That Lustful Kind of Love: A Conversation with MAALA

MAALA - "Kind of Love" music video screenshot

You’ve got that kind of love that I’ve been dreaming of

Listen: “Kind of Love” – MAALA


MAALA EP - MAALA

MAALA EP – MAALA

In 2012, 17-year-old Evan Sinton expressed a desire to share his artistry with the world in his New Zealand’s Got Talent interview: “I just love songwriting, and that’s pretty much where I see my direction right now,” he said before wowing the judges and studio audience with an emotional rendition of The Beatles’ “Blackbird.” Sinton’s impeccable control over expression and dynamics in both his voice and his guitar would eventually result in him finishing third place in the annual television series. “I’m hoping from entering that I can gain some exposure,” the Auckland native admitted at the time, “just to show what I’m capable of and who I am as a musician.”

Two and a half years later, a mysterious artist named MAALA sent shivers down listeners’ spines with his debut single, “Touch.” At the time, Atwood Magazine praised MAALA for his delicate and soulful dissection of an electric moment of ecstasy: “If storytelling is indeed a science, then MAALA is Ernest Rutherford – not because of their shared New Zealand blood, but because MAALA digs into the core of his subject to explore its elemental roots, much like Rutherford did with the atom.” Only the biggest fans of NZ’s Got Talent would have ever picked up on MAALA’s uncannily similar vocal inflections to a certain second-season finalist.

Read: MAALA Falls Out of Love on Debut “Touch”

Evan Sinton revealed himself soon after releasing MAALA’s self-titled debut EP in August 2015. The 20-year-old had spent the previous three years developing and redeveloping a sonic identity with help from Sony Music, ultimately landing on a heavy beat-driven, synth-laden electronic influence that brought out the best in his nuanced lyricism:

Why am I holding onto nothing left
What am I gonna say at the end
Holding left me at the very edge
Find another desire
How did it all change when I felt your touch?

– “Touch” by MAALA

Listen: “Touch” – MAALA


MAALA’s debut exhibited the songwriter’s cultivation of a rich and clearly-defined musical identity, but his journey had only just begun. Once you create, explore and absorb a musical identity, it is your artistic responsibility to destroy that identity: Transform it, and yourself in the process, into something new.

MAALA 2016

MAALA

MAALA has returned to the “indie music” spotlight less than a year later with an undeniably fresh sound. His single “Kind of Love,” the first showing off his forthcoming debut album, possesses a refined understanding of the sonic space. MAALA characteristically takes advantage of dynamics and depth on “Kind of Love,” but the juxtapositions are tighter, meatier and more pronounced.

Injecting charisma and catchy melody over uptempo lustful lyrics, “Kind of Love” is MAALA’s first pop song.

Sex dreams, touching skin, breathe, just need
That thing that you do when you move through my head, in my bed
You’re so bad, I go mad just thinkin’ bout you…

No more conversation, that’s how long I’ve been wasted
When we could go, go places ’cause you belong here with me
Know what I want, and what could be

“Kind of Love” radiates with youthful desire as MAALA professes a deep and feral passion. Sweat drops like silken beads from every word of his smooth tenor croon. His mind is made – he’s got love on the brain, some might say. That crazed feeling is echoed in MAALA’s singing, which breaks out of traditional meter like a Jason Mraz rap to provide an additional sense of ease and unrestraint.

MAALA’s musical performance complements his consciously light and free-form singing with staccato synth hits and layers of electronic melody that build off each other to constantly push “Kind of Love” forward. An infectious dance beat makes moving one’s body a mandatory part of the “Kind of Love” listening experience. Sexual frustration and musical tension find partial relief in the chorus when MAALA belts, “You’ve got that kind of love that I’ve been dreaming of,” but a lack of full-scale release gives “Kind of Love” that irresistibly contagious and compelling quality that leads us listeners to blast it on repeat.

