Nineteen-year-old Brisbanite Grace Shaw – AKA singer-songwriter Mallrat – will shortly drop her second EP In The Sky, which ripples with the understated, airy, pop-electronica vocals and R’n’B-inflected beats which have made her live shows a must-see. A massive fan of fashion (a world she hopes to work in one day), she spoke to Sole Finess about being motivated by honesty and invention, gathering inspiration from different art forms, and why Converse sneakers rule.
Even though there are lots of artificial elements in your songs, you love to leave in the flaws and details of your voice. Why is that important to you – not to vacuum-seal your voice during production?
For me, that’s my favourite part of a song – when you hear the person breathe, or their voice breaking. It’s very human, and it adds so much emotion. So I try and keep it in [the take]. Sometimes if you just sing it nicely, it’s nice, but it doesn’t make me feel anything. I don’t want everything to be perfect, or grand, or polished. I want it to have a lot of feeling to it. It’s those little things.
You’ve said that with the In The Sky EP, you now feel like you know what you’re doing. Is it difficult to balance that surety with still being experimental, or do you think they’re linked?
When I started I didn’t really understand production. I just knew what I wanted to write – I had my lyrics. But I love having a playful and inquisitive approach, and when I make stuff I just try as many different things as I can, and ask lots of questions. When you start a song, you can’t know what it definitely has to sound like. You have to just see what direction it can go in. And I work with so many people that can teach me so much! So it’s really fun to be curious.
Do you think that artists who are truly intrigued with their artform and its evolution don’t ever presume that they’re at the pinnacle of knowledge, with all the answers?
Exactly. You can always learn from people older and younger than you, and people who do the same thing as you and people who do different genres, and even not just from music – you can learn so much from fashion design I think, and stylists, and painters. I feel like a lot of the overall concepts of songwriting apply to making art and clothes.
Speaking of clothes, let’s talk about yours. You love your red Office Depot jacket. Where did you get it, and have you added patches to it?
That’s how it was when I got it! I got that in Kyoto, in Japan. I had to buy extra luggage to fit all the stuff that I bought, to get it back home… but I was like, “I need that!” And I wear it to death.
BIG NEWS ALERT: I’ve got a new EP, called ‘In The Sky’, coming out very very soon and you can preorder it + vinyl + limited edish t-shirts now (link in bio) 💕 thank you for being so supportive, I can’t wait to show you these new songs 🦋☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️ ps also going on tour, will give you the deets this arvo 🤠
Did you buy some other favourite pieces in Japan?
I got heaps of little bits and pieces in Harajuku. I got this really big faux fur coat that I haven’t worn yet – I just love looking at it and wearing it around my room. The weather’s only now starting to be appropriate.
In Japan everyone dresses up every day, and looks so cool, especially in Harajuku. I thought “Yep, this is it, I’m stepping up my game.” And then I came back home and I’m like, “Maybe I’ll just chill for a bit. I don’t want to stand out too much.”
You can’t have people saying “Oh, check out Grace, she just got back from Japan and now she thinks she’s a Harajuku Girl.”
[Laughs] Totally. ‘Goes to Japan once.’
Tell us about your outfit at the ARIAs last year – it was a wide-sleeved dress, and you had a buckle around your neck.
That was an off the shoulder top and skirt. It kind of looks like a dress, but it’s two different things. It’s from Ellery. I was in such a rush that morning; I ran into Ellery, tried it on, and was like, “Ok, bye!”
What sort of apparel grabs your eye most quickly?
I love vintage, but I also love small designers, because they make weirder stuff than the bigger, high fashion labels do. With a few exceptions: Balenciaga and Vetements stood out for the first few seasons I reckon, and when Demna [Gvasalia] was the head of Balenciaga for that first collection, it was so fire.
I really like designers like Discount Universe, and Dyspnea, from Australia. I love over-the-top stuff, but I’m trying to be more courageous to wear it. I don’t really like being the centre of attention, even though all the clothes I like are very attention-drawing!
You also clearly adore your white platform Converse sneakers. What do you like about Converse?
When I was [in] early high school I was obsessed with Converse. They had this thing on their website where you could customise your sneakers, and every afternoon when I got home from school, I would spend the whole evening on my computer… My first pair, they were so 2010. They were almost calf-height, black, but you could fold them down to be regular hi-tops, and [there were] stars on the lining.
Converse are my favourite sneakers ‘cos they’re not leather – I went vegan a couple of years ago, so I avoid buying leather products – and they’re so comfortable. They’re just such good shoes. And the MadeMe ones that are coming out! I love the platform yellow ones.
The In The Sky tour starts at the back-end of June. Which track from the EP are you most excited to play live?
I think Groceries, the first track, will probably be really fun live. I’ve got this idea in my head of getting my friends to all learn a little square dance routine and dress up in cute outfits. I keep asking them to, and they think I’m joking, and I’m trying to explain to them that I’m not joking and it would be really cool if they did it!
In The Sky EP by Mallrat is out June 1 on Dew Process.
See Mallrat live around the country, supported by Ninajirachi and Eilish Gilligan, at the dates below:
MALLRAT 2018 ‘IN THE SKY’ NATIONAL TOUR
Saturday, June 16: Jack Rabbit Slims – Perth (18+)
Friday, June 22: The Factory – Sydney (Licensed All Ages)
Saturday, June 23: Northcote Social Club (U18)
Saturday, June 23: Northcote Social Club (18+)
Saturday, June 30: The Zoo – Brisbane (U18)
Saturday, June 30: The Zoo – Brisbane (18+)
Tickets available from lilmallrat.com