An Interview with Mallory Knox’s Sam Douglas

Sam Douglas is one fifth of Mallory Knox, one of the British alt-rock’s current frontier bands. As the popularity of similar genre groups – Lower Than Atlantis, Young Guns and Twin Atlantic to name a couple – increases, Mallory Knox have found themselves on the front lines of a rapidly expanding genre. “We’re very privileged to be put in the same bracket as those guys. I’m so happy that people like Radio One and Reading/Leeds now put their faith in British rock music. There’s so much talent there and it keeps the other bands on their toes. You don’t want to be left behind, and I think that helps other bands step up their game – it does for us anyway”, Sam humbly explained. “It’s the strongest its been in my lifetime, since I’ve been doing it, and it’s about time that it happened”.
This mentality certainly seems to have worked – the band released their second album, Asymmetry, at the end of October, and so far its singles have been successful, with the videos for ‘Ghost in the Mirror’ and ‘Shout at the Moon’ racking up an impressive 600,000 YouTube views between them already. The response to the latter has been particularly positive; “it’s probably the best reaction to a song that we’ve had so far”, Sam gushed, “I love that song. It’s definitely surpassed expectations. I can’t wait to just get out and play it – I think it may be one of the highlights of our set, people have caught onto it really well so far.” Both tracks made it onto Radio One’s A-List, and constantly appeared to be on air throughout August and September. “I’ll never get used to it”, Sam boldly declared, “the other day I was stuck at a traffic light and the bloke next to me had his radio on – it was us playing at the time, and he was singing along. It was the weirdest thing.” Mallory Knox have strong ties with Radio One, having graced the Live Lounge twice now. “It’s the most nerve wracking thing we’ve done! It’s easier having people there when you can actually see them, a mistake in a live show goes under the carpet and you can get away with it, but in the Live Lounge it’s obvious to people. There’s normally around 80,000 people listening and when you get your head around the numbers its terrifying but I used to listen to it when I was at work on the building site, so to get to do it now is incredibly cool too”.
“I don’t mean to sound awful, but I don’t like music videos – the whole acting thing and having to fake play – I’d rather go out and play a show”, Sam confessed, an audible touch of exasperation in his tone. Along with the bigger fan base, an increase in popularity brings video perks to the band – “It was nice to have professional people at the music video shoots this time. We just turned up and got told what to do. It was stress free!”
With some of the band’s killer tracks, such as the popular ‘Shout at the Moon’ stemming from his fingertips (the other half are born of lead singer Mikey Chapman), Sam remained grounded when discussing the process of putting together tracks for Asymmetry. “We don’t follow a certain formula with the writing. Normally, I’ll have a verse and a chorus on an acoustic guitar then I take it to the band and we all work on it. It becomes a Mallory Knox song. That’s how a lot of them get started but ‘Piece of My Heart’ was written in an hour at a band practice. I was just fiddling around with a bass line then we all started on it and it was pretty spontaneous. Same for ‘QOD II’”. As with many bands of their genre, Mallory’s main inspirations are from personal experiences above anything else. “We don’t try and fake it. I wouldn’t try to write a song about politics ‘cause I’m not that clued up on it. What would be the point?” Sam rationally justified. “Signals [their debut] was obviously personal as well, but this album is even more personal purely because we’ve had more life experience in the last two years. Having been on tour missing friends and family, and break-ups ‘cause you’re always away, it’s been very easy to write about certain things because we were really feeling it”, he reflected, “When we finished the album it blew me away. I didn’t realise how many songs were about relationships breaking down so it taught me a lot about myself by the end. I just want to write about stuff that I’m feeling and going through so that I can get it off my chest”.
Although thematic similarities and personal stories permeate both LPs, Sam sees Asymmetry as a “completely natural progression. Since Signals we’ve been on the road for two years, so its two years of becoming closer as a unit. You can’t help it, you just become a better band. It’s the best album we could have written at this stage in our careers, there’s no doubt about that in my head. I just couldn’t be more happy with how it sounds and how its all come together. We took the time to focus on certain guitar sounds – with Signals it was just one sound throughout the whole record, but I feel each song here has their own personality. They fit and flow together, but they all stand out individually. Signals was recorded in three weeks, and this was done in four months and I really think that that shows”.
Amid much more mature sounding tracks, and a greater lyrical complexity and emotional appeal, Sam sees ‘She Took Him to the Lake’ as an exemplar of the band as it is now. The seven and a half minute track really showcases the band’s strengths. “I’m dead proud of it. It’s such a cool song. For the first four minutes it’s chilled, then it builds and builds and then explodes into one of the best chorus’ on the album. It’s still very Mallory but I think it shows how much we’ve progressed.” Whilst listening to Asymmetry, it’s definitely a track that stands out and really comes into its own. It’s not the only track that impresses either. “We knew what we were going for on this album and we went into the studio with the mentality of knowing what we wanted and how we wanted to get it. It just flew by and felt like a couple of weeks. I look back on the recording now and realise just how much I enjoyed it, and I think we all did”.
Mallory Knox have been knocking about for some time now, yet the group have had some incredible chances since Signals was released in 2013. Yet, like most bands, they definitely never thought they’d make it where they are. “The show that sticks out for when I realised this was Nottingham Rock City last year”, Sam reminisces, “I remember when we started out we played the basement to ten people. Same for a couple of years, then it was 30, then 40. We always wheeled our gear through the main room and imagine playing it one day. Last November we played it and sold it out. It was crazy! The show itself was insane, definitely in my top five shows.”
The band recently headed Down Under, and are “starting out again” in Australia. “It was really nice to go back to basics and play to people who didn’t have a clue who we were. How has this little band we started in our drummer’s living room gone to the other side of the world? It does blow our minds. We had a practice the other day and stayed talking for a couple of hours, just looking back. We’ve done so much, more than we could have ever dreamed of doing at this point, and we definitely don’t take it all for granted”, a sentiment obvious in their sound.
As the band’s tour looms, Sam is definitely itching to get back into the swing of live shows. “I just want to do it so badly. It’s been a year since our last headline tour and it feels like a year. I’m itching to get back out there, itching to play the new songs, itching to do it.”