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Crossroads KC Interview: Rachel Mallin and the Wild Type

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Rachel Mallin and the Wild Type (Photo via Victoria Elizabeth).

Rachel Mallin and the Wild Type is a Kansas City based indie rock band. Rachel recently discussed her favorite songwriters, lyrical inspiration and the love she has for her band. Rachel Mallin and the Wild Type play CrossroadsKC May 6th as a part of Middle of the Map Fest 2016.

Did you come from a musical family? Were your parents musical?
Yes. My parents dabbled in music during their high-school and undergrad lives, but both ended up pursuing a post-grad education in law. However, both of my older brothers were devoted percussionists for a big part of our childhood, so at the age of 8 I picked up an instrument that would be just as loud and obnoxious to learn as the drums were: the electric guitar.

Who are some of your favorite songwriters and why?
Bob Dylan, James Mercer (The Shins), Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Benjamin Gibbard (Death Cab/The Postal Service), Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes), Win Butler (Arcade Fire), and Ezra Koenig (Vampire Weekend/Dirty Projectors). Each of these songwriters have a distinctive quality that I find when I’m tuning into the lyrics: the ability to match the arrangement and composition of the song to their written lyrics in a way that makes the emotions/meanings of the words sonically tangible. While that is a creative ability that I aspire to learn everyday, each of these songwriters have a poetic sort of honesty about them. You listen, and it doesn’t sound like they feel censored in their expression. I admire the bravery of songwriters who can be vulnerable knowing that such a large audience is listening.

What is your creative approach when writing songs?
Nowadays, every song is a collaborative process between the band and I. Typically, I’ll come into practice with some kind of guitar riff or idea for a hook, and the band begins to arrange their parts around it until we’ve laid out a blue print for the whole song. Sometimes, I’ve already got lyrics written for that particular riff or I start generating ideas for lyrics/melody of lyrics by adlibbing during practice or on my own.

What inspires you lyrically?
People. Interactions with people. Successful relationships. Failed relationships. My family. I usually just keep my ears perked up when I’m around a lot of people in public, because eavesdropping can be the best way to find a really witty quip of a lyric. Currently, my favorite song of ours lyrically would be “Dance Card” and the theme of that song was inspired by my binging of Mad Men for a month straight last summer. I like the old fashioned style of 1950’s-60’s dialect. It kind of reminds me of the way my mom talks, weirdly.

How did Rachel Mallin and the Wild Type first come together?
Well, Rachel Mallin was formed with the mentality of a solo-project when I wrote/recorded/produced the Persistence of Vision EP which leaned far more into the synthpop direction than I was ever used to. The Wild Type came into play when people started inviting me to play shows, and I never wanted to be the kind of musician who just thumbed around on stage with a laptop and a microphone. Justin Walker (bassist) and Austin Edmisten (drummer/back-up vocalist) were both in a band with myself and a few others in high-school, and being well-aware/comfortable with each other’s abilities and style, they were the first guys I invited in on the project. Over time, Jesse Bartmess (keys) and Matt Kosinski (lead guitar) were introduced in the band, and our style began finding a very cool middle ground between synthpop and also sort of a nostalgic 50’s-60’s doo-wop infused rock and roll. I am the luckiest girl in the world to be able to work with some of the most talented, intelligent, compassionate, and encouraging guys I’ve ever met. I owe absolutely everything we’ve achieved thus far to them.

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Rachel Mallin and the Wild Type (Image via the Rachel Mallin and the Wild Type Facebook page).

How did the song “St. James” come together?
St. James was more of a production project I was fiddling with last fall, because I was in a season of watching David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” and the soundtrack is just SO COOL. So I kind of ripped off the guitar part in the show’s opening theme, and just began forming a kind of big band/neo-soul environment around it. It’s still in the works to be taken to the live stage, but at the time it was really more of an experiment.

What inspired the song “Dropout?”
I attended The University of Missouri, Columbia for 2 years and during my Sophomore year I was exhausting myself trying to facilitate the development of the band in Kansas City and manage my own academic/personal life 2 hours away in Columbia. I think the more that I was torn away from music to devote my time to studying material I wasn’t all that interested in, and being around the kind of superficial social groups, the more I began to resent the university. I left MU at the end of my sophomore year, because I imagined if there was a time for me to put all of my eggs in the music basket, it should be when I’m young and have a chance of going back to school in case music doesn’t work out. Essentially, the song is me being really petty about the privilege I had of attending a really nice school, because I wanted to go play rock ‘n roll.

What have been the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome in your career?
Money. It’s always money. I think I could say the same for everyone in the band. Every penny we make at this stage in the game is essentially going back into recording/developing merchandise/playing out of town shows/promotion/branding/etc. Bands at our level aren’t typically paid very much, because when there’s one band who wants to be paid more for a performance, there’s a hundred other bands who would play a free show just for the purpose of exposure.

What’s your favorite quote or motto? What advice would you give to musicians just starting out?
I think one of my favorite music quotes currently is kind of a lamely relevant one by Prince, “The key to longevity is to learn every aspect of music that you can.” That’s a very important piece of advice I would give to musicians starting out. One thing I would make a point of though is that I’ve struggled for a while with the insecurities of being a musician who’s relied on the validation of public opinion to know whether something I’ve created is up to par or not. And it destroys you. In order to be resilient through the inevitable experience of rejection, you have to channel your initial passion for music that was sparked before you had ever started playing for audiences. Find a way around that ego. And when you do, please give me a call and tell me how you did it. ‘Cause I’m still working on it too.

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