It’s not often that we get submissions from the far east but we were pleasently suprised when Mala Ruckus stopped us in our tracks with their song “Run.” The 5-piece indie band hails from different nations but have formed a bond in Dalian, China to create a sound that weaves folk, rock and soul in a way that has appeal beyond borders. Take a listen to “Run” and check out our interview with the aspiring musicians and find out why whiskey is their drink of choice.
Alex Montyro- Canada – Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
Francis Carlisle- Britain – Keyboard, Vocals, Synthesizer
Ian James- Britain – Bass, Vocals
Caolon O’Neill Forde- Ireland – Guitar, Mandolin
Sean Rollins- USA – Drums, Percussion
RSD: First off, how does an indie band that sounds and looks like it should be drinking an IPA at a speakeasy in San Francisco or playing a gig in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY end up in Dalian, China?
MR: Well, to cut a long story short, we met by pure chance. We all came to China separately to teach English and see the world, and got to know each other through the live music scene here in Dalian. The current line-up was solidified in 2013, and since then we’ve just nonstop been building the band up; writing songs, recording, rehearsing, slowly but surely building up a fanbase. We don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
RSD: Tells us more about your experiences making your way through China and any random acts of strangeness that has happened?
MR: Well, this one question could probably end up as a full interview on its own; Mainland China is almost as strange as the rumors make it out to be. With regards to our music, I guess one of the first things that comes to mind is the time we were playing a show and the promoter asked us to go on stage and act like monkeys; not THE Monkees, but literally, behave more like our arboreal primate cousins. And the live sound engineers here are real characters. During a soundcheck one time, the sound guy insisted for thirty minutes that the problems we were having were because ALL of our instruments were broken- when he finally let us near the mixer, it turned out he’d had the volume turned down the entire time. At another gig, another sound guy decided he was so happy with the levels during a gig that he could reward himself by putting his feet up— on the mixer. He looked genuinely surprised at the ear-splitting squeal that followed. We’ve also been asked several times to lip-sync to songs at big gigs- and the organisers of those gigs were always surprised when we insisted on playing the songs ourselves! But honestly, we’ve all been here for several years now, and we’ve gotten used to a lot of stuff. Many things that might make someone new to China stop and look twice, we don’t really notice anymore: if we do, we probably just shrug our shoulders and say, ‘Oh well! That’s China!’
RSD: How are the locals responding to your sound?
MR: Their response overall has been overwhelmingly positive, and before we were banned from playing live shows a few months ago, we had great crowds turning up for the gigs (having said that, we were never fully sure if they were coming for our music or for a chance to stroke Francis’s beard). We’ve also had a lot of people here tell us that they downloaded the EP and really liked it, and can’t wait for the full album to come out, so that’s exciting.
RSD: Why did the band get thrown in jail recently?
MR: Well, now there’s a story. We were playing a gig in a bar in downtown Dalian, and halfway through the set (actually during our song Blissful Simplicity, soon to be released on the album), the police swarmed in, stopped the gig and arrested us, with no explanation. We were marched out of the bar, taken to the police station in an unmarked van, held overnight, and then released the next day. However, they kept our passports for the next month, which was a nightmare month for us- a true emotional rollercoaster. We were told on two separate occasions that the next day we would be arrested, jailed and then deported, so we literally had our bags packed and emergency plans in place for the whole month. We were so sure of our impending doom at one point that we had a goodbye get-together, which turned into an amazing all-night party! Anyway, we eventually got off with a fine for performing without a license and a warning from the police not to play live anymore. We still aren’t sure exactly what happened, but we have our suspicions.
MR: We try to do things democratically in Mala Ruckus, so whiskey (Laphroaig if possible) wins in a run-off election against vodka, with rum eliminated in the first round after securing only a single vote.
RSD: “Run” is a really good song, what’s the inspiration behind those lyrics?
MR: Well that is one that Alex wrote, but it’s something that everyone has experienced at some point in life- where you make a couple of bad decisions and get yourself stuck in a shitty situation with no way of dealing with it. You feel like there’s no option left but to shout, “RETREAT!!!”, and just get the hell out of there at first light.
RSD: What can fans and new fans expects from your first studio album?
MR: To sum up, we like to think of our genre as folk rock n’ soul, so people can expect an interesting, organic sounding album full of hooks and quirks. Out of five people in the band, we have four nationalities represented, and we all have fairly different musical backgrounds, so it should make for a unique listening experience! In fact, we are a bit of a melting pot of music- Alex likes Al Green and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Fran is influenced by Bruce Springsteen and The Band, Caolan loves haunting folk, Ian would throw himself in front of a train to defend the honour of 90s pop, and Sean’s musical taste defies description. There will be cerebral elements there in the mix for people who listen for them, but there will also be a lot of visceral, good old fashioned rock and roll.
MR: Haha, staying out of trouble with the law is definitely a priority! It might sound cliche, but honestly, we would love to be able to quit our day jobs and make a living by making music- that’s the dream. Right now, we aren’t sure what path we are going to take beyond recording and releasing our album, but who knows, we might end up moving to Europe, the States or Canada and throwing all our chips on the table. We’ll just have to wait and see.