As Mallavora, lead vocalist Jessica Douek, guitarist Larry Sobieraj, bassist/vocalist Ellis James and drummer Jack Pedersen take everything you know about classic metal and give it their own twist. The quartet are on the rise to show the British scene that they’re more than just a new band.
Their debut EP is a product of growth and determination. Formed while some of the members attended university, the four-piece weren’t exactly sure what direction they’d take the band until it happened. Now, their goal is to reach as many people as possible and one day play on the same stages that their idols once did.
Influenced by acts ranging from Chuck Berry and Sam Cooke to Radiohead and Black Stone Cherry, the young artists bring together powerful lyrics and intense instrumentals to create tracks that vibrate through your nerves. With a name inspired by the honey badger (Mellivora capensis), a tough little animal unafraid to take on large predators, the group are determined to create a space where everyone feels welcome.
Mallavora met through a series of chance encounters, but how did the idea of starting a band come about? Who said, “This would be a great idea”?
LARRY SOBIERAJ: The initial idea of a band came about in my first year of university a few years ago now, and [the] band have taken several forms since then. Those chance encounters, over the first few years, we just figured out what we wanted to do, with who and [what] it would sound and look like. That was just while we’re all living in Birmingham at university, playing as many gigs as we could and rehearsing all the time, going through the process of trying to figure out exactly what kind of band we’re going to be because we started [as] indie rock and riffy. Then we got to the place where we are now. We’re much more comfortable with having a heavier sound, which is really what we want to be doing. I think, initially, it was thinking too much about what we were writing, what genre we would fit into. Nowadays, we just write songs that we like to talk about.
JESSICA DOUEK: I’d say we’re unapologetically heavy now. It’s been quite hard for us in the British music scene to just go and say we’re a heavy band. There was some hesitancy to express that heavy side that we really wanted. In our current lineup, we’re pretty happy with our sound, and what we’re trying to achieve has definitely been working.
So, you made the transition from indie rock to hard rock. Why?
SOBIERAJ: As we’re going through and leaving university, fiddling around with how we’re doing it, we just have gradually got heavier and heavier. The vocalist that we started out with had a harder, more indie-suited voice, so that’s where the music went. Then, we started writing songs more purposefully, starting with an instrumental demo and just making a song. It came out organically, with us just jamming together three times a week. We ended up only playing something we enjoyed.
You write about topics ranging from domestic abuse to addiction. Where do you find inspiration for the lyrics?
ELLIS JAMES: In that period, the lyrics had a lot to do with [the] acceptance of things happening in the world at that time and the people that we knew. The idea behind that really was to try and use that as a way to reach people that are struggling with things like that. For example, “Deceiver,” which is a song about domestic abuse, draws parallels with “Favourite Mistake,” [which] is this acceptance of the reality. The songs we write and sing, we want the words to mean something and to reach people and allow them to connect with the music, which gets quite deep and intense. That’s something we really want to bring to each of our songs and try to create a real deep connection with our audience through that.
On your website, you say that because of how some bands produce music, it’s difficult for young audiences to be exposed to groups their own age. You all aim to create inclusive spaces for music fans. What are you doing to make that possible?
DOUEK: We’ve been trying to use social media to reach people and talk about real issues by using our Instagram. We’ve spoken about the lack of women in rock and metal, like the lack of female headliners and bands at festivals like Download Festival in the U.K. We’ve spoken about issues to do with race within the rock and metal community and racism, which is obviously prevalent everywhere, but also within the metal community. Unfortunately for a lot of people, the rock and metal community can feel quite exclusionary for various reasons, whether that’s because it’s male-dominated or it’s predominantly a white space or the fact [that] when you think of a rock gig, you think of men in their 50s.
For us, it’s just about trying to start those conversations because we don’t really feel like lots of people are talking about that. There are a few bands now that have started to discuss this. We’ve done the best that we can to just try and talk about it. We’ve had some really good conversations on our Instagram platform with people who found us based on the stuff that we were talking about. Our hope is that when we can start gigging again and start bringing people back, we can really bring that to fruition and make sure that people feel safe and included in our gigs.
The band just dropped a debut EP last year. Where do you hope you’ll be in the next few years?
JACK PEDERSEN: We were talking the other day about what would be our crowning moment of music, of being in a band, and we thought [about] being able to walk out onto a stage in a really prestigious place. Perhaps in the U.K., somewhere like Wembley Stadium, the kind of stages that you’ve had basically rock royalty performing on for years. That moment of being a live band and being able to express our music to all those people—that’s the ultimate next step. Hopefully, there will be a few little bits along the way, but if we can get something like that, it’d be a dream come true for all of us.
SONG RECOMMENDATION: “Favourite Mistake”