It could be any time – it could even surprise me! We’re in a position where we can do what we want now.
Mallory Knox has been at the forefront of British rock music for years, and now bassist and former backing vocalist Sam Douglas is stepping into the limelight after the departure of former lead vocalist Mikey Chapman. With the band starting a new chapter and about to tour for the first time as a four-piece, Music Editor Alex Wingrave caught up with Sam to discuss the band’s fresh start.
Obviously, it’s a big transition for you guys at the moment with you moving into the frontman role. How’s it felt seeing such a positive reaction from fans to that?
It was weird, the day of the announcement I’d forgotten that people didn’t know about it, because we’d known for so long, just under wraps. We’d known Mikey was leaving properly in September but we’d heard whispers about it since April. We did a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure when the announcement came we had songs to back up our reasoning for carrying on. When ‘Black Holes’ came out it was a weird moment. I used to obsess over what people would say but I’ve learnt to realise not everything you read on the Internet needs to define you. I couldn’t help but dip back in with ‘Black Holes’ and the reaction’s been really great. You had people ‘ah this isn’t right without Mikey’ and then a week later when the dust had settled saying ‘I was wrong, this is a banger’. It was always going to be a weird time but I can’t fault the support.
Speaking of ‘Black Holes’, your first single without Mikey, I think it’s got a darker, heavier feel to it. What inspired you to take that direction?
I actually wrote the chords and the bassline about a year ago. It wasn’t actually the song I wanted to release first, but management and the people around us pushed it, and I think it was the right decision. The energy and aggression is perfect and people have been comparing it to Pilot [their 2011 EP], and while I don’t really hear that, the fact that fans can link back to our old stuff is cool. The best is yet to come by a long way, but it was an energetic song to lead with and one I was passionate about lyrically, in terms of people on social media saying misinformed things – give people 280 characters and they’ll say what they want.
You’re re-releasing Signals, your debut album, on vinyl for World Record Day – what motivated bringing that out, five years on? Also, what’s your favourite song off that album?
We questioned the timing, considering we’re trying to push ourselves without our old lead singer, but people had been asking for it and really wanted it. We always like doing something to get involved in World Record Day. In terms of a favourite song, I do love ‘Lighthouse’ as it took us to the next level, but it’s been played to death at this point. I’d say ‘Creeper’; I originally wanted that to open the record but we went for ‘Beggars’ as a more energetic start. I don’t think we pushed ‘Creeper’ half as much as we should have, it’s a great song.
With the upcoming tour, you’ll be playing a lot of your old material but with yourself on lead vocals for the first time. Has that changed the vibe of the songs a lot, and what’s been your favourite song to step up and take charge on?
Its changed our songs a lot, we’ve had to muck about with key changes and stuff. For example, ‘Shout at the Moon’ now sounds a lot sadder, and my voice obviously changes the songs. The thing is, I’ve heard most of the songs like this anyway, as I used to write everything before Mikey would come and put his voice on them, so it wasn’t a big shock for me. But people have listened to our songs with Mikey as the voice to sing along to for years, so I’m not expecting people to take to the new sound instantly. I think it sounds great, we wouldn’t be doing it otherwise. There are some songs like ‘Lucky Me’ that are impossible to do that just don’t work within my range, but we’re trying our best to play what fans want to hear. I don’t want to give too much away, but we’re playing songs we haven’t played in 3 or 4 years, so there are a few surprises in there – we’re really hoping to play ‘Mother’, which we’ve never played live before, and that’s been my favourite to step up on.
Are you looking forward to playing more intimate venues on this tour?
It’s something we were thinking about a few years ago, after playing all these big rooms and doing American and European tours. It makes sense to do this run with the new state of the band now so it was killing two birds with one stone, and I can’t wait to get back into it.
You’ve been refreshingly open about not being completely happy with Wired [their previous album]. What are you doing differently this time to make sure your new material doesn’t have that feeling again?
I’m using that experience to not allow myself to settle. With Wired I was just lazy and I didn’t try their best, I’ll hold my hands up and say that. I did try but I know I could have done more, and this time, I’ve got no idea what’s in store for Mallory. We don’t know what the future holds so I’m treating this as if it were our last record and putting everything into it, I’m not cutting corners. With our previous albums, the songs that you hear were pretty much all we’d written, but this time we’re writing so much that when it comes to a new album we’ll have 30-40 songs to narrow down. We’re writing five days a week and if songs don’t fit in with what we’re trying to do, even if they’re incredible, we’ll put them aside. The focus and the drive in the band is the strongest it’s ever been.
If you could tour with any band who you haven’t been able to yet, who would it be?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. I would normally say blink-182, but I’m bored of saying that for every answer, everyone knows I love them. I’d probably say the Foo Fighters, it’d be nice to hang out with them every day, doing Wembley Stadium, that’d be insane.
Who’s your favourite up and coming band?
Another honest answer for you – I don’t listen to much music, which is terrible! It’s rare that music impresses me anymore, but I do champion Judas, who we’re taking out on this tour. John, their singer, messaged me to thank me for taking them out, and he said no band had ever taken them out. I was blown away and confused, as when I saw them at Reading and Leeds last year they were so good.
What’s next for Mallory Knox, and when can we expect new music?
It could be any time – it could even surprise me! We’re in a position where we can do what we want now. We were aiming to release something before the tour, as we recorded three more songs when we did ‘Black Holes’, but the second single needs to be right. We’ve already written four or five more since then, and from the demos, we’re now thinking one of them could be the next single. We’re hoping to release music consistently all year and the album might not even come out until 2019. It’s an exciting and refreshing way to be thinking about our band.
Black Holes is out now on A Wolf At Your Door Records. Mallory Knox’s UK tour begins April 16th, including Exeter Cavern on April 18th.