The Malcontents on their short ride to the high road You guys have been around for a year and reaching sudden superstardom. So that makes you, what, about 18 minutes into your episode of Behind the Music?
“This is what comes just before the dark period,” vocalist/co-founder Ryan Fohl says. “Now we all get along because we don’t have any money for drugs. The only reason we’re all clean and sober is because we’re fucking broke!”
-The Malcontents- Let’s try that again and ask someone who can answer seriously. Hey, guys, what’s it like being around for a year and suddenly being big stars on the competitive Indianapolis scene?
“It’s a lot to take in, especially when you’ve been on the scene for a few years and never got anywhere, then to take off so quickly,” says Toby Russell, lead guitarist. “It’s been a rocket ride.”
“We had direction right when we started,” Ryan interjects. “A lot of bands get together and just jam for a while and see how it feels. We knew what we wanted to do at the start and told everyone when they joined, ‘OK, you’ve got to be in this for the long haul and ready to work.’”
“Everyone brings their own musical influences,” adds Emmett Hall, drummer and co-founder. “People pigeonhole us as a ska band, but we’re a lot more. I throw a lot of metal into my stuff. Sharon [Koltick, bassist/vocalist] brings a lot of funk in, and Ryan brings some soul. I think we have one of the best horn sections in the Midwest. Not a lot of bands are doing that broad a type of music. The thing that makes us happy is not when people say, ‘They’re a great ska band,’ but, ‘That was a killer show. They were a killer BAND.’”
“I think ska is the label that annoys us the least,” Ryan says.
The band’s first album, Never Enough, was recorded in nine 16-hour days, with the whole band playing on each track. “We tried to make it sound like we were playing live,” Jason Inman, trombonist, says. “It made us a lot tighter as a band and as a family,” Emmett adds. They amused themselves in all sorts of ways during the long hours, including a game that combined free throws with dodge ball.
The pieces don’t sound like they should fit, but that’s the Malcontents’ way. “It’s kind of like going away to camp,” band manager and all-around sugarmama Kristen Leep says. Honestly, Sugarmama, that’s what they call her.
“There’s not a lot to do but sleep and talk to each other. It’s like, the whole time you’re there you’re thinking, ‘This isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be,’ but after it’s over you always look on it with fond memories.”
The entire band collaborates on the music; Ryan and Sharon write most of the lyrics. Ryan works on most of the politically-driven lyrics that have become a Malcontents trademark. “Politics is really one of the only subjects that gets me inspired to write a song,” Ryan says. “The name of the band sums it up. Promises have been made and not kept. We’re always pushing it. Always malcontent.”
“I’m more pissed off by the travesty that’s Johnny Depp playing Willy Wonka!” Emmett kicks in, right around the time everyone figures this is a good time for a bathroom break.
“Look, I started talking politics and everybody bailed!” