An afternoon walk with Mallrat and Charlie
I caught up with my friend Grace Shaw (who has a project called Mallrat) on an afternoon at her Dad’s house on the Northside of Brisbane while she was back in town for a few days. We took her dog Charlie for a walk and talked about being personal, confidence and suburbia.
Maxwell: What’s your favourite and least favourite thing about Brisbane?
Grace: I think it’s easy for me to say the least favourite thing because I often feel really uncomfortable here. I think probably it feels really small and still and slow. But my favourite thing is the sunshine and my dog and my friends.
Maxwell: Do you think Brisbane shaped you and your aspirations?
Grace: Yeah I think because I feel quite out of place here. I find that mixed with boredom and suburbia to be very inspiring, or like a catalyst for being creative. You kind of need to be bored to be motivated to make things.
Maxwell: Yeah definitely haha. What were the most influential albums from when you were growing up?
Grace: Probably like Tom’s (Allday) first album “Startup Cult” and also “Pure Heroine” by Lorde because both of them made me feel like I could relate to what they were writing about and I never really felt that before. I’d be like “oh this sounds good, it’s catching, I want to dance to this” but I’d never felt like “Oh they’re talking about what I'm feeling”. Especially Pure Heroine, it felt like what I would have written in my diary. If i had a diary. Just like being 15/16 and being in suburbia and feeling out of place.
Maxwell: I think people get that from your music too.
Grace: That makes me really happy. I don’t know why I felt so alien but maybe it’s because I had so much sad really suburban stuff around me and I was like “I don’t want this forever” and it seems like it’s everywhere. And to have something similar but in another place was really magic and hopeful and comforting.
Maxwell: I think she also put it through a lens that made it seem fantastical.
Grace: Yeah and cinematic!
Maxwell: Yeah! You know that band i really like, ‘Big Thief’? They did a song exploder and the lead singer said “My own true feelings about an experience become more vivid and clear to me when they’re described through a more fantastical lens.”
Grace: That is so cool, I totally get what they’re saying. I’m only starting to get into them now but all their album art is so special and that song Paul is the most beautiful song. Yeah that is so true, just finding the beauty and wonder in everyday things.
Maxwell: I think Groceries does that!
Grace: I read this book recently that I really recommend called ‘Boy Swallows Universe’, after I read it I bought another copy so that everyone in my family could read it. It’s set in Brisbane, it’s the only book I’ve read that’s set here but that’s besides the fact because it’s the most beautiful story and it’s so beautifully written. It’s kind of the same, because it has this sort of fantastical element but it’s so suburban. And it’s set mostly on the Southside.
Maxwell: What’s something you wish you didn’t have to do when it came to your project? What’s your least favourite part of Mallrat?
Grace: Maybe trying to promote things? Yeah even though people want to listen and come to the shows, when you have to nag them about it, I hate doing that. Like trying to sell shows and posting about them over and over again, like buy my EP bundle. It feels so weird, but you gotta do it. I kind of enjoy the branding thoughts though like “When are people going to see this?” and “how should I word it so that people want to respond?”, but I also hate asking for things. So it’s kind of the way I try to make it enjoyable is try and turn it into how can I make it feel like i’m not selling something.
Maxwell: It’s like a game, I have to do this thing that i’m not going to enjoy but how can I do it in the most creative way that makes it bearable for myself and fun for other people. I think you’re really good at that! It’s one of the first things I noticed when we started hanging out, you were so sure of yourself and you had such a keen business mind, I don’t know how else to put it but you weren’t working for anyone and knew the direction you were headed in, and it was super refreshing.
Grace: Thank you! I put my first song out when I was in high school and I didn’t want it not to work out so from the get-go I was like “I want this to be as professional as possible, this is my brand now, this is my business now, it’s not just songs, how can I make it connect with people and how can I make it a full time job eventually?” That’s how I was thinking from the start. Some people have a bit of a chip on their shoulder because they want to make music but they connect that with not being financially successful or something. Or don’t want to see it as a business but I don’t see any shame in that I think it’s a really powerful thing to be able to combine it. I remember Kanye said one time, he used different words but pretty much “make something as cool as possible and make money from it, that’s the ultimate goal”. Rather than making money from something but not making it good or you could make something you think is good but won’t make money from it. But doing those two things together is the best option.
Maxwell: Were there people you were looking up to or getting inspiration from when it came to making is a business from the get go?
Grace: Maybe I wasn’t thinking I want it to be a business, I wasn’t thinking about money but I was thinking about longevity and being taken seriously. I guess I was looking up to Lorde and Tom because I reacted to him and also Tkay I related to a lot too at that time. I was like “how are they doing things?” and just taking what I could from that for those first steps and turning it into my own thing.
Maxwell: I definitely felt like I was inspired by you in that sense. Making things really personal, if you make it personal than people care.
Grace: Yeah! That’s a really interesting thing to learn because you’d almost assume the more general things are the more people can relate, but really the more specific and detailed it is the more people can relate. If something is more of a broad stroke, people don’t really care, you’re not really saying anything. The more personal, and not even just in songwriting, just in like how much of your life you share. It’s not something you have to do but again people sometimes care more.
Maxwell: What’s something that you’d like to improve within Mallrat?
Grace: I think my Singing. But I also feel like i’m starting to do that now, in the last 6 months I think I’ve really improved. But I practiced this cover with Tyne my guitarist yesterday for the first time. It was a Florence and the Machine song. We’re gonna cover and if it goes well I feel like I would’ve levelled up. When I was little I was an amazing singer, I’d sing all the Florence and the Machine songs so well, I was obsessed with her, I was so good. I’d be singing Adele ‘Rolling in the Deep’ on loop in the shower and Mum would be like “shut up” and I'd be like *gasp* and I was so self conscious and ever since then I’ve been singing really quietly. And I've only just started to see maybe it was connected to that feeling of not being comfortable at home. And feeling like other people are annoyed by me all the time. And now i’m like “fuck it, I think it’s okay”. It’s gonna take some practice to get back to that level but I’m really excited to test it out.
