PHOTO BY SARA CATH
WRITTEN BY LYDIA RIVERS
Mamalarky refuses to confine themselves to a genre, embracing a hodgepodge of inspiration to create blissfully trippy, hyper-personal tracks. The band emanates a sense of unbothered balance within themselves and their uniquely charming aesthetic, a sense that’s easily felt when listening to their style of psychedelia. Originally from Austin, TX, where three of the band members grew up together, the four-piece band recently relocated from Los Angeles to Atlanta. Mamalarky released their latest track “Schism Trek” last week, a peek into their upcoming self-titled debut album Mamalarky, releasing November 20 through Fire Talk Records.
I had the chance to talk with Livvy Bennett (guitar), Dylan Hill (drums), Michael Hunter (keyboard), and Noor Khan (bass) about their upcoming debut album, the story behind some of their cover art, and meeting Noor through Tinder.
[This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity]
You all released “Schism Trek” last week! What was making the music video like, and could you break the single down for me?
Livvy: For writing, it was actually conceived when we were on tour, I believe, or when I was on tour with a separate band. We were all just missing each other, all in different places of the world — which is something that I would kind of kill for right now! But, it was kind of just wanting to find a sense of togetherness, while also feeling really excited about being on my own and doing stuff on my own. Making the music video was really funny because we recorded some of i when we were still in Austin. The geography of the whole situation is really confusing, but we filmed some of it when we were still in Austin, socially distanced, and then some of it was filmed here [in Atlanta] when we had just moved here.
Noor: Some of it was filmed, just me, with a camera that I found that was similar to their camera. It was like a whole thing.
Your debut self-titled album Mamalarky is releasing in November! What can we expect?
Michael: It’s all over the place.
Livvy: Yeah it’s definitely a little hodgepodge, that’s true. I feel like we get interviewed about what genre it is, but I don’t think we’ve definitively decided that in any way. is like, what genre is that? I don’t think we’ve definitely decided that in any way.
Noor: We’re just like… rock. There’s drums and there’s guitars. That’s rock. That’s rock music.
Livvy: That’s rock music.
The cover art for the album is really cool, is there a story behind it?
Livvy: Yeah, I was looking at different textile artists, because I kind of wanted to do something like that. I hit up this artist, Hannah Epstein, who I believe is in Canada. I was like, I have this sketch, and then she just went to work and popped it out in a few days. We all loved it a lot, so that’s kind of how that happened over quarantine. It’s really exciting to feel like things are still progressing and coming to life, you know? The back of the album has the tracklisting hooked with fibers also! It’s really cool. I think that the album art is something that I really hope people sit with. The inner sleeve of our album is basically like this complex world of Mamalarky that one of our artists friends, Jake Tobin made. We’ve all been looking at it and you can see new things every time.
Dylan: It’s very Where’s Waldo. You can spend hours looking at it.
Livvy: Michael always sees things I haven’t seen before, tt goes really deep!
The cover art on your work is all very different but fits together really beautifully. How do you decide on the visuals, and who creates them?
Livvy: It’s definitely been different every time. I think it’s usually a process of collecting artists that I really like, I’ll send art to my friends a lot and just go,” look at this, this is cool.” When it’s time to have a release happen, I sometimes have an idea of what would look good or what we want, or I’ll just start looking for new artists that are cool and I think would like to be involved with us. We always make it a point to tag them and credit them in our Spotify description. It’s kind of a weird relationship I think with artists and musicians, because you pay for their art one time, and then it’s paired forever. It’s kind of tricky to navigate, but I just always want to put their name as forward as possible. It’s weird, you could have a favorite cover art and you’d have to really look to find out who did it. I don’t know, I wish most streaming platforms could just have it really easy to access so you can know. But I digress.
Dylan: That’s a good point.
Noor: The “Hero” artwork Livvy and Dylan did together. They made the person.
Dylan: That shit was crazy.
Noor: At first it was terrifying!
Dylan: It was sitting on our couch for like, a month, just on one of the seats on the couch and you could just go hug it. It was a full sized human being, in our clothes. It was wild. Kinda hard to get rid of.
Livvy: It was mostly dollar store finds. Oh, another weird part about that cover is the inside of that person was made out of curtains that were at our house that our landlord told us were Leonard Cohen’s touring curtains.
Dylan: Touring curtains!
I saw you all met Noor through Tinder. What was that first potential-bassist meet-up, slash Tinder date like?
Noor: The fact that we say we met on Tinder is slightly misleading because it really wasn’t like that, I suppose. Livvy’s bio was like, “we need a bassist!”
Livvy: I was on another app called Vamper, that was like “swipe to find bandmates!” Yeah, I basically went on Vamper and I couldn’t find anyone who was remotely cool — there was like, 20 people on Vamper. So I was like, I’m not going to go on Craigslist, I’m not going to post this somewhere where 20 dudes that I don’t want to hang out with are going to message me, “Oh, I play bass.” So I went on Tinder.
Noor: I message Livvy “Oh, I play bass.” Then I said, okay this is weird, so I messaged her on Instagram like, “Oh, I play bass.” She was like, come over Sunday, let’s jam. I said okay, and then that’s literally what happened. I went over and I was like, worst case, they suck and they’re mean. I’ve never been in a band before, so I was like, whatever. We’re just gonna see how this goes, and it went really well!
Dylan: She’d never been in a band before, and she learned like four or five of our songs all the way through. We were like, what the fuck?
Noor: I got there and they were like, “You learned all the songs?!” I was like, I tried, and they didn’t expect that.
Dylan: Yeah, it was a good fit from day one.
Where did the name Mamalarky come from?
Livvy: I was living with one of my best friends since second grade, and they let the three of us rehearse in their bedroom for years. I think that’s important to note, because that is really special. They would just sit down in their bed and like, listen and be totally fine with it. One day, we were just trying to think of new band names, and they were brainstorming different ideas. We were like, [Mamalarky], yeah, this works.
Dylan: I think many like sheets full of band names were being thrown around.
Livvy: The harder we were thinking the harder it becomes, you know, and just having someone else was probably really helpful. But, yeah, it doesn’t mean anything.
Dylan: It means us.
Noor: It’s funny, because my mom, she’s a jokester. She always calls me mama larkey, because larki means girl in Urdu. It’s like woman girl.
What’s next for Mamalarky?
Livvy: Well, we have a single coming out in October, so we’re very excited about that. I think it’s my favorite song on the album. I’m pretty nervously excited about it. We have a lot of virtual shows coming up, just like a lot of different live streaming things and music videos and songs. As soon as it feels not really bad to play shows, we will, but I think that’s going to take a long time, sadly. We’ll see! Drive-in shows could happen.
STREAM MAMALARKY’S LATEST SINGLE, “SCHISM TREK!”