MAALA broke his own mold in the best way possible on “Kind of Love,” effectively introducing a new-and-improved 2016 musical model that promises to ooze ecstasy and desire while maintaining both an air of authenticity and the raw magnetism that distinguished MAALA’s debut. The”Kind of Love” music video exemplifies the most sultry aspects of the song, as two shadowy figures become one in an intimate embrace.

Atwood Magazine spoke with MAALA to better understand the art and artistry behind “Kind of Love.” Get to know MAALA through our brief interview, and keep an eye out for more from this 2016 Artist to Watch!

Watch: “Kind of Love” – MAALA

A CONVERSATION WITH MAALA

Atwood Magazine: “Kind of Love” has a distinctly different feel from 2015's EP. What was your mindset during the making of the EP, and how is that different from your current mindset?

MAALA: Writing the EP, I was still trying to find a sound. It was about trying things out and seeing what worked and what didn’t. This time around it felt like I had formed a better understanding of what I wanted – I suppose I was more confident in my approach this time around – I feel “Kind of Love” reflects that.

Who is MAALA? I feel like a listener could get two completely separate impressions of your music. The musical change is so drastic - I'm curious to hear your own take on your expanding musical and artistic identity and how it shifts both your view of yourself, and how you want to be viewed.

MAALA: I don’t particularly mind that my work could create different impressions for the listener – that sounds like a positive thing regardless. For me personally it was never a conscious decision to drastically change anything – it was more just a natural evolution – through changes in what music I was listening to and what made me most excited to sit down and write a song.

Do you see that - the concept of two different impressions - as beneficial? I always advocate for artists who “don't fit the mold” - that is to say, you can't pigeonhole them or their music.

MAALA: I would say so. I think if my mentality were to write within a framework it would all feel a little contrived and restricted. I’d get bored if I kept doing the same thing. A lot of my favorite artists are the ones that completely switch it up from album to album.

If my mentality were to write within a framework it would all feel a little contrived and restricted.

MAALA - "Kind of Love" music video screenshot

Screenshots from MAALA’s “Kind of Love” music video

MAALA - "Kind of Love" music video screenshot

MAALA - "Kind of Love" music video screenshot

MAALA - "Kind of Love" music video screenshot

I loved the depth I was able to find in “Touch” last year. What sort of meaning do you ascribe to your music? Is crafting emotionally impactful music a conscious goal for you, as a music maker?

MAALA: Thank you, I really appreciate that. I think it’s important for me that I don’t over overanalyze the process. Music is a means of expression – but it’s never a conscious decision to achieve anything specific. Most of the time it’s just me writing for the sake of writing – whatever the listener or I feel emotionally is a by-product of the process.

What is your favorite thing about “Kind of Love”?

MAALA: The verse – I love how lazy the delivery is. How it all sort of collapses over itself.

How did the idea of an uptempo song come up? Why is this song being uptempo such a special thing, do you think?

MAALA: I suppose I was in a good mood that day. I think it comes back to just wanting to keep things fresh and exciting for myself.

To whom did you look for inspiration during the sessions for this song?

MAALA: I’ve been living in a pop world for the last couple months now. The attention was in writing melodies that were simple and catchy. If I were to put it down to a couple artists: I was definitely listening to a lot of Carly Rae Jepsen, Timberlake, Bieber – that sort of thing.

Whatever the listener or I feel emotionally is a by-product of the process.

MAALA - "Kind of Love" music video screenshot

MAALA – “Kind of Love” music video screenshot

Is this the new MAALA, or is this another side to the MAALA fans already know? That is to say, what's next?

MAALA: The album feels like a progression – it’ll feel familiar to some extent. I’ve definitely taken elements from the EP – but even still, I feel like I’m trying new things out and seeing what works; that will probably never change. That’s just my perspective; I’m intrigued to hear what others think.

Kind of Love - MAALA

Kind of Love – MAALA

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Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com