WRVU gets an exclusive opportunity to interview and cover press for the Nashville iteration of Mamalarky’s 2021 tour on October 26, 2021.
Written by Alec Cheng. Interview by Alec Cheng and Henry Morrisette
Sandwiched between two run-down buildings on a long, empty road sits DRKMTTR, a small but unmistakable music venue with garage-like qualities. Although petite in size compared to other venues, DRKMTTR is peppered with little charming gems that set it apart. In one corner is a giant machine that dispenses earplugs like gumballs, and on another wall are shelves filled from one end to the other with VHS tapes of ancient movies. Behind the bar sits a small box TV that plays countless variations of these aforementioned films.
Last Tuesday night, Atlanta-based indie-rock band, Mamalarky, performed an energizing, headbanging set at this special venue. Just like how DRKMTTR distinguishes itself from all the other music venues around Nashville, Mamalarky makes clear that they’re not like other indie-rock bands. Known for their atypical rhythms, showy instrumentation, and raw yet clean sound, Mamalarky performed a show that at no point felt old or repetitive, even after 90 minutes of opening performances.
Mamalarky formed in 2016 and is composed of singer and guitarist Livvy Bennett, drummer Dylan Hill, keyboardist Michael Hunter, and bassist Noor Khan. We had the pleasure of speaking with them right before the show. Standing around the curb of the tiny parking lot, the band discussed their return to the road, preferences for certain music scenes, and their creative processes.
When asked what it was like touring again after releasing their self-titled debut album during the pandemic, Bennett expressed her gratitude for their new fan communities they gained over the pandemic-induced lockdown:
“It’s been really rewarding. It’s something we talk about like every day and it’s just been interesting connecting with people who have been supporting us this whole time, and also cool to see progress was made even though we didn’t play any shows.”
Unlike many other upcoming bands that were squashed by the merciless effects of the pandemic, Mamalarky was pleasantly surprised by how they managed to find a niche audience of fans that still wanted to see their shows. Due to their unique experience with the lockdown, they mentioned how their return to the music scene had been pretty smooth sailing–– just trying out shows and seeing if they worked.
“We used to tour in like an SUV with a U-Haul, which was a pain, so I’m glad we graduated past that… but I definitely feel like we’re a little more experienced. I’m still surprised at how well these shows are going, to be honest,” Bennett said.
The band collectively relocated from Los Angeles to Atlanta last year. When we asked them to comment on the music scenes in each city, they admitted that they enjoyed Atlanta more. They felt that being associated with the community in Los Angeles also meant taking on a substantial amount of unspoken pressure.
“It’s a very different atmosphere and very different social scenes and music communities. and I feel like the one in Atlanta is more familial and more friendship-driven and the one in LA is definitely like ‘so who’s coming to the gig?’… I feel like people in the South are generally very giving, and when we got to Atlanta I really noticed how all of our neighbors were very much so introducing themselves and being very sweet. That is not a thing in LA.”
We finally asked the band about their creative process and idea formation.
“It’s both,” Hill said. “If you make a habit out of playing music everyday then you’ll just get so many ideas. If something hits, then you’re writing music today.”
Bennett also talked about the importance of always adapting to your environment. She mentioned that the band wrote the tracks “Schism Trek” and “Fury” while touring, and that they enjoyed experimenting with their songs on tour. Their personal favorite experiments were trying out new sounds and riffs during shows and observing the reactions from the audience. However, it still wasn’t all fun and games, and the band also spoke briefly about the difficulties of having to write and rehearse when the band was apart, but remarked that it was still doable and definitely more rewarding when they accomplish what initially seemed impossible.
What I believe makes Mamalarky so special is that they are always open to growth. As they experiment with new ideas at shows and put in so much effort to practice even while apart, it’s no wonder that they’ve had so much success this year on tour, even in the midst of a global pandemic. Their genuine friendliness and love towards the music scene truly revealed how admirable they were as a band. It also probably helped that each band member did not just add something to the group–– they are a multiplicative group, exponentially thriving off of each others’ presence. This dynamic chemistry between the bandmates also revealed a lot about how together, they felt more like an extremely talented group of close friends that are here because of their mutual love for the journey of life.
Despite having to drive a grueling 9 hours earlier in the day from Richmond, the band still put on a show that instantly infected the audience with an enormous amount of raw energy. The show started out with exciting opening performances from Nashville-based acts Rick West and Abby Johnson. Although the adrenaline rush from the wonderful opening performances left me a little exhausted, Mamalarky soon reinvigorated the audience (myself included) with fresh animation. The band came off confident in their ability to electrify the crowd with a third hour of headbanging music, and that really showed during the performance.
Surprisingly, the band managed to exponentially amplify their energy and passion from their recorded tracks. Seeing the band smile and laugh at each other, crack jokes between songs, and jump around with joy added a new dimension and personality to their music that was left out in recording. During the climax of songs, the combination of guitar shredding and drums almost drowned out Bennett’s powerful voice, but that was what made the music seem all the more chaotic and passionate–– it added a sense of structured uncontrollability to the performance. Their songs’ distinct start-stop rhythms started and stopped with so much abruptness and decisiveness that it felt like they were trying to stop and restart our own heartbeats. And of course, Hunter’s unforgettable improvisation with their wild synth solos made the performance even more non-replicable and special.
Though I had listened to their entire discography earlier, experiencing their live performance made me feel like I had listened to an entirely new set of songs. The sheer amount of energy they were able to carry throughout the entire performance was unbelievable. By the end of night, we were exhausted beyond belief, but of course, it was a delightful sort of exhaustion that I still dream about to this day.
Overall, Mamalarky’s performance at DRKMTTR made me so excited for the fresh new generation of indie musicians. I have every trust in bands like Mamalarky to rise up and revive the drought-ridden music scene with new life.