MALLORY KNOX (from l-r): James Gillett (rhythm guitar/backing vocals), Joe Savins (lead guitar/backing vocals), Sam Douglas (lead vocals/bass), Dave Rawling (drums)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
Since forming back in 2009, Mallory Knox have firmly established themselves as one of the UK’s top alternative rock outfits, having brought out three critically-acclaimed albums, played a host of prestigious festivals, including Reading and Leeds, and the Vans Warped Tour, as well as amassing a dedicated, sizable fan base.
In February, the band dropped a bombshell, in that long-term frontman, Mikey Chapman was departing with immediate effect, and prior to headlining The Sugarmill venue in Hanley, one of the stops on their current UK tour, guitarists Joe Savins and James Gillett spoke to me, frankly and in-depth, about how his departure has affected them, and also how it spurred the Cambridge collective on to putting together and releasing their recent single, ‘Black Holes’.
How did the band initially get together?
JOE SAVINS (lead guitar/backing vocals): We were sort of in two separate bands, Sam and Dave were in one, me and James were in the other, and it was pretty much a case of those bands coming to an end, and me and Dave deciding to jam together, with no sort of idea of what we were going to do after that, but it became one of the those things that just snowballed.
Before we knew it, we were writing songs, then, we decided to get a bassist in, so that’s when Sam joined, then, we wanted another guitarist, so James came in, and finally, Mikey came along and become our vocalist.
Initially, it was one of those things where we were just recording for fun, basically. We would do the odd gig, and then, before we knew it, there were people coming up to us asking if they could manage the band, and from there, it took off really quickly.
How did you decide upon the name Mallory Knox?
JOE: Early doors, we decided that we wanted our band to be named after a person, because…I dunno…I think it’s easy to get what a band sounds like just by hearing their name, so if a band’s name starts with a “The“, they’re most likely going to be indie, and if, for example, we had called ourselves Tears Of A Bloodlit Skyline, people would presume that we were emo, so if we go down the name route, then it’s quite hard to pinpoint our sound, and for someone to judge us before they’ve even listened to our music.
What are the band’s main musical influences?
JAMES GILLETT (rhythm guitar/backing vocals): I think we all have very different influences, but I mean, early on especially, we were all into sort of 90’s emo, Fightstar, and all that, but me and Joe have always been big fans of Oasis, and the more old-school sort of bands, and Sam’s a massive Blink-182 fan, so everyone’s sort of had their differences, but we are all into what each other are into as well.
Now, we’re more focused on what we want to do, but early on, we tried to put in elements of everyone’s influences, so that’s why you would have pop-punk sections, Fightstar-esque riff sections, things like that.
JOE: Yeah, I think now, if you played someone our new song, and they said that our biggest influences were probably, as a band, Blink-182 and Oasis, I don’t think anyone would put those two together.
Our sound isn’t directly influenced by our influences, if you know what I mean, more like they influenced us to play. It’s a bit of a weird one when we get asked this question, because it doesn’t quite add up to the sound that we actually have.
In February, Mikey left the band. Was it his decision alone to leave, or was it more of a mutual decision?
JAMES: It was completely his decision, and it was something that we actually didn’t want to happen, because we were completely happy with where we were going, and the level we were at, but for him especially, I mean early on, he was never quite happy with where we were.
Everyone else, we were all really contented and pleased of our achievements, but Mikey, he’s different to us in the sense that us four love music, we live it, basically, Sam, when he’s at home, will constantly be thinking up of new ideas for songs and writing them down, and me and Joe will play guitar when we’re at home.
Mikey is a naturally gifted, amazing vocalist, but he never really had to work for anything. I think he was happy to do it as long as he was enjoying himself, but I don’t think it was ever a dream for him, whereas for us, being in a band, playing music to people, and making a living out of it, that’s our dream, and that was the main difference between us and Mikey, really.
He said to us that he didn’t want to do any more music, but it depends on what he does now, he’s off doing what he wants to in life, whereas we weren’t going to let that hold us back from doing what we wanted to do, and that’s why we’re still going now.
