After releasing a trio of EPs – ‘Uninvited’ (2016), ‘In The Sky’ (2018) and ‘Driving Music’ (2019) – and making a name for herself not only as a singer/songwriter but also as a producer, 2022 is going to be yet another exciting year for Australia’s Mallrat and her fans. The 23-year-old bedroom pop pioneer is releasing her highly anticipated debut album ‘Butterfly Blue’ and embarking on a tour across Europe with her friend and fellow rising artist Conan Grey. Grace Shaw AKA Mallrat is more confident than ever, admits to tricking society with this chosen name and to being a lover of bugs – which led her to veganism and inspired the album title. Mallrat herself might just be the young versatile butterfly the industry needs.
Why didn’t you want to go by your real name when you started to become a musician?
Mallrat: “Well, there are a lot of Graces already. So that was the first reason. And honestly the main reason. I chose Mallrat because I like that it felt 90s, it reminds me of 90s teenagers and 90s movies and 90s fashion. And I also love that when you look at the name ‘Mallrat’, you kind of assume it’s a punk band or a group of guys and it kind of tricks all the sexist, unconscious, biased people to be like ‘oh, I’ll check it out, this band will be cool because it’s guys’. And I trick them. And then they like it. [Laughs].”
How would you say your sound developed over the last couple of years?
“I think my influences changed, from Memphis rap like Three 6 Mafia and Project Pat. And then there’s some dreamy pop references on other bits of the album. I think it’s also a lot of distorted guitar but that’s not something I listen to. The distorted and aggressive music I listen to is usually more electronic than guitar-based, like SOPHIE for example, rather than metal bands. It’s very varied.”
Why did you decide to name the album ‘Butterfly Blue’?
“I think when I wrote the song ‘Butterfly Blue’ the album made sense to me and I liked how those words sounded together. Also, in so many of the different tracks on the album I talk about butterflies in one way or another. I think that’s because as a person I’m a little bit obsessed with bugs and especially butterflies. I’m fascinated by their metamorphosis and biology behind it. I also think it’s interesting that blue is such a rare colour in nature, so it’s really special to see a creature or a flower that’s blue. And it’s melancholic. There’s too many answers!”
What’s your approach to songwriting, do you start with the lyrics or do you start with a beat?
“The process is always very different, which is kind of an annoying answer because it is so vague. [Laughs]. Often it will start with a beat or chords but a lot of the time it’ll start with a poem or lyrics, or the lyrics and the melody together and then I built something around it. But it’s different every time. Lately, I think I’ve been starting with beats and instrumentals first.”
What’s your favourite song on the album?
“I love ‘Butterfly Blue’, the last song and the title track. And I also love ‘Surprise Me’ ft. Azealia Banks.”
What was it like working with your idol Azealia Banks, was she in the studio with you or did she send you her part?
“We just went back and forth via Messenger and text, because she was in Miami and I was in Melbourne but it was incredible to work with her. She put a lot of care and love into the song and it was really cool to see first-hand how passionate she is about music.”
What is something that you think your fans would not expect from the album?
“I think that when ‘Surprise Me’ comes out they’re going to be surprised by that. I feel like a lot of the music is different from everything else that I’ve put out. But I think I do something different every time so they’re not expecting anything at all. They don’t know what to expect.”
Your song ‘I’m Not My Body, It’s Mine’ – I really love the title by the way – can you explain the concept of it?
“Actually, I think I wanna change one of the answers to one of your questions earlier on what my favourite song on the album is because I forgot about that one and that might be my favourite. And the concept… it’s hard to explain these things, isn’t it. I think it kind of says it in the song and I don’t really know how to explain it better than the song does.”
Do you think the relationship between you and your body changed?
“It’s quite a complicated thing and it certainly improved. It’s nice to not wanna hide all the time. [Laughs].”
I saw on your Instagram that your aesthetic changed as well – if you could describe your current aesthetic in three words, what would it be?
“Less. Insecure. Now.”
I came across a TikTok you made, where you said you discovered a breed of spider at the age of five – how did that happen?
