Photography by Ellie India Rose Carty
Written by Esme Carty
Imagine thinking you knew 90% of the city you live in, and then Malls suggests you meet in front of a hidden amusement park nestled within a neighborhood park three and a half miles from downtown. For me, I don’t have to imagine because that is exactly how our interview and photoshoot with Malls began. Flashback to the Hollywood Slasher EP release show at Wang’s Vintage at the start of March when Malls opened up the show, I was an immediate fan. The laid back vibe of the band and alternative/indie music, every part played by each member intentional to the overall sound of the song playing. Despite one of my favorite songs being “There’s Too Much Noise” it was definitely not too much noise. There is such nostalgia to Malls’ music, but not in a life I’ve ever lived; I was curious to know if the members themselves were old souls, upon many other questions I had.
Making up the band is Max Llanes, songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist; Ethan Lober, bassist; Alexis Molina, guitarist and keyboardist; Ethan Pierson, keyboardist; and Jack Zubia, drummer. Max mentions heavily listening to music from the 60s and the 70s, which definitely can be heard throughout their own music; especially within the song–and title–of “Ode to Envy/the 60s Wall of Sound.” The likes of Todd Rungren and the Bee Gees are also brought up in terms of classic artists listened to by the band. Alexis tells us about her love for “Escape” (the Piña Colada song) by Rupert Holmes; is anyone else going to talk about the immense storytelling in that song? A couple having an affair with each other via newspaper ads, game changing. As for artists on Malls’ radar right now, Jack mentions Pearl and the Oysters, the band they’re opening up for on May 29th at Valley Bar. As someone that is very much happy to be behind the scenes, I’m interested in knowing what performing might be like for Malls; do they find themselves aware of the crowd or just in the music when playing a show? Ethan Lober comments that he is just music, back turned to the crowd and eyes directed toward the bass. Ethan Pierson chimes in saying he is fully zoning out, thinking about what’s on his agenda for tomorrow. Alexis tells us that “when you memorize a part so well, you can just think about lunch,” Jack adding his thought process usually resulting in how he can’t wait to go to Gracies after (shout out to Gracies Tax Bar).
Max started Malls solo, and still writes most of the music, but the creative process is definitely collaborative. Jack mentions that he played his and Max’s first show ever, to which Alexis comments that she booked that show. While they all had different music ventures to begin with, they’ve always been around each other and played together at some point even before the formation of Malls. Now that they have formed through the process of some members extending their talents and others being asked to join, they work collectively to fulfill the vision Max puts in place for the music: Alexis writing guitar parts, Ethan L. creating bass lines, Jack adding drums. Creating music is different for everybody and seems to be the case for Malls, despite their harmony as a band. When asking what emotion is easiest to make use of when creating music, Max and Alexis agree that sadness is easy to utilize since it is an outlet; even though Alexis says she doesn’t want to have to wait for something bad to happen in order to make music. Ethan L.’s creative process is a lot more conceptual and less emotional; if he needs a lit song, he’ll make one, if he needs a somber one, he’ll make it. Despite Alexis saying writing music is an outlet when sad, Ethan L. says that he is most creative when everything is fine. Ethan P., on the other hand, says that playing music is simply about playing music, an experience unlike anything else.
Sitting down with Malls and hearing about their start, influences, and creation of music was unlike any other band interview we’ve had, which is what it is all about when discovering new artists. A moment that sticks out, however, and was fortunately an excellent end to the interview was the bond between Malls and the team at Zoned over School of Rock. From the admiration of Jack Black as an actor–the conversation sparking due to someone asking if we’ve seen the most recent Mario movie–to Rick Linklater directing to the fact that the whole movie was shot on film. So to end this interview we’d like to close with the statement that Miranda Cosgrove had such clear skin in School of Rock. Oh and definitely listen to Malls on Spotify and catch their next show at Linger Longer Lounge on May 16th, and the one after at Valley Bar on May 29th.