Had you known for some time that Mikey was going to leave, or was it sudden?
JOE: We’d known for ages.
JAMES: The first time we knew something was going to happen was just after we had recorded ‘Wired’, and at the time, it was a bit upsetting for us, actually, because we hadn’t seen it coming, but then, there was a period where he was really cool with us, saying that he wasn’t going to go and leave us in it, he would see out the tours and everything, but to a point where we were comfortable enough to go on with him, you know, we respected, and were grateful, of that, it was just frustrating that we were just living our lives for a while, and that’s why when he made the final decision to leave, we actually thought that he would quickly change his mind and stay on, because he had multiple reasons as to why he wanted to go, and we thought that they had changed.
When we asked him again soon afterwards, he was clear that he still wanted to leave, so at that point, the rest of us went, “Let’s write some songs and see what happens“, so we could be best prepared for when we had to announce Mikey’s departure, because we knew that it would put some of our fans’s noses out of joint, and that’s why the announcement was made on, I think, a Wednesday, and then by the following weekend, we had released a new single.
It was kind of like, “Here’s the announcement, we know it’s shit, and a lot of you will be upset, as we are, but this is what we’ve been doing, here’s something new. If you don’t like it, great, if you don’t, sorry.”
JOE: I think it was really important to not leave any room for any speculation as to the band’s future.
In the same announcement where we said that Mikey was leaving, we also said that Sam was going to take over as the lead vocalist, because we didn’t want all this worrying about whether someone new was going to come in, and if we were going to go down a different route. We were keen to say that we were going to carry on as before, the heartbeat of the band would remain the same, but with a different voice, that’s all.
We didn’t want people thinking, “They’re crap now without Mikey“, so that’s why we got a new track out very quickly, and make sure that our fans weren’t worrying about what we were doing, basically.
Speaking of the recent single, ‘Black Holes’, how do you think the reaction has been to that so far?
JOE: I think the reaction so far has been outstanding, to be honest, because it’s the weirdest song we’ve released.
There was always going to be a little bit of apprehension, because of course, people can get very attached to albums, and the newer stuff, at first, will not feel the same to them, so it always takes a bit of time for that to become accepted, it’s rather like when somebody new comes into a family, they tend to get rejected to start with, and we sort of knew that it would be like that for us this time, because it was our first release without Mikey.
It was so bizarre, because when we initially brought it out, it was the first time that we were worried that our fans might not generally like us, or our sound, any more, but in the end, I think we were overthinking it, because what we didn’t take into account before was that people didn’t like us only because Mikey was our singer, they actually loved our songs and songwriting.
I mean Mikey never really contributed to the writing of the songs, I think he probably only wrote about 10% of the lyrics across all of our albums, with Sam pretty much doing the other 90%, and the rest of us did all of the music, so our identity has kind of remained the same, and that was another reason why we didn’t want to bring a new singer in, because we didn’t want to change too much.
JAMES: We were fully aware that there was going to be that moment where we then found out which of our fans actually loved the band and the songs, and which of them just loved Mikey, because we were one of those bands that got to where we are now because of the people who liked Mikey, so obviously, if you were a person who liked us solely because of his vocals, then you weren’t going to like the new stuff.
I mean you might do, if you can accept that it’s a new thing, if not, you’re not going to like us any more, if Mikey was a big part of you becoming a fan of the band, therefore, we were fully aware of that, but the passion of us four is now more so than ever.
At shows now, we speak to those who have stayed on and stuck with us, who we’re so grateful for, and they tell us how grateful they are of us deciding to carry on, because even though Mikey was, and still is, a great singer, it wasn’t the be-all and end-all for them, and that’s why we’re still doing it.
IN PART 2, THE BAND SPEAK ABOUT THEIR CURRENT UK TOUR, ACHIEVEMENTS, AND THE ADVICE THEY WOULD GIVE TO ANY EMERGING OUTFITS. GO TO IT HERE.