Maxwell: Do you have a 5 year plan?
Grace: Nah, I think I made one a couple of years ago but I’ve been just off with the fairies lately. But what I really want to do is, and I don’t have a timeline for it, is work with Kanye, be like his go-to girl. And I want to be writing songs with other artists for their projects. And I want to be an established producer and would like other producers that I respect to be like “oh Mallrat, she’s a really good producer, and singer and songwriter”. That’s what I would really like. They’re probably my main goals for the next few years.
Maxwell: What other forms of creative to you want to explore?
Grace: I like being a part of making music videos and taking photos of my friends. I would love to know more about those things which I can definitely do, learn more. And not having to go to someone I don’t know to help me out. I’d love to just build a community with my friends and have all the resources we need for everything, so it’s more independent and more fun. Oh, the other day I got a notebook and some pens and I was just doing little scribbles and I forgot how much fun that is!
Maxwell: Yeah same actually! A week ago as well for me.
Grace: That’s so crazy! It’s so fun, it’s not a serious thing. Oh you know what, this is kind of like the singing quietly thing, I used to be so scared of drawing or writing something down because what if someone saw it. I would never keep a diary. Lil Wayne is the same actually he’s like “I don’t want to die then have people sell my diary and read it.” I just have been quite scared of people seeing my ideas before they’re fully formed. But lately I've thought “people aren’t gonna go through my stuff, just scribble, it’s fine.” That fear of someone reading your diary can apply to so many things. It’s very good for processing things, I need to do it more regularly, whenever I do it I do more relaxed and less anxious about whatever's on my mind.
Maxwell: I’m so excited for Driving Music, what’s it about?
Grace: Hmm what is it about? Idk it’s not about one thing really but I think I noticed that I was talking about my family a lot more on these songs and I wondered why that was, but I think it’s because I've not seen them as much, and it’s easier for me to write things with distance and in retrospect. I wouldn’t say it’s about my family but it does touch on that a lot more explicitly. The setting was meant to be driving around in cars with people but also a lot of the songs that were kind of more relevant to that didn’t make the EP but I still liked the name so I decided I’ll keep Driving Music. And my favourite song is Drive Me Around.
Maxwell: Yes! It’s my favourite too, i’m so excited for everyone to hear that one and then for them to find out it was you who produced it.
Grace: Yeah haha me too.
Maxwell: Like my shock moment (which was so funny when you showed me all the songs and I said that was my favourite and then you dropped out of nowhere that you’d produced it all!
Grace: I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, I think you might’ve been the first person I showed!
Maxwell: Really? that’s so nice. It was so funny but at the same time so exciting. Cause I feel like if I was you I would have prefaced it by saying “guess what I produced this one” and tell me before.
Grace: Yeah haha I didn’t say anything cause I thought “what if this is really bad?” haha.
Maxwell: I wouldn’t have had the self control to wait till the end.
Grace: That’s actually a good life lesson! If you want criticism, you have to word things a certain way, especially if you actually want constructive feedback. You can’t just say “what do you think?” because people will be really nice about it. You need to ask, “how can this be better?” and detach it a little bit. Otherwise people won’t be critical. But also people sometimes give you criticism when you’re not asking for it.
Maxwell: Yeah that kinda sucks.
Grace: Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not so good. But if you do want criticism there’s a certain way you have to word it.
Maxwell: That’s good, and I think people like the idea of helping make something better. That’s a good way to put it because they’ll dig a little deeper, it’s almost like ‘what if I can fix this song that isn’t my own song, or just offer that one idea’.
Grace: Yeah it becomes like a puzzle. Because they’re actually thinking. They might have listened and thought that is is good, but when thinking about how it can be better it just brings out so many interesting questions.
Maxwell: Yeah! Do you ask that just to musically minded people or do you have a little pool of people?
Grace: Well there’s two answers to that, if I've listened to songs over and over again and I'm trying to decide a tracklist for like an EP, I’ll send the demos to my high school friends. I’ll be like “which songs do you like?” Cause they’ll just say which ones they like, and if I need advice on a mix I’ll ask you, Tom (Allday) and Gab (Japanese Wallpaper).
Maxwell: yep, the trifecta, that’s cool. What were you trying to achieve this time with these songs that was different to the last two EPs.
Grace: I don’t think I was trying to achieve anything really, I was just writing songs but now that i’ve pieced them all together I think that they just sound more polished in a way. But I wasn’t really trying to achieve anything.
Maxwell: That’s so great. Do you think they work cohesively together?
Grace: I don’t know if they do or not but weirdly, when I show some people that was one of their notes, that “this is really cohesive” but I don’t know if it is. Like there’s this song ‘When I Get My Braces Off’ which is right before ‘Charlie’ and they’re completely different, but I’m not too worried about things being cohesive because my voice is the thing they all have in common, it’s the thread that ties them all together. Also, I get bored really quickly, so I don’t particularly want to listen an EP or album of songs that sound very similar.
Maxwell: Yeah, I think the ‘In the Sky’ EP was so un-cohesive, but in a cool way. But I feel like Driving Songs is more cohesive but also in a good way. I like that you don’t follow a strict set of rules, it’s just good songs.
Grace: I feel like that’s also how I dress, I don’t want to wear all things from one brand, I’ll wear an old t-shirt, or idk I’ll wear a girly dress with big boots and scruffy hair, it’s not all meant to look put together because when everything’s too put together I feel like it’s not me.
M And it’s not personal.