Malady: a potent blend of post-rave beats and indie-gloom

Each week in First On, we introduce a shit-hot artist you'll see opening the bill for your favourite bands. This time, it's London quartet Malady, whose early singles take guitar music into thrilling new directions and are shaking up the capital's scene

The weekend before the UK went into its first lockdown in March 2020, Malady were set to record their debut single ‘London, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’. As gigs were rescheduled and people stayed home, the London band were forced to cancel their studio time and re-evaluate where they were headed with the song.

“It was for the best,” says Charlie Clark (guitar/synth), dialling into our Zoom call from his London home, Percy Junior Cobbinah (vocal/guitar) joining from a sunny Hackney park-bench, locked out of his flat. “The song changed so much from the demo we had ready to record because something wasn’t sitting right. We were going to release a different song first, but then over time, we realised ‘London…’ is the one we want to do, and we were going to get it right.”

It wasn’t just months of free time that developed the group’s sound from twangy-indie to a polymathic blend of post-rave and King Krule-style indie-gloom, but a “pressure to make a good first impression”. Not wanting to introduce themselves with a recording that they’d regret, in mid-2019 they headed to Bethnal Green’s St Barnabas Church to record a live version of ‘Famous Last Words’, their most recent single.

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“We needed time to develop and playing live feels less attached,” Clark explains after the pair groan over being reminded of their outright-indie days. “Back then, we’d go straight into a practise room and play, so the intentions were pure, but we had no clear idea of what we were after.”

The duo, who met frequenting the same gigs, and drummer Ertan Cimen, Cobbinah’s fellow university housepartier, trialled different bassists until they settled on Clark’s college friend Khaleem Mitchell-Patterson. With the four-piece now complete, they focused on making “music with a purpose” and began pushing themselves to make something new.

Their influences aren’t hard to spot, with the introspective Krulean-drawl and ‘90s-rave-inspired off-kilt electronica being a driving force. But on both of their singles, they’ve moulded their interests into something fresh, whether it be drawing from Cimen’s double-sided history with jazz and DJing, or Clark’s fondness of Overmono’s chilled techno, they’re now worlds away from their once sunkissed-reverb façade. On ‘Famous Last Words’ they pull from early-dubstep, as debut track ‘London, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’ removes itself from the obvious LCD Soundsystem reference and instead fuses shoegaze synths with hard-lined percussion.

Reworking their older material to fit the electro-indie dream wasn’t easy, taking up most of their time post-studio cancellation. “We lost touch of what the track was,” says Clark. “We’d either go too far with the electronics or not far enough, and the more you obsessively tweak something you lose your original intention.” After constantly switching between “it’s shit and it’s good” for months, a “feeling of a nice unknown” was all it took to reach an endpoint.

The hours spent working away fine tuning their craft is what Malady are about; a self-confessed studio band, they’re all about creating music to experience alongside real life. They’d rather sit behind their laptops all day perfecting every loop, lick and riff than compromise on a single sound. “When you listen to electronic music all you can think about is ‘how can I make these sounds in my room’. Making music to listen to on the bus through your headphones is far more formative,” explains Clark, with Cobbinah adding: “The live show is an afterthought, and it can develop to keep up with what we’re producing.”

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Malady
Credit: Will & Ed Reid

Their music may not be written with live in mind, but the group are now itching to get back on stage. Our chat falls a few days ahead of their first gig in over a year at Brixton’s legendary Windmill. “I went there last week for a Pretty Sick show. It made me want to get up there straight after she played, I miss it so much,” Cobbinah says. Having not played either single in front of anyone yet, the gig will be the first time Malady will see the reaction to the releases in person.

“It’s hard to visualise people enjoying our music because we haven’t been able to see them yet. It doesn’t feel real,” says Clark of the show and the reception to their music so far, notably featuring in the NME 100 2021 with just a single song to their name. “It’s still weird seeing friends listen to us on Spotify. Even the boys at work even sang [‘London…’] to me and someone put ‘Famous Last Words’ on at a gathering. It’s slightly terrifying but so nice to see people enjoying it.”

With the return to live ticked off, their focus now turns to getting as many new songs written as possible. With both singles inadvertently documenting the bleakness of the pandemic, when asked what to expect from new material he responds with a hearty chuckle: “I don’t want to always be moaning about stuff and I’d rather be inspired by enjoying myself.”

It’s been a long time coming for Malady. After realising as teenagers that music was a viable career and watching their peers make it over the years, the time they’ve spent on the intricacies and details has paid off. It’s a ‘if they can do it, so can we’ mentality, and they deserve it. As for aspirations? The question is returned with a huge laugh, but they’re reluctant to give details with it being such early days. “We’ve started this, so we’ll finish it,” they affirm in unison.

Malady’s ‘Famous Last Words’ is out now

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