Katie Malco releases emotive alt-rock debut album Failures

Northampton singer-songwriter Katie Malco talks about inadvertently making a timeline of her life on her debut LP.

By David Jackson
Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 10:56 am
Katie Malco has released her debut LP Failures.
Katie Malco has released her debut LP Failures.

Don’t let the title of Katie Malco’s debut album, Failures, cloud your judgement about the record.

It’s anything but the literal translation – rather an honest, emotive and triumphant alt-rock journey through the life of the Northampton musician.

Failures was released last week, with Malco the latest in a line of Northants artists to go-ahead and release an LP during lockdown – rather than push the release back to later in the year.

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The front of Katie Malco's album Failures. The record is out now.

“The thing that struck me, as someone that listens to music, is that I didn’t want to go through lockdown without any new music to listen to,” she explains.

“There’s artists pushing back releases, but we’d end up just competing with everyone else again later anyway and it didn’t make any sense.”

The 10 track LP follows a scattering of singles in recent years and an EP in 2013.

Live, Malco has built up a following with her own solo shows and opening for the likes of Bob Mould and Jenny Lewis.

The release of Failures was preceded by singles Brooklyn and Animal.

“I was massively pleased with the reaction to both,” she explains, “I don't know what I was expecting, I wasn't expecting anything really.

“I’d been absent for a while and I didn't really know if anyone was going be interested.

“I'm totally blown away to be honest and couldn’t be happier.”

Like all other musicians, Malco’s summer plans have been derailed by the Coronavirus.

She was due to promote the record at South By Southwest in Texas and, closer to home, at the 2,000trees festival in Gloucestershire. A headline tour has been postponed until next year.

When looking for a title for her LP, the Scottish-born, Northampton raised, Malco looked for a theme which linked the songs together.

“It struck me I’d almost ended up making a chronological timeline of my life inadvertently,” she admits.

“The songs had been written over a number of years and some of the lyrics were written way before the songs.

“Some of them hark back to being a teenager and it felt like each tune had a bit of a message of change.

“‘This was a point where something wasn’t great – but it led to something else’, like a pivotal moment which led to growth.

“I called it Failures because they're all failures, they’re all things I failed at – or felt like I’d failed at, at the time.

“Looking back though, they’re not failures, it was a period of growth and I realise it now but certainly at that moment, it felt like failure.

“I think everybody does that, in the moment thinking you’ve messed something up but then you realise you needed to go through that to get to where you are now.”

Failures was recorded by Malco with drummer Andy Jenkin and bassist Stephen Davidson in London with Jenkin at the helm in his studio after previous failed attempts to record in Malco’s flat.

“The record took ages to record, not because it’s so complex, but because we were recording it in places like my flat,” she explains.

“There’d be loads of ambient noise on things and we realised we needed to go into a studio.

“It was just the three of us, Andy had a studio space and is a bit of an engineer but then he then needed to move spaces again - so it was a very bitty process.

“We really had to break down the tunes and start again because I'd been playing them for such a long time on my own.

“I don't want to be writing songs with people just coming in around me.

“I don't like it when the singer-songwriter sits on top of the band, I wanted it to sound like a band.

“We had to break them down and build them up again.

“It wasn't as easy as I thought because I was stuck in my ways with some of the tunes.”

To help promote the album, Malco has been taking to social media to provide a short video synopsis of each track on the album.

Brooklyn tells the story of a trip to New York which she made to try and encourage a close friend who had moved there to return home.

“I’d been going through something really horrible and I begged her to come home, which isn’t cool.

“It wasn’t about her at all, I just wanted her to come home because I needed her.”

Album opener Animal talks about life as a teenager, escaping a troubled domestic life.

In this video she said: “Once I’d written the lyrics I realised it was supposed to be on this album.

“I was out every single night, I was just sofa surfing, trying to find some happiness and stability in I guess the wrong places.

“It was the catch 22 of not being able to go home but not being able to stop what I’m doing and feeling kind of hopeless.”

Malco’s brutally honest and reflective lyricism continues throughout the record which musically switches between pacey alt-rock and delicate, guitar and vocal tracks.

September featured on her 2013 EP Tearing Ventricles but has been transformed from a piano led piece to one based around guitar, in keeping with the majority of Failures.

Despite its transformation, it’s lost none of its emotive impact, with Malco singing about recognising and accepting that someone may only be in your life for a temporality period.

Looking to the future, Malco’s hope is to be able to get back on the road to tour Failures.

“Whether it will be a full band depends on if things ease up enough to rehearse properly leading up it. I just want to get out and just play the tunes.”

Failures is out now via 6131 Records and available on the usual streaming platforms and https://katiemalco.bandcamp.com/album/failures