What’s all this Malarkey? An interview with Malarkey Affair
I set about to interview local band Malarkey Affair after hearing a buzz on the local circuit. Last year they were playing small venues around Sheffield to enthusiastic audiences culminating in a show at Sheffield O2 Academy.
The aphorism of their songs, combined with kitchen sink lyricism, screeching jangly guitar, intricate basslines and staccato drums; lends itself equally to the ’60s and ’80s. There’s also something impalpable; a sound I can only equate to Joy Division, heavily interspersed with Sheffield sociolect.
I had arranged to meet the band: James “Reg” Clinton – Vocals, David Logan – Guitar, Stephen Higgins – Bass, and Mike Eaton – Drums, prior to their support slot at the Mulberry Tavern on Saturday 30 January 2016 to find out what all the fuss was about.
On entering the pub it was good to see a large turnout on a very wet, windy, winter night. With the usual cacophony of laughter, chatter, and soundchecks that you get before a performance we needed to relocate to the tranquillity of upstairs.
KT: So what’s the band history?
JC: I’d been in covers bands for a number of years, the thing is, you stagnate interpreting other people’s lyrics. Myself and the keyboard player left to pursue performing original songs.
KT: How did you find new band members? What were you looking for?
JC: The idea was to look for belief, originality, people who could input their ideas and contribute to the overall success of the band.
KT: So, did you go down the famous route of playing an ad in the back pages of NME?
JC: No! We placed adverts in local venues and magazines for a guitarist, drummer and bass player. We had about 4 or 5 shortlisted for the guitar position, the trouble was, while some ticked some boxes, they didn’t tick others. We were looking for someone with a wider spectrum of ideas and originality. David came along and auditioned, ticked the boxes and we got on, which was a bonus. When our keyboard player left, we took the decision to go totally original, it was testament to our beliefs that we took that course.
DL: Yeah, I’d been dabbling with music for 10 years. I have a home studio for recording demos, layering and production. I had many unfinished tracks, which James set vocals to, we were looking to produce quality, rather that quantity.
KT: So the ideologies and ethos were very similar?
DL: When I met with James, we got on well and what we wanted to do fell into place. We’d say we were working class and bring that quality to the table in our songwriting, the honesty is an integral part of that. Our songs do touch on issues that affect people’s lives, such as: domestic violence, alcoholism and mental health, they may be subliminal, but they’re certainly there.
KT: What about the bass player (the reply reminded me of another classic Sheffield band – The Human League)
DL: We were in a local eatery for a night out and happened to find out that a member of staff played bass.
SH: I was working as a waiter in a gastro pub, got talking to David, he mentioned the band and auditions, and asked me to come along.
(To complete the line-up, student Mike Eaton joined – Malarkey Affair was born).
KT: So, who do you draw your inspiration and influence from?
DL: I would say the Smiths and the Cure heavily influenced my style and sound.
SH: Echo and the Bunnymen. Although I also lean heavily towards folkie material and its basslines.
JC: I’m a big fan of the sixties and Disco. Although my main influence is REM because of the quality of the lyrics.
ME: I lean towards a heavier sound, getting into a groove and bringing a bigger sound and depth to the material.
KT: When did you first start gigging?
JC: 3 years ago, it initially included a mixture of covers and originals. We didn’t want to rely on covers, but you have to include them if you want paying.
DL: The strain financially on a new band is enormous, if we’d set out with original material, you’re often playing for free, or little money. We wanted to keep our integrity and honesty, but getting to gigs, equipment and recording are a drain. It’s testament to our camaraderie that we continued.
KT: D’you remember the very first?
DL: Yeah, it took place at Norten Lees Golf Club. We had a contact there and it was an ideal setting for an inaugural gig. We also had a bit of a residency at West Street Live and added local venues as and when they come up.
KT: So, what of the future gig wise, are you looking at Tramlines, maybe the main arena?
DL: We’ve already played Tramlines at The Maida Vale, we’re steadily working our way up. Our next big gigs will be Mosborough Festival and a trip up to Leeds this summer.
KT: So guys, tell me about the new album; its conception, development and production.
DL: I’ve basically spent the last 8 months tweaking the demos I had collected over the last 2 years. Weekends have been spent laying down the drum parts, then I’ve recorded the guitar and keyboards and Stephen’s come in with the bass. It’s difficult, as well as the monetary restraints, there’s holding down full-time jobs and family commitments. It shows how much belief we have.
KT: Is that individual takes or do you splice from different ones to create a track?
DL: No! It’s a process of all the members of the band going through the demos and choosing the one they like best. I seem to have been selected to produce the tracks because of my studio experience. We have 2 weekends in February booked at Yellow Arch Studios to put the finishing touches to the album before its launch.
KT: Has a label and distribution been finalised?
DL: We decided to go independent being self-financed, and use the powers of the internet and media. It will go out on the usual channel of I-tunes and be available on various websites.
KT: And this album was 3 years in the making?
DL: We didn’t want to rush things, apart from the cost, we wanted to make sure the integrity of our beliefs stood firm. You only get one chance, this could be our only album, tonight our last gig, so we wanted it to be the best it could be.
SH: True, if it all went wrong after this album, how many people can say, I was in a band, I made an album. I could be going back to being a waiter, but I would always have the achievement of this album.
The band seem in good hands under James, David and Stephen’s guidance. After a period of self-management, they have secured the services of manager Anthony Cronshaw to handle bookings and media. The band feel his contacts on the local scene will put them in good stead for the forthcoming months and years.
Their verisimilitude shows no hubris, and while not displaying an outwardly Sheffield swagger, the guile and steel is most certainly there, something that resonates with their growing base of fans As with any upcoming and flourishing band things aren’t perfect but with their enthusiasm for perfection, new ideas and the recruitment of a new drummer they should iron out any slight imperfections.
At the time of writing drummer Mike Eaton, while having recorded all his parts for the album in the studio, was playing his last gig for the band before returning to university to complete his final year. The band are auditioning locally for a replacement.
The album, aptly named in homage to Sheffield dialect, Leave a Light On will be premiered on Saturday 2nd April at a Yellow Arch Studios launch party. Tickets are available from the studio or the band. After listening to the band’s vision. It won’t be long before people realise what the Malarkey is all about.
Check them out here: