Back in 2019, Los Angeles’ Mal Blum appeared with their debut album, Pity Boy, an acclaimed collection of wiry pop-punk in a similar vein to acts like Diet Cig or Martha. Three years on, Mal has had something of a sonic overhaul, resulting in the recently released EP, Ain’t It Nice, a cathartic and queer collection of songs bridging the gap between indie and Americana.
Ain’t It Nice sets its stall out early, with the opening track Stockpiled Guns & TV Dinners arriving on wavering slide-guitar and steady drums, like the middle ground of Bright Eyes and Mazzy Star. Although they’ve never actually met in person, the record is a close-knit collaboration between Mal and producer Kyle Andrews, the pair largely providing all the instrumentation between the two of them, with the exception of a guest vocal from Laura Stephenson on the stunning duet, Everybody Loves You. Although remote recording is increasingly commonplace, there is still an irony in a record that’s so enamoured with travel, open roads and human connection, that was created in isolation across screens and over email. Throughout Ain’t It Nice, there’s a certain openness to Mal’s songwriting, whether it’s the exploration of desire and secrecy that is Candy Bars & Men, or the gorgeous Anybody Else, an exploration of the things that we can change, and the things that we can’t, “you could be like anybody else but you’re still yourself, we’re still ourselves”. The EP closes on The Road, all shuffling Wilco-like drums and Mal’s rich drawl which explores a lack of geographical ties, “there’s never been no other way for me, than keeping on the road”, before ultimately hinting that someone might ground them, with the wistful conclusion, “until I make it home”. Mal Blum feels like a musician on a journey, from Pity Boy to Ain’t It Nice might not be an obvious side-step, yet it’s not one that feels forced, it’s just the next stop on the road, wherever Mal’s headed, you’ll want to be along for the ride.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Mal Blum?
If you find out, will you let me know? I have some questions, myself.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
I was fourteen or fifteen years old and talked my way into playing solo at a rec center in my town and on the flier they had me sandwiched between two other bands as “fifteen minutes for mal.” I played the first two songs I had ever written and a Tracy Chapman cover. I still have a photo from it. I remember more about it, but it’s quite embarrassing so I’ll spare you.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I actually do work in other art forms as well! I started writing first, but there’s something about putting the words to music and performing them that connects you to other people. Ultimately I just wanted to connect to other people who felt the way that I did, maybe it was a trans thing or maybe it was some larger yearning, I don’t know. It’s still the most fulfilling part of it.
FTR: What can people expect from the Mal Blum live show?
If it’s a solo show I’m more chatty, I like to make my little jokes and talk to the audience. Band shows are tighter in terms of just playing through the set and it’s less interactive but more raucous.
FTR: What’s next for Mal Blum?
In the short term, I just put out this gay Americana EP, doing some solo tour dates around that. Opening for some Welcome to Night Vale tour dates in June. Next album will probably be a rock record judging by the demos I’ve been writing. I’ve been doing some songwriting for film & tv and that’s been really great. I actually booked some modelling and acting jobs this year, so who knows. I’m open to all possibilities. You truly never know what’s coming around the corner. I try to remind myself of that when I’m down.
They Listen To…
Sylvester – You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)
My partner is really into disco right now
Alabama – I’m In A Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)
This was in The Dropout and has been stuck in my head like every life
Chaka Khan – Ain’t Nobody (feat. Rufus ’89) (Remix)
My friend was playing it on tour and it put me in a good mood
Vengaboys – We Like To Party!
2 words: Tammie Brown
Mal Blum – The Road
Had to include one of mine. This is the one that we worked on first for the EP.
Aint It Nice is out now. For more information on Mal Blum visit http://www.malblum.com/.