afropunk premiere: queercore / emo band mallrat finds power in pain on the cathartic and necessary debut ep “every breath a fracture” #soundcheck

December 2, 2016

In a tiny living room above The Silent Barn, we crammed around a space barely big enough to fit the drum kit whose bass drum kept slipping, let alone a band and audience. Singer Melo introduced each song with the line “this is a song about trauma and stuff” that moved from uncomfortable, to heartbreaking, to absurd, to hilarious and cathartic, as the band performed the unique magic trick of making songs about personal struggle and pain into an invitation to commune. This is bummed out indie rock that doesn’t wallow, it searches for meaning. It’s an emo TARDIS: bigger on the inside than on the outside. Fitting for a band that describes themselves as “gay angels making songs about living in a racialized, gendered, traumatized body.” Their debut EP every breath a fracture is basically their live set stored in a capsule and presented in pristine detail, it’s heartbreaking and cathartic and necessary.

The interplay between guitarists Melo and Em forms the backbone of the record, with each carving out Fugazian space for themselves on top of drummer Ro’s fractured pulse. They have no bass player. They need no bass player. Melo’s lyrics, particularly on “i don’t hate my body I’m just afraid of it” and “i don’t really wanna try” are the kind of honest straightforward poetry most emo singers think they’re writing when they’re really just being kinda misogynistic solipsists. “I feel pretty when you look at me” is easily the best song to come out of the scene in a decade, and almost singlehandedly justifies a decade of sitting through the aforementioned solipsists’ attempts to clone themselves into some combination of Morrissey and Geoff Rickly through the awesome power of so many breakdowns. It doesn’t quite because nothing can be that good. But in the moment when Ro’s cymbals crash beneath the chorus, lifting the song into an anthem for anyone who’s ever survived trauma, it kinda feels like it.

The band explains: 

“Every breath a fracture” is my attempt at unraveling my trauma with the help of my bandmates Em and Ro. I wrote the first song on this record about sitting in a room with all my beautiful freaky queer friends of color, looking around, and realizing that every person in that room was a survivor of sexual violence. It’s difficult for me to access or speak directly about my trauma, which is why I write about things like re-experiencing trauma in new relationships or waking up in my friend’s bed and realizing I trust them. This EP is an attempt to use my own words and noises to describe my body–it’s a response to the trauma of growing up as a queer Vietnamese kid in a white town and feeling like the narratives about my body and life were imposed on me. It’s difficult for me to trust people and MALLRAT as a three-piece is actually really new. This is the first EP that we’ve written together and my relationships to my bandmates feel really serendipitous (by the 2nd time Ro and I hung out we already knew each others’ histories of abuse, and I don’t even remember how this happened but when I met Em we joined each others’ bands instantly.) “every breath a fracture” is a reflection of this newfound trust, the difficulties of holding my friends’ pain while also honoring my own, and the sense of stillness that I’ve found in queer community.

By Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK contributor

Check out their tape release show on December 15th at Silent Barn with performances by Cristy Road, Shira, and April Mei and visuals by Mars Ganito.