In frame: Mali
In frame: Mali

Mali makes a mark: Singer-songwriter Maalavika Manoj aka Mali rolls out her biggest tour yet 

Indie musician Mali rolls out her biggest show yet with her 'SAB Tour'. Our chat with her reveals the story behind the single and more...

While it is no secret that singer Mali aka Maalavika Manoj is growing to be a prominent name in the Indian indie music scene, we have learnt why she deserves all the praise coming her way. With a head-bobbing banger in the form of Semi Automatic Butane (SAB) having recently been released, it is clear that her efforts to maintain a malleable approach to creating remain unfazed. Mali, having already won the hearts of her listeners online with this release, is promoting it further with the SAB Tour. Being her biggest tour yet, Mali assures us of unforgettable performances, multiple band gigs and new tracks being revealed during the tour. With the tour kicking off today, and her performance in Pondicherry being slated for early next year, we rope her in for a chat where she reveals many details about the song, the inspiration behind the same, the process of creating the music video and more

This song came to you at a random moment when you saw someone smoking. Is it true and how does the incident connect to the song?
Yes, that’s true. I saw someone lighting a cigarette and the flame from the lighter was so big, it almost burnt off his hair. Though nothing happened and we all laughed it off, it got me thinking about the act of smoking itself and how much we love to hate it. How dangerous it is but how accessible too. So, the song itself is about how we willingly indulge in potentially dangerous behaviour.

Your song is named quite uniquely. Can you tell us how the name came to be?
I likened the act of smoking to a locked and loaded gun always ready to go.

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Your song gives off the heydays of 2000s pop-rock and creates beats that can easily turn into earworms. How did you arrive at this score?
I grew up in the 2000s, so that sound was a very natural choice. The genre itself sounds playful and intense at the same time which made it a perfect choice for the theme of the song. I love it when artists take a sound that was associated strongly with a certain period of time, and make a fresh version of it which sounds more current and I end up doing the same with my music. 

Your music video has some eclectic visual elements, including an array of hues, camerawork and costumes. What was your discussion with the director like?
I just wanted to do something badass with the video. I spoke to Naman Saraiya, whom I have worked with for my previous release Walk Away. This time, I said I wanted us to go all out and do something whacky. The brief was really, “Let’s make people wish they were a part of this production and just have fun with it because that will definitely come through to the viewers”. My guitarist and flatmate, Lala (Apruv Isaac) is a wildlife photographer and he happened to be in Jawai filming leopards. We decided to join him and shoot in the shrub forests of Rajasthan because it had a sort of rocky, Mad Max Fury Road terrain and we would have access to jeeps we could drive around there. It was contrasted with shots of my friend and collaborator Aria Nanji in a stationary Xerox shop in Mumbai. The idea was to depict escapism and the need to break free from an ordinary life.

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How will this tour be different from your performances before?
This tour will be the biggest one I’ve done so far. And the first once since the pandemic. It will also feature multiple band gigs as well as solo gigs and will see me visiting cities I’ve never been to before. I plan to take my music to all corners of the country and show people what we sound like live.

How has the reaction from your peers and the audience been up till now?
My peers in the music industry know how difficult organising live gigs can be. Most venues agree only to give artists a gate share and so the onus is on the musicians to pull a crowd in each city. The fans are just happy we’re making a trip to their cities and I really hope to meet as many of them as I can and make some new ones too!

We're aware that you produce some different flavours with each project. Is experimenting important to you as an artiste?
Absolutely. I change it up quite automatically because a new release gives me a chance to experience a different facet of my own personality. I do have the mopey sad girl side, I have the vintage aesthetic, I have a side to me that likes doing adventurous things and each song I write takes me on a new journey.

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Tell us about your experience collaborating with producing Keshav Dhar.
Keshav Dhar is someone I’ve always looked up to as a musician and as a trailblazer in the indie world. He has done such pathbreaking stuff with Skyharbour and I’ve always enjoyed our conversations. He seemed like the obvious choice for a song like SAB facilitated ideas from me that I didn’t know I had before and I think that’s the beauty of working with a good producer.

When are you bringing the SAB tour to Chennai?
Chennai looks like it will happen sometime in Feb. We are still working out the details. 

SAB is available on all audio streaming platforms.
The music video is on YouTube.

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