Sydney's Alec Mallia's jumping headfirst into the year with something much more than just a new single. With news of his debut record as Autosuggest coming to us a little later in the year, he's given us a second taste of what we can expect from the experimental record, and it's come to us as 'Graphic'.
Autosuggest as a project is a bit of a new experience for Alec, cutting his teeth musically in other bands across town, but this is the first time he's put his name to something that's wholly his own. "Graphic alongside the majority of ‘Tame Harm’ was an exercise in confidence, pushing my own vocals through what used to be a layer of murky reverb to be up front, and as gnarled and broken as the synthetic components surrounding it," he says.
And the synthetic components to this one are what makes it so excitingly afflicting. From the onset, we're thrown into a pool of heavy distortion, distinguishable fuzz and monotone vocals. He's found the middle ground between electronic experimentation and rock instrumentation.
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With this huge release looming just over the horizon, we threw a few questions to Autosuggest to get to know him and what the project encompasses.
Who are you?
My name is Alec Mallia, born and raised across our city of Sydney. Autosuggest is the name of my music project, ripped from the Joy Division track 'Autosuggestion'. I think I maybe went with the name because I really wanted to have a kind of singular title associated with the sound, and the more I work with the beautiful artists and directors and musicians that have contributed to the project it’d feel kind of silly just going by my name.
How did Autosuggest come to be?
It probably all started when my mum sat me down to consecutively watch all her tapes of INXS music videos, I’ve got 'Just Keep Walking' etched into my memory. The only instrument I ever formally learned was the drums, at my folks’ insistence to do anything to get me away from a TV, probably. So it came as a surprise to them when I declared one day I was having a band practice — and even more so that I was the singer.
(Although, my mum later told me I used to hide behind these big curtains at my grandpa’s and make him announce me as Michael Hutchence before I would perform a routine and ask him to do it again.)
That little punk band was with three guys I grew up with in primary school, one of which, Jack McFarlane, is now my bass player, and Jesse Williams — who engineered and mixed the entirety of my upcoming debut album Tame Harm. Jesse and I used to fight like hell though, I was trying to pretend to be Ian Curtis and he was liking a lot more ahh... prog stuff? What’s Opeth? Sorry mate!
Eventually I got so stroppy one time he came to me and said, "You need your own project, I’ll teach you!”. So essentially Autosuggest started because my bandmates were sick of my shit.
What are we talking, vibe-wise?
Joy Division and New Order made me want to make music, that’s definitely where it started. If you listen to any of the older stuff like the Murmur EP or Presence / New Tides you can hear that new wave influence.
That kind of instrument setup definitely has continued and it’s a kind of liveliness I’m desperate to keep hold of. However with the newer stuff, I obviously moved out of the past.
Going into the production of ‘Tame Harm’, I wanted to push the envelope of combining quite moody riffs with aggressive electronics and a lot more rock influence. We blew up an amp making it so, it’s a rock album for sure. It wouldn’t be uncommon to take a synthesiser and stack 4 or 5 different kinds of distortion on top. Most of the equipment used on the record didn’t exist 10 or some even 5 years ago, including a synthesiser called the 0-Coast which was almost made for that, totally destroyed square-wave synth sound.
The two most used examples in and out of the studio during making the album were David Bowie’s Cracked Actor and Kanye West’s On Sight. In fact, take basically any producer from that Yeezus album and they’ll have a track I love.
I’ve been getting a lot of comparisons to Nine Inch Nails with the material and funnily enough the only songs I really know from them are Closer and Hurt. In way’s I reckon that’s probably fair, but also we don’t see a terrible amount of flirtation between that kind of rock setup and aggressive electronic.
Tell us a bit about your new single ‘Graphic’.
'Graphic' is probably one of the straight up most distorted and aggressive tracks on the record, it’s just meant to hit you in the face and keep going. All my lyrics are autobiographical, and at the time of writing it we were finally getting some more shows and my closer circle of friends had heard the studio records of most of the album and there was a lot of confidence going around.
Tied with that, a lot of it is tied to the kind of despair afforded to us by this bombardment of information every day, and I think mashing that very individualistic confidence with a kind of gallows humour of world news was an interesting perspective. Sonically, that’s probably best represented with the boppy little 'Egyptian Lover' style breakdown right next the the last slamming chorus. It might not sound like it at first but I think it’s a song about fun.
What can we expect from you moving forward?
Each song on my upcoming debut album Tame Harm is quite different, but all pack the same intensity. Live, we’re continuing to work on both our sound and lighting rigs to pack as much in as possible. The biggest smallest band you’ll ever see in Sydney is my go to. Hopefully we get some more gigs, I’d love to play a festival before the year’s end.
We’ve got some more videos, one being my directorial debut and another from my longtime collaborator Thom Muir, and that one is going to blow minds. I couldn’t be happier with the insane amount of work put in by everyone around me. As for where the sound is headed, there are definitely clues on the record, my first solid writing session is locked in, definitely want more feet to move.
Where can we hear more of your work?
Autosuggest is on almost everything I’d imagine, Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp (Vinyl!), Soundcloud. Live you can catch the team on Saturday, February 9th in Sydney at Waywards with Marcus Not Singing and To Kill A Dead Man!
Intro by CAITLIN MEDCALF