“I just found it in a friend’s garden and I showed it to my dad and I was like: ‘Look how crazy this spider looks’ and he said ‘Oh my God, that is crazy, we should take that to the museum’. So we took it to the museum and they were like: ‘We think this is a new species’ and they let me name it Octavius and gave me a certificate and stuff.”
Did you keep up with the spider, did you go and visit it in the museum?
“Yeah, so, that’s when the drama comes in because we took it to the museum and they were like ‘do you mind if we keep this overnight’ and I was five and I said: ‘Yes, but you can’t hurt it’. I was looking at all the boards of bugs in front of me and I was like ‘you can’t do that to this spider, but you can keep it overnight’. And then we came back the next day and I said ‘okay we’re back for our spider, what’s the update’ and they were like ‘we lost it’. Something fishy went on there in the Queensland museum. I think it makes sense that I’m vegan now. [Laughs].”
Do you think being vegan changed your outlook on life?
“I think it made me just better reflect. I managed to get my actions to reflect my outlook on life, because I always thought that life is so precious. When I was little I was one of those kids that would spend the whole time in the pool going around and finding all the ants and ladybugs and helping them out of the pool so they didn’t drown. And when kids were playing soccer I would sit next to the ant mount and make sure that the ball didn’t knock over the ant mount. So I’ve always been like that. And I could never eat food that looked like it came from an animal, I was fine eating sausages or whatever but I could never eat anything with a bone in it or fish or prawns. I think going vegan is just how I felt before, so I’m glad that now I can match my actions to my words.”
You’re going on tour with Conan Grey later this year. Have you met him before?
“Yes! When I lived in LA before COVID we were neighbours and we became really, really good friends and we are fans of each other’s music. I really love him as a person, he’s been such a good friend. I’m so excited about that tour, it will be really nice to finally see him again!”
Do you prefer living in America or back home?
“Well, I’m in Australia now. I came back by accident during COVID so I ended up living here again. I’m here semi-permanently at least, I don’t really know what the future holds. I’ll be travelling most of the year and then maybe I’ll reassess where I wanna live, after all the touring and stuff. But I’d love to live where I did in LA but I also love being in Melbourne, it’s a pretty incredible city.”
Do you have any advice for new upcoming musicians on writing songs and finding their own voice?
“I have so much advice. I think that it’s really important to have a basic understanding of production, even if you’re a singer/songwriter. Especially if you’re a girl, it’s really important to learn even just the basics of Garage Band or whatever it is, so that when you’re in the studio, you’re able to communicate proficiently with the producer or whoever else is in there with you. Otherwise, you won’t know how to explain yourself and what you want. So that’s my first thing – learn production! And secondly, don’t make boring stuff! There’s enough boring music out there. And thirdly, avoid too many cliché metaphors in your lyrics! They would be my three things that come to mind right now.”
Do you think you found your voice now?
“I feel quite happy. I think when I’m in the process of writing a song, that’s when I’m figuring out my voice and then if the song doesn’t come out it’s because I never got there and if the song does come out it’s because I’m happy with it and I’d always felt pretty good about the lyrics that I’ve written. But maybe I’m still finding my voice in becoming a better producer or something, but I think that my lyrics have always been something I felt comfortable with.”
In an interview from a couple years ago you said you would like to write songs for other artists as well, I don’t know if you can talk about it, but did you already give some songs to other artists?
“I worked a little bit on some music that’s out, but it’s not much. I wanted to do more but COVID and everything and working on my album, I kind of got distracted. But I managed to work on a song on The Veronicas recent album, which was really cool. What else have I been up to? Nothing that’s really out yet. But I wanna do more of it.”
And finally, where do you see yourself in five years from now?
“I think I definitely still want to be doing music. But I don’t know what that would look like. I think that the last couple of years have made it hard to predict things or to predict what I want or what I will want. But I don’t think that my passion for songwriting and production is gonna go anywhere. So I’m pretty sure I’ll still be doing that.”
‘Mallrat’s debut album Butterfly Blue’ is out on May 13 2022.