Music

“I Shouldn’t Confess I Listen To My Own Music, But I Do”: Getting Real With Mallrat

And yes, she still thinks Mark Ronson is Marshmello.

Mallrat

You’d struggle to find a harder-working youngster in the land than Mallrat.

In just two short years and with only a handful of songs, the Brisbane artist born Grace Shaw built up an impressive live CV — including support slots with Post Malone, Peking Duk, and Maggie Rogers, and consistent appearances at just about every major festival around the country.

In many ways, the 19-year-old is the ultimate millennial music maker: her tracks blend rap, dance, and pop with a confidence that only comes from someone that has never existed when genre boundaries were are a thing.

Perhaps it’s this reason that younger audiences have taken to her so strongly — her shows are full to the brim with wide-eyed youngsters that have stumbled across her music on her endlessly funny Twitter feed.

Her 2016 debut Uninvited was a bedroom creation, with Shaw rapping and singing over beats that were sent to her on SoundCloud. Her new EP, titled In The Sky, is a thoroughly more polished affair — dominated by slick indie pop hooks driven by guitars instead of beats.

It’s been led by the excellent singles ‘Better’ (which hit #46 on the Hottest 100) and ‘UFO’ — both of which have enjoyed liberal radio play since their release. The rest of the EP is just as strong, with some songs that are destined for the dancefloor, and others that are better experienced solo.

Ahead of In The Sky’s release on Friday, Music Junkee caught up with Australia’s Next Big Thing.


Your music flows pretty seamlessly between rap and pop and electronic. Do you think that’s a reflection of how our generation has grown up listening to music — how genres are just beginning to blur? 

Definitely. My playlist and my friends’ playlists are just bits of everything — it’s not like how it used to be where it would be just punk or pop or something else. I listen to Lana Del Rey and then I’ll listen to Zedd and then I’ll listen to FIDLAR and then I’ll listen to Burial and then I’ll listen to John Mayer. Genre isn’t really a rule anymore.

Do you think that blurring is going to become more prominent in the future? 

Yeah, I think it will become less and less of a thing. Although I suppose with any movement there’s always subcultures that stem from being the opposite of that, so I’m sure that there will be things that are extra-electronic or extra-pop to kinda go against that.

Overall I think everything’s just going to blend together more…it’s pretty much all blended together already.

After the success of [debut EP] Uninvited, were you excited or were you nervous about coming back and making music?

I was just excited, because with Uninvited I didn’t really know what I was doing and now I know what I’m doing [laughs].

What was the biggest difference between making Uninvited and making this new EP, In The Sky?

So with Uninvited it was all beats. It was mostly beats that I was sent on SoundCloud, and then I would go to the studio and record over the top of them — so I just like wrote the record blind to fit the beat. Whereas with In The Sky I co-produced everything from scratch, and I’ve been learning about mixing the tracks as well.

I did so much of the production — as well as song writing — so it’s exactly what I want it to be.

When did the EP start coming together? Did you have a conversation like “okay, I’m going to work on the EP now” or was it like “Oh I’ve got all of these tracks that I’ve made. I’m going to put them together?”

Somewhere in between those two things [laughs]. I started the first song back when the first EP came out, so I was kind of just going into the studio and going “Okay, let’s make a song.”

And then a couple more songs came out and I thought “Yeah this is gonna be an EP.” I didn’t know which songs were going to be on the EP for ages because I’ve got other songs too that I was choosing between but they just all seemed to be like brothers and sisters. The tracks on the EP all kinda automatically tied into each other accidentally.

What was the theme that you saw connecting the tracks? 

The reason it’s called In The Sky is because all the songs say have a lyric that says “in the sky” — I actually didn’t notice until I sat down and listened to it and I was like “Ahh, what should I call the EP? Ahh, they all have the same lyrics.”

Mallrat on stage at Listen Out. Photo via Mallrat Facebook. Credit: Gabrielle Mary

It does have that feel to it. My favourite track at the moment is ‘Texas’ — it’s quite light and beautiful. Can you talk me through how that track came together?

I’d had those verses written for a while. Originally they were a different song that was maybe going to be on the Uninvited EP. And then I was in the studio with [dance producer] Golden Vessel and he played me a beat and I was like “Oh, I actually have some verses that could suit that.”

So we recorded it and then I wrote the hook and then the third verse and then we finished the production together.

Are you a natural collaborator? Do you like working with people? 

I think so, although the reason I collaborate with people is because I don’t come from a production background so…I need help [laughs]. But production is something that I’ve been practising so much…it’s something I want to be able to do on my own.

I want to be able to do it on my own, but I don’t know if I want to do it on my own — it’s very fun working with other people. I’ve got so many talented friends that I love working with and it doesn’t feel like work.

You work pretty closely with [Adelaide rapper] Allday. How did that relationship develop and what’s your favourite thing about working with him?

I was a fan first and then when I started making music he was who I looked up to. And then it ended up that I worked with producers he worked with, so I would go down to Melbourne and crash in the share house he was in at the time.

We’re on the exact same page about everything. It’s sometimes spooky how similar we are. It’s really funny how the universe sends people into your life at the right time. I don’t really understand why we’re friends but I’m so glad we are.

Allday and Mallrat. Photo via Mallrat Facebook.

Was there a track on the EP that was the hardest to get out? 

The last one, ‘Make Time’, was the most difficult because of the structure of it — it’s not like a traditional pop structure with the pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus. I had the chords and the lyrics but I didn’t know how to structure it, so it took a lot of finessing and trying different things and a lot of love went into the production.

I worked with this guy called BJ Burton when I was in LA. He produces a lot of Bon Iver stuff and Chance the Rapper and Francis and the Lights so that’s kinda how all the production came into place. Then I brought it back home to Australia and finished it with [Melbourne producer] Japanese Wallpaper.

So much love went into it and I’m really proud of it because it’s a step up for me.

If people could listen to my songs I would be like — listen to that one. Sometimes when I’m trying to sleep and I listen to it, it calms me down. Maybe I shouldn’t confess I listen to my own music, but I mean I do. Who’s gonna love you if you don’t love yourself?

You mentioned LA. Are you planning on moving over there?

Yeah I am. I just got my visa. So I will be back and forth for the next few months because I’ve got some shows back here.

Is that just because there’s simply more to do in music over there? 

I guess so. The Australian music industry has got some really cool stuff about it. But I’ve got a label here and I’ve got a label there. And I’ve got a booking agent here and a booking agent there. I want to be able to split my time between everybody.

“Maybe I shouldn’t confess I listen to my own music, but I mean I do. Who’s gonna love you if you don’t love yourself?”

So it’s just like a logistics thing. Another main reason is I really want to write for other artists and I want to do something like Julia Michaels does where she has her own stuff and she writes for like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. That’s something that I would really like to do.

Your live shows have a real sense of community, it feels very safe. How important is it for you to maintain that safe space? 

It’s super important to me because so many of my fans are so young, and I also have a really strong LGBTQI fan base — maybe it’s because a lot of people find my music on Twitter. I don’t know exactly why but I’m happy about it and I think that’s really special.

And I don’t know how that would change, but I hope it never changes because it’s such a beautiful energy when I go and play. I wouldn’t want it to be any other way. It’s very important to me.

Mallrat on stage last year. Photo via Mallrat Facebook.

I’ve been following your theory that Mark Ronson is actually [helmeted DJ] Marshmello. Can you talk me through the evidence?

So…I pulled that idea out of thin air but there’s actually a lot of evidence toward it. One, they’ve never been seen in the same room…so that’s a big one. I think you can use the evidence for a lot of different scenarios, but it’s true in this case.

Also Mark Ronson says that he can’t confirm or deny it. You know he’s not going to give it away, but he’s also not not giving it away. So that’s that. Also, why wouldn’t you want an EDM side project?

If you had an EDM side project, what would your name be? Would you wear a helmet?

Yeah, I would definitely wear a helmet. I’d wear a motorbike helmet. My producer name would be Zip Lock.

Mallrat’s EP In The Sky is out June 1.

Jules LeFevre is Junkee’s Music Writer. She is on Twitter