Mallrat Emerges From Her Chrysalis in ‘Butterfly Blue’ [Q&A]

Photo: Kat Neisler

After much anticipation, Mallrat's debut album Butterfly Blue arrives as a love letter to the heart of bedroom pop.

Currently touring with artist and friend Conan Gray, the Brisbane-based artist has captured the hearts of many and left us anxiously awaiting what was next. Not rushing it out of its chrysalis, Butterfly Blue materializes perfectly on time, encapsulating her essence in just eleven tracks. 

Songs like "Rockstar" and "To You" bring us back to when pop was allowed to be easy. You're not overwhelmed with decoration or distracted by entangling metaphors; it's just Mallrat and her supple truth. "Teeth" pays homage to the Lana del Reys that pioneered this simplicity - lyrics that paint a picture you can step through and feel.

A track comprised only of angelic harmonies, strings, and keys, "I'm Not My Body, It's Mine" could move you to tears before you're through with the first listen. It celebrates the arrival of an overcoming, and you can't help but celebrate, too.

What makes this project so sweet to taste is that it's fully hers. She's not mimicking her peers, and in an industry that has glorified being emotionally unreadable, Mallrat remains soft. Her bubbly essence makes it so easy to invite her in; she's curious, child-like, and appreciative of the little things while committed to winning the big ones.

We sat down with the artist to discuss keeping her inner child alive in her work, collaborating with Azealia Banks, and of course, why caterpillars deserve rights.

Ones To Watch: "Rockstar" reminds me of mid-early 2010s pop. What's your perspective of the evolution of the genre?

Mallrat: I feel like my personal perspective is limited because that's when I started listening to music. My world was Black Eyed Peas, Lana Del Rey, Florence and the Machine. But I do think that sounds have merged together, which can be really interesting and cool. There's not much of a genre separation anymore for artists or listeners and I find that really exciting. That's how I approach music making, I cherry pick all these different things that I love.

To go from being an immense fan of Azealia Banks to featuring her on your project, walk me through the emotional process of that.

Just excitement and not being able to wipe a smile off of my face for a really long time. That's what that felt like. It's so special when someone that you admire who seems so distant and far away genuinely appreciates what you make and wants to work on stuff together; it's the biggest honor that there is. Whoever that person might be for anyone else, it's the most incredible feeling. It's more fulfilling than a lot of the metrics we use to measure success. That, for me, was the most important metric, but you can't really plan for it or predict it. It's just a surprise that happens.

As someone who truly seems to keep their inner child alive, what are some of the ways that you prioritize play in your artistry?

Thanks for saying that because I really do feel like a big kid. I think I'm just not embarrassed to seem child-like. It's truly just my personality, it's not an intentional thing. I have this giant soft teddy with me all the time on tour, and I think that's a very physical example of how much I love being a little kid. Cute things bring me joy and make me feel like myself.

It bleeds into your music as well! It feels so light, youthful, airy. What feeling do you want your audience to take from your music?

Any feeling, really. If you can make music that somehow creates a feeling at all, whatever that feeling is, I think that's a pretty good achievement. My favorite feelings are ones like nostalgia; it isn't just happy but there's also an element of sadness or melancholy to it as well. Feelings that are confusing and conflicting. Finding hope in a sad situation or feeling lost about moving on, things that contradict each other. I think those are really special feelings.

Beautiful. In reference to the name of the project, what do butterflies mean to you? 

Even if the album seems like a metaphor, it wasn't intentional, though I do feel like I have grown a lot over the last few years and in the time that I have been working on this album. I've become more confident in myself. As far as butterflies go, I'm obsessed with animals, especially insects. I think that they're just incredible and what is so crazy about butterflies to me is their metamorphosis. Caterpillars are just going about their lives eating their leaves and then one day they go "Today is the day where I'm going to wrap myself in a cocoon and go to sleep forever." That's just an instinctive thing that they know to do! They don't know what's going to happen next, they just know they have to go to sleep in this sleeping bag they've built for themselves and once they're in there, they dissolve themselves with their own digestive enzymes and create a new creature out of the goo that they've become. They come out of their chrysalis and they're unrecognizable, they can fly, but they still have memories of their time as a caterpillar. That is so incredible.

Wow, yes! Justice for caterpillars. Butterflies get the most attention but caterpillars deserve their flowers, they're incredible creatures as well.

Thank you! I get so frustrated when people want to squash bugs, especially when they're complaining like "The caterpillars are eating all my plants blah blah blah I'm gonna put some pesticide out," like they become butterflies and moths you idiot, don't do that. They might not be pretty right now but they're important.

I wanted to read this quote from you because I loved it so much. You said, "My favorite style of lyric writing is not airy fairy metaphors; they’re saying 'This is what your car sounds like. I’m here watching TV. It feels like this.' I love when you can vividly describe a scene." I'd love for you to expand on it further because I feel like songwriting has gotten into this odd competitive place of who can sound the most ethereal.

Yeah, I think when people are creating with their egos to try and make themselves sound clever rather than doing what's best for the piece of art, whether it's cooking or fashion or painting, when you make it about yourself and how you want other people to see you, you immediately limit what the thing you're making can be. I think that quote was me reflecting on how I'm not trying to sound clever, I'm not trying to use the biggest words that I can use. I'm trying to paint a picture and bottle up a feeling.

Journaling about this immediately. And lastly, who are your Ones To Watch?

Nina Jirachi. She's from Australia and she's an incredible artist, producer, and friend of mine. She has a song coming out really soon called "Start Small" and I'm lucky enough to have the demo on my computer and I listen to it all the time. I also really like this American artist Ethel Cain. She reminds me of a new Lana Del Rey almost.

Mallrat's Butterfly Blue is available everywhere you can stream it.