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An interview with Mallrat / by NM Esc

Mallrat is a cool band full of the coolest freaks you could meet. I first met Melo when we both volunteered at Willie Mae Rock Camp in Brooklyn and then again at the Silent Barn, where they would eventually become a resident. We recognized each other as two emo boys and also as two people who both wear the same black baseball cap almost every day (the two may be connected). Melo writes great songs, some of which are about crushes, being very haunted, and being afraid of your own body. If Mallrat was around while AIM was a thing I would definitely have made away messages out of lyrics like “i wanna leave this party / i wanna soak my brain in bleach / i tell you all about it / i hate that you know what i mean” or “i don't ever think i deserve your love cuz / love is something i never got enough and / i don't really wanna try.” After playing as a solo project for a while, Melo joined up with Em (it’s cool) and Ro and now Mallrat is a gay angel supergroup that we are all very blessed to have around.

[cw: sexual abuse]

NM: What are all of your names / ages / pronouns / sun signs (or, as much of that info as you’re comfortable divulging)?

MD: My name is Melo (he/they pronouns). I’m 22 and I’m an Aries sun/Cancer moon/Libra rising.

EB: My name is em (they pronouns). I’m 21 and I’m a Libra sun/Scorpio moon/Aquarius rising.

RS: MY name is Ro!!!! (she/they pronouns). I’m 23 and I’m a leo sun / taurus moon / gemini rising.

MD: Also my Venus is in Pisces, Ro’s is in Cancer, and Em’s is in Scorpio, which is why we’re good at writing sad songs about crushes.

NM: How did Mallrat start?

MD: None of the music boys I was friends with wanted me to be in their bands so I just wrote music alone for years until this life blessed me with two angels. Now I am the music boy and all those dudes’ bands are boring.

EB: I wasn't there for the beginning of Mallrat but I joined almost immediately after seeing them play at the Silent Barn.

RS: None of the music boys I was friends with wanted me to be in their band, except for one music boy. He was writing music alone for years until blessed with me, an angel.

NM: How did it go from being a solo project to a band / how did you all find each other?

EB: Melo and I met at the Silent Barn!

MD: Yeah I met Em when I moved into Silent Barn and I met Ro on Tinder. The first time Ro and I hung out we went to Happyfun and you served us drinks.

RS: Homosexuality.

NM: What are some common values for the band?

RS: Homosexuality.

NM: What artists have played major roles in your lives?

EB: I was in my first band when I was fifteen or sixteen. At the time I was listening to a lot of Kimya Dawson, Hole, and The Breeders. Those were the bands that made me think I needed to be doing it too.

MD: In the sixth grade I read the manga Nana and that was probably the first time I ever wanted to be in a band. The first non-fictional artists that really made me want to write music were Underoath, Saosin, and Paramore. Sometimes it hurts me knowing that these white bands are the foundation for the sounds I make, but I also know that their music was really important in my process of making peace with feeling like a freak.

RS: Every day after elementary school, I would eagerly await the end of Timon & Pumbaa the TV series to listen to the ending credits song. I would dream about playing that song on saxophone. I never learnt the saxophone.

NM: What’s your vision for the band?

MD: I want to play shows with all my freaky friends and meet more freaks and then play shows with them too.

NM: What have been your favorite Mallrat moments so far?

RS: The moment we realized abbreviating “So Many Dreams” on the setlist resulted in “SMD.”

NM: That is truly a good mome.

Melo is a true emo boy. What role has emo played in your life? Why is it important to reclaim emo, especially as q/poc/gnc people?

MD: It’s funny because I never described our music as emo until other people started referring to it that way. I definitely call myself emo though, just as someone who experiences intense emotions that tend to change quickly. I started identifying as emo when I was about 12 so I also use that word as a nod to my younger self. I blamed myself for a lot of the abuse that I went through, which is why it’s important for me to honor the words I used to describe myself rather than dismiss them as silly things.

NM: I really like the song “so many dreams.” It’s super minimal but also super evocative. I also really like the line “your bed's too soft for me to leave / that's why i have so many dreams.” It reminds me a little of this Cursive line from “The Recluse” that’s like “I can hardly get myself out of this bed / for fear of never lying in this bed again.” I’ve gotten into a few really self-destructive situations in which I come back to that line a lot, and this feels like that but better.

There’s also that same kind of resignation on “i don’t really want to try” — I think it’s rad to talk about how exhausting everyday things (like leaving the house) can be for people living in gendered / racialized / traumatized bodies.

MD: Actually “so many dreams” is more about reveling in being friends with someone and feeling grounded in the knowledge that they like you. I tend to cut off relationships pretty easily (aries) so lingering in someone’s bed or life is special to me.

“i don’t really wanna try” is definitely about that kind of resignation you’re talking about though. I write a lot of songs about feeling hopeless when multiple things are draining my energy. Like I’m living with a roommate who keeps gaslighting me, and I missed my train because I didn’t want to run into them, and my doctor is telling me that my body produces “too much testosterone for a girl,” and I cried while having sex with my partner last night, and I don’t believe anyone will ever love me. So why would I get out of bed.

NM: True, thank you for the correction! Sorry, I was really in my feelings when I was writing these questions, so I was projecting. Lying in friends beds is really good and nice also.

More lyric questions! There are a few songs on the every breath a fracture EP about being hyper-vigilant of other people’s perceptions of you, or the gap between how you think of yourself and how you appear to the outside world. I feel like that’s pretty universal (crushes make you feel insecure!) but also specific when you’re already always hyper-aware of how you’re being read.

MD: I do feel very aware of how other people see me. I think part of that is just an attempt at being aware of how I might be affecting people around me, which is something that I want to try to hold on to. Part of my hyper-awareness though has to do with my insecurities that come from having grown up in predominantly white spaces and having been in multiple abusive relationships. When I feel outnumbered by white people I get really self-conscious of how others are reading my gender based on my race and age, and how that might influence the way they’re treating me. My gauge can be pretty off for that kind of stuff though. I often start off from a place of distrust and it’s hard for me to differentiate between affirming my hurt feelings and assuming that everyone’s out to get me.

NM: Ok also, I was really hyped to hear “there’s a ghost” because my friend and I recently co-wrote a chapzine about ghosts and feeling like ghosts and ever since then I’ve been obsessively tracking ghost-related art made by queer / trans / folx occupying minoritarian identities. Can you talk a little about the ghost song?

MD: I wrote that song when I was first starting to use words like trauma or sexual assault to describe some of my experiences. I think around that time I was noticing how my body reacted to the smells or touch or thoughts that I associated with traumatic experiences. I was having all these flashbacks but at the same time I couldn’t remember most of what had happened, which is why I wrote about ghosts as the absence of those months or years in my life. The process of trying to unravel my trauma was really exhausting. I got tired of feeling like I had to fight off those memories so I had this idea of befriending the ghost, but that’s also scary in its own way.

NM: What are you looking forward to in the near-ish future (Mallrat related or otherwise)?

MD: We’re going on tour at the end of July and playing Fed Up Fest in Chicago! Also I keep hearing about The Universe is Lit, which is a Black and Brown punk fest happening in the Bay Area August 3rd-6th and I’m definitely gonna try to go to that.

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