I met with Rachel Mallin of Rachel Mallin & The Wild Type during the peak of one of the hottest days of the midwest summer yet. After hearing her band’s single “White Girls” multiple times on the radio, I was infatuated with her sound and eager to learn more about their new EP Degenerate Matters. I got a peak into the songs on the EP, and was floored. In congruence with her amazingly talented bandmates–Justin Walker (bass), Austin Edmisten (drums/back-up vocals), Jesse Bartmess (synth/keys), and Matt Kosinski (lead guitar)–, Rachel has created an indie pop masterpiece. I would be stunned if it didn’t help her skyrocket to household name status.
Rachel met me at Westport Coffeehouse, where she walked in in a flurry of excitement. She had just been at a show in Lawrence, KS the night before and admitted she was exhausted, but she certainly didn’t look it. Rocker chic in a black t-shirt and jeans, she delved in right away. You could sense the insane amount of pride she has in her work and in her band, and I can’t wait to share it with you all in this very unique–and fun!–interview with Rachel Mallin herself.
If you could introduce your band to our audience in any way, how would you do that?
I’m Rachel Mallin from Rachel Mallin and The Wild Type. If my band could have a giant, grand entranced, it would probably entail some kind of trampoline mechanism on the stage, where we would pop out of holes and there would be a foam pit–like the ones at gymnastic centers–and we would get launched into one of those. I think we are trying really hard to completely embody the “wild” stereotype that I suppose would come with our band name, but it also just sounds really fun. It would be really confusing and probably be a lot to work out, but I’m sure we could do it.
I read that you started writing when you were 12. Was there a moment that you realized this could actually be a career for you?
It’s funny because I had always wanted a career in music. I think initially the reason I was going to school was to get the gen eds out of the way and go to MTSU, which is in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. It’s a really good school for audio engineering and commercial songwriting. They have a really great percentage of graduates that get jobs out of the program, but it’s not cheap. So I was going to take the school path of learning. That’s a big debate, whether it works better to do that.
I always knew I wanted music to be a part of my career, but ever since I started performing it’s just been something I have been very passionate about. It was probably my sophomore year of college that I was debating whether I wanted to move forward with the schooling path or not. That year was clouded with uncertainty as to whether I wanted to spend money and then perhaps not have a job in such an oversaturated industry, or perhaps if I’d take my more preferred path that would be a lot of risk, but that wouldn’t leave me in the same kind of financial debt. It involved performance and working with musicians, making arrangements of songs. That’s something I’ve always been very passionate about, as opposed to recording someone else’s songs.
I saw your sound described as surf pop, indie pop, and beyond. How would you describe your sound?
I think the songwriting mentality of it is definitely pop-ish. It’s got hooks that are directed towards pop, but as far as what the band and I listen to and what we’re trying to create together, it probably falls more into the vague term of “indie”. The guitar tones of it kind of give it the color of a surf rock, especially when I got really into Motown and soul music. I couldn’t stop doing these weird chords that sounded like it. I think that kind of integrated with the songwriting process in a way that gave it that surfy, beachy, flowy vibe.
You are very well received in the KC music scene. Do you think that there are outlying disadvantages to being located here?
The only thing is I can’t really tell yet. Republic Tigers got out of here because they were signed to Atlantic or Chop Shop Records, and they played very marketable music. Then there’s like Radkey and Madisen Ward & The Mama bear who have band dynamics and stories that are so good that A&R people just eat it up. I know as far as Kansas City, being here is inhibiting in a sense that we don’t have a lot of record labels here. We’ve got some amazing people at The Record Machine who are super supportive of the work and they have helped so many bands here.
But I would say we might have more fans here of the music than music industry components who are in the Kansas City area. People say that the music scene here has developed so much in the last ten years, and it has. I’m not sure if I’ve noticed it because I have been introduced to it on a more personal basis, but it’s definitely growing and our arts and culture scene is more supportive, which is definitely a step in the right direction. Maybe it’s the next Austin?
You guys have opened for a ton of bands. Who has been your favorite to open for, or do you have any personal anecdotes you’d like to share?
I usually get way too scared to talk to people. I need to stop doing that. They’re just people too. I think a lot of people who are successful in bands are surrounded by “yes” people and they probably get tired of “yes” people, so when they see someone like me who is a really big fan, it’s not a big deal to them.
That said, Metric was a cool show. Easily the most people we have played for. It was at a time when our live performance was still very much developing and we were still trying to find our roles within the band. I was straddling keyboard, guitar, and a laptop. Eventually we got rid of the laptop, but my first record was full of synth. When we did that show, I felt like we weren’t ready for that kind of recognition yet.
Opening for Kitten was fun because she is the one artist, out of everyone we’ve opened for, who stuck around for our show and talked to us about it afterward. That was so cool. I think she’s a good person and a good musician and a good entertainer.
The Get Down Stay Down was packed and we had a really good response, which were two components that worked really well for us.
Where do you draw inspiration for your music?
Inspiration can be drawn in several different ways. There are artists, which lately would be the Courtney Barnett department. Father John Misty, Bob Dylan. It’s a really mixed bag of that. I’m a big Ben Gibbard fan. I’ve liked him since I was an itty bitty child and he’s just a really beautiful writer.
