song. Along with her band The Wild Type (Justin Walker, Austin Edmisten, Jesse Bartmess, Matt Kosinski), Mallin's music combines classic, hook-based songcraft with what she describes as "nostalgic modern-day interpretation of 50s-60s doowop/surfpop music." If the band's latest single, "Dropout," is any indication of the quality we can expect of the forthcoming Degenerate Matters EP, we are truly in for a treat. We are proud to share an interview with Mallin, along with her book, music and movie recommendations, ahead of her Middle of the Map 2016 showcase on May 6.
Please introduce yourself. Where do you live and work?
My name is Rachel Mallin! I currently live in Kansas City, MO. I work at The Bunker in Westport, intern at 825 Studios (also in Westport), and I consider the band a job as well. While it's not exactly a profitable career at this stage, I value getting to do what I'm passionate about more than I care about turning a profit from it.
Describe the musical journey from “The Persistence of Vision” EP to the recent “Dropout” single and the upcoming “Degenerate Matters” EP. How close are you coming to creating “the most soulfully orchestrated indie pop masterpiece mankind has ever witnessed”?
TPOV was created with a solo project mentality. I wrote, recorded, and produced it in my basement with the help of a little production knowledge I acquired in the preceding year. Limited by my resources at the time, TPOV turned out leaning more in a synth pop direction than I usually prefer when I'm writing music. The live band made up of Justin Walker (bassist), Austin Edmisten (drums), Jesse Bartmess (synth), and Matt Kosinski (lead guitar) was introduced after I released TPOV with the purpose of playing shows. However, when we started writing songs together our distinctive styles as varying musicians evolved our initial genre into a sort of nostalgic modern-day interpretation of 50's-60's doowop/surfpop music. Degenerate Matters is kind of swimming between the worlds of organic and electronic sounds, but the lyrical theme contrasts the somberness of my solo writing in TPOV with a matured, sarcastic and somewhat playfully disdainful approach.
What have you learned from your recent recording experiences that you'll take to future ones?
Degenerate Matters has been recorded/mixed/mastered at Element Recording with Joel Nanos. Joel is a distinguished and highly regarded engineer/producer in the KC music scene, because his production work on records is not only unique, but memorable. While my brain overloads in an attempt to retain mental notes on his various production methods, I've benefitted most from observing how he organizes/anticipates the recording process so that it flows smoothly into the mixing/mastering stages. He goes by the principle of "It's the notes that you don't play", which is the idea of creating space and focus in an arrangement, so that when you enter the mixing stage, the end product can sound cool without needing to layer on/work around too many varying instrument parts in an attempt to sound complex.
Can you point to one time in your life where you knew you wanted to be a songwriter? Who or what inspired you early on to create music?
I can't pinpoint one exact epiphany-like moment where I knew I wanted to be a songwriter, but I imagine it was probably somewhere around the time when 11-year-old Rachel with headphones and a disc-man sang and danced around her bedroom listening to her older brother's CDs. I got my first guitar at 8 years old, and while that's my main songwriting tool - I know that I probably wouldn't have ended up singing at all unless I felt a connection to the words that were in the songs I was singing along to. I never paid as much attention to the vocal quality of a singer, as much as I listened to and had an appreciation for the meaning/feeling they were conveying with their lyrics.
What excites you the most about the Kansas City-area music scene?
The people. I still consider myself kind of a rookie to the scene, and the musicians/bands/listeners/supporters have been some of the most gracious, kind, and encouraging people I've ever met. It's an honor getting to be a part of it, because I learn so much from other bands who have been prevalent in the scene for sometime, all while getting to learn and discover new music that makes its way on to the scene. While I can't predict if KC will be the next Austin, I know there's been a surge in the growth and recognition of our city's music scene in the last 5 years and I'm very excited to see how it develops in years to come.
Rachel's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
5 Very Good Reasons To Punch A Dolphin In The Mouth by Matthew Inman
The Mixing Engineer's Handbook by Bobby Owsinki
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Con Law by Generationals
The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
Wildewoman by Lucius
Seeds by TV on the Radio