So today’s the day. D-Day if you will. The day America sees its next president sworn into office, a man who has admitted to assaulting women, who has called women disgusting for using the toilet, breastfeeding, menstruating (existing), who has insulted the parents of dead soldiers, who has sexualised his own daughter, who wants to ban Muslims from entering the US, who has called Mexicans rapists, who openly mocked a reporter with disabilities…the list goes on. Today is not a good day for the world. Luckily, we have been speaking to Malojian frontman Steve Scullion, whose latest album ‘This Is Nowhere’ first caught our attention a few weeks ago, and has been on repeat since. I spoke to Steve about lyric writing, grief, and early life in Northern Ireland:
KM: Tell us about your early life and first experiences with music
S: I grew up in a town called Lurgan in Co. Armagh. I was born in 1978 so my earliest memories are of the 80’s in Northern Ireland, which was a bit mental then. My first musical experiences/memories are of my Dad playing the guitar around the house…Neil Young, Dylan, stuff like that. Also, I remember seeing Freddie Mercury on the TV when I was really young.
KM: As a musician based in Northern Ireland, what are your experiences of the music scene there and how has it affected you as an artist?
S: The scene in Northern Ireland seems to me to be really healthy. There are loads of young, interesting bands/artists coming along all the time and I find musicians here are generally very supportive of one another. I would say the fact that there was hardly any infrastructure here, when I was starting out, has made me approach things in a very DIY manner.
KM: You’ve just released a new album, ‘This Is Nowhere’. What themes does this album explore?
S: Just everyday life. Or my life anyway, I suppose. It’s not a concept album or anything like that.
KM: Despite the ‘heaviness’ of some of the subjects you address, the music is anything but – what made you contrast the lyrical content and the arrangement in this way?
S: I always find the melody and feel of the song will let you know what the arrangement should be and I don’t think that should be swayed by the lyrics too much. Even if the song feels light but the lyrics are heavy, surely that’s an interesting thing? Sometimes we’ll take a wrong turn with an arrangement and have to back things up a bit but usually there’s not much of a struggle with anything.
KM: Can you tell us what message or mood you were trying to evoke through the title track?
S: ‘This Is Nowhere‘ was written just a few days before we travelled to Chicago so it’s as fresh as you can get really. The lyrics deal with some of the negative aspects of social media but I’m not trying to get a message across or make a point or anything…loads of my lyrics are just me talking to myself. Sound-wise, I think we were just trying to have fun and make a cool sounding record. I got to use a harmonic percolator on it, which was very style.
KM: The whole album has a bit of a folk feel, particularly in the use of strings – were you inspired by folk music at all when writing this album?
S: Not when writing the album but I am into folk music. Again, I think the songs dictated the feel rather than me coming in with an idea because I was listening to something in particular at the time or anything like that.
KM: Perhaps the most emotive track on the album is ‘The Great Decline’. Can you tell us what inspired the track?
S: ‘The Great Decline‘ took me a while to write. Partly because I’m only learning to play piano and partly because of the theme. It deals with loss and I wanted to make sure I was happy with the lyrics.
KM: Speaking of the lyrics – whilst incredibly poignant, they are often concerned with the mundane, i.e. ‘dust settling on a chair’. Was it intentional to contrast this feeling of ‘the everyday’ with the larger concept of grief?
S: Yes. Grief is a very powerful and strange thing. It can hit you at weird times and in unexpected situations e.g. ‘dust settling on a chair’ can trigger a thought which in turn can set off all kinds of emotions. I wanted to try and get a bit of that into the song.
KM: It’s quite a restrained song in this sense; do you ever find it difficult to stop yourself from overdoing it in terms of production and arrangement?
S: This is one song that we reigned in the arrangement on. It might have been because of my very limited ability on piano but I wasn’t feeling it with the band so I performed it solo live and then we overdubbed strings and a backing vocal.
KM: Which track is your favourite on the album?
S: I’m not sure about “favourite” but ‘The Great Decline’ is probably the one I’m proudest of. It seems to have connected with a lot of people. It’s also the most nervous I’ve ever been of performing in the studio and I got through it so happy days!
KM: Having released the album last October, what are your hopes for this year going forward?
S: We have some tours coming up in Ireland and Germany. We’ve also started working on the next album and I’m writing for a couple of other projects as well.
‘The Great Decline‘ is out now.
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