I don’t know what I primarily write about. Recently, I’d like to think that I’m more of a developed, mature songwriter than I used to be. When you’re younger, it’s easy to be melodramatic about things and it’s hard to get out of that phase. I write about experiences with people. Loving people, hating people. I write based on my identity in relation to the rest of the world.
I’ve gone through phases of liking different popular culture too. Like “Dance Card”. I used to watch Mad Men all the time and there is a lot of that older dialect in there. Working with different musicians always inspires you differently as well, and the dynamic is always a little different. I’m very fond of my band. They’re pretty cool. It took a while to get here, but we have a solid lineup and we’re really close and it’s a good thing.
What venues have you played, and which ones would you like to play?
I’ve played the Beaumont Club that’s not the Beaumont Club anymore. Played old Record Bar, played new Record Bar. We’ll be the first band to play three times at the Record Bar, actually. No other band has done that, which I feel real fancy about. Played Czar Bar before when that was around. Played Tank Room a few times, played Riot Room. Played some weird, random venues as well.
My favorite venue in terms of sound is Davey’s Uptown. Byron–who runs it–kills it at the running sound game. I could hear everything I wanted to hear and apparently the sound was really good on the audience. It’s a little out of the way, so it’s kind of hard to get people there but it was so fun. I’ve played The Uptown Theatre and the Granada in high school before this band too.
You’ve had some music play–pretty well, might I add–on the radio in town. What’s your relationship like with them now?
96.5 is probably the reason that I have gotten really lucky chances in Kansas City. It was luck that the relationship formed in the first place. I originally connected with Lazlo because they were in a fight with a local pop/punk band at the time and, to be fair, 96.5 doesn’t really play pop/punk besides maybe Blink 182. So in the midst of that, I shot them my stuff. They started spinning it on Homegrown, which was really cool.
I sent the EP to Lazlo (of The Buzz) because he has such a great ear for music and for singles, etc. with all of the submissions he gets. It’s hard to distinguish a good hit when you’ve been listening to the same songs for the past few months. I sent it to him for that purpose and that piece of advice, and he’s helped me a lot. He’s been playing it on the radio, which is insane to me. So weird to turn on the radio and hear your guitar solo. They’re really supportive of the locals, which is incredible and they’re killing it.
The Bridge is just as much a part of it. Without them I wouldn’t have played Middle of The Map Fest. Mark Manning on KKFI is a huge support of the local scene. We have a few really good radio stations here, and I feel like that could be why the local music scene is growing larger and getting more of a following. I feel like a big part of it is a lot of dumb luck too.
If you could perform with anyone, who would you perform with?
Automatically I’m going to say David Bowie and Prince. But David Bowie was one of my first concerts, and I blame him for infecting me with the music bug. To be the most logical, I think a really good fit would be to open for Courtney Barnett. That would be a really dope live show. As far as live performances go, there are certain artists that you can rationalize playing with them and while this is not one I can really justify based on genre, but I would choose Florence & The Machine. Good ol’ Flo.
You’ve played the showcase at SXSW and you’ve played MOTM. What do you love about the festival experience?
I think Middle of The Map is well on its way if we get a little more marketing behind it. I think it could be the next SXSW. Kansas City is getting better, but it’s no Austin yet. In Austin, there’s music everywhere. This year, there was so much more hip hop and rap than before. Most of the places you could walk into for free had that genre, which was so different than usual but really great. But my girlfriend and I just walked into a random bar to this band called Yoko & The Oh Nos, and they’re so good. We got the vinyl.
That’s the beauty of going to festivals, you can stumble in on any amazing band you may have never heard of. I’d love to play with that band.
What advice do you have for up and coming bands?
I would tell you not to be a pay-to-play band. Don’t hand out flyers and try to get a minimum number of people at the show just for the venue to make the money. There are better ways to book shows. I would love to teach the young’ns of the world how to book their own shows.
What are you most excited about at your release party?
I’m excited to play with the people who are in the band now. We’ve really got a great group now. I’m excited for the bands that we’re playing with. They’re both Lawrence bands, and they’re so great. Pink Royal is super good, aren’t they? We hung out with them at South by, we were all doing the Mid Coast thing. They kick so much butt. And Spirit is The Spirit is amazing. They do all this technical stuff that I could never bring on stage and successfully know how to operate.
I’m nervous though too. Excited but nervous, like when you throw a party in high school. I’m so proud of the record, so I want it to go well. We’ve spent so much time on this record and have poured everything we have into it. I love my band. They’re my best friends.
We’re also really excited because we got these dope t-shirts. We’re done screen printing our own t-shirts in my basement like a sweat shop. Those were cool, but we have actual merch right now.
Anything else you’d like to add, darling?
I want to note Joel Nanos at Element Recording Studio produced and engineered the EP, and he’s one of the reasons it sounds so cool. We’re very lucky to have recorded with him. And I’d like to thank my mom for letting me come back from school and live in her house and practice in her basement. My entire family has been so incredibly supportive of me and of music. They’ve been so nurturing. They’re good peoples.