Interview with Malo Zima: Writing for Winter

Malo Zima_all

I caught up for coffee with Amela Duheric and Jacob de Weger from emerging Brisbane band Malo Zima.   Check out their cool new single ‘I Heard You Howl‘ and catch them at 4 Walls Festival this Saturday August 3rd.

What’s Malo Zima about?
Jacob: Malo Zimas about having a good time.  Haha, that’s not what it’s about – that’s how it started.  It’s about bringing Amela’s songs to an audience.

Amela: Yeah, it’s about bringing them to life.

So you’re the principal songwriter?
Amela: Usually Jacob co-writes it too.  When it started out, I’d write the songs and I’d show him.  Then we played gigs around the city and we realised we needed to expand.  So then Declan joined us on slide guitar and harmonica.  Now we have a drummer and a bassist and it’s a thing.

Cool.  So how would you describe your sound?
Jacob: We try not to confine ourselves to any one genre; we kind of bring a lot of different influences to the table.  Declan’s really into his blues stuff, Tom’s more into Jazz.  Krishan is into funk, and I guess I like alternative.

Amela: Haha, he’s a huge Radiohead fan.

Ah, so although you and Amela are principal writers, the other guys come in and add to it?
Amela: Yeah, we’ve written a couple of songs and it just starts out as a jam.  I think that kind of stuff is truly like our sound.  I don’t have a solid structure, we just make it together.

Jacob: Yeah, it started off as Amela’s project, and she’d bring her songs to the band and we’d just add our parts to that.  As of late, we’ve been jamming and collaborating more so a different sound is emerging, as opposed to what we’ve been doing in the past.

Amela: It’s a bit a like alternative….country

Jacob: Don’t say country!

Amela: But it is.

Jacob: It’s a little bit country, a little bit ambient.  We’ve got some rocking moments, some mellow folk moments.  We try and keep it interesting, we don’t want to stick with a cliché genre or be put in a box.

What does ‘Malo Zima’ mean?
Amela: The name came about because my dad always used to call me ‘malo’ which mean ‘little’, as in ‘little girl’, and ‘zima’ means winter, so it’s ‘little winter’ in Bosnian, which is where I’m from.

Malo ZimaDid you grow up there?
Amela: No, I grew up here, I was born there.  My whole background is Bosnian, and I grew up in a Bosnian household.  But it also resembles the music in a way – little winter – because it’s the sound we’re going after: woodsy, wintery…

Jacob: It’s music for winter.  It’s not music you’ll be rolling down your windows for, or be down at the beach.  It’s more like huddled in a house next to a fireplace, but you’ll get thrown out into the cold once in a while.

So you’re playing 4 Walls on Saturday.  Is this your first festival?
Amela: Yeah, this is our first festival, second gig.  So we’re getting out into the world like straight away!  We’re really excited to play.

And are you bringing out an EP soon?
Jacob: Yeah well we’ve just released a new single, our first single.

Jacob: It’s called ‘I Heard You Howl’ and we released it in June. So we’ve got that.  We’re currently working on a EP’s worth of songs.  So they’ll be recorded within the year hopefully.

Have you picked your producer yet?
Jacob: We usually record ourselves, because me, Declan and Krishan study [sound] production, so we usually rent out a studio or record it at home.  But for ‘I Heard You Howl’, we got a very talented engineer by the name of Tristan Hoogland.  He’s just started a recording/mixing studio in Marooka called Hunting Grounds Studios. Haha, there’s a name drop there.  But yeah, we’ll get it mixed by someone else, just so we have someone with an outsider’s perspective.

What’s your approach to song-writing?  You touched on it before, but what works for you?
Amela: Well, when Jacob and I started playing, it was very much all my songs, and then you [Jacob] would just add a part to it.  But lately, Jacob’s been writing the songs and I write the melody.  Or we’ll flesh things out together.  A few of them I just wrote at once and then ‘I Heard You Howl’ I wrote throughout a number of days.

Jacob: We might have some ideas for melodies or what kind of rhythms we want played underneath.  We’ll communicate that to the band and eventually it will start taking shape.  It’s kinda like a sculpture.  We’ll start out with like a block of stone, and then kinda hack away at it until it’s nice and smooth.

Malo Zima_abstractLast question: You’ve talked about the song title, it has ‘howl’ in it, and you’ve talked about the woods and the wintery feel.  Is this a kind of fairy-tale theme?
Jacob: It’s kinda mystical, so I think that’s where you’re getting that fairytale stuff from.

Amela: A lot of the songs I write I kind of imagine like I’m somewhere else.  Especially with the ‘I Heard You Howl’. It was situated in the woods; it had a theme around it.

Jacob: It grew with the music; it wasn’t like we wrote the music and then went ‘we need an image for this’.  While we were writing the songs we were picturing the images I guess.  It’s just the whole feeling, when we wrote the songs we were both thinking of how to represent it.

Natural seems the key word.
Amela: Yeah, it stands out to me that the music we perform is not what’s happening now.  It feels like you are somewhere else.  And whenever I’m performing, it feels like it’s something special, it’s not ordinary, it’s like an experience.

Jacob: Yeah, just trying to remove ourselves from all that.  Just going our own way.

Amela: But in general, not just the music: the performance, our EP, the artwork, our personalities, it make us.  It’s like escapism in a way.

That’s Malo Zima.  Thank you for talking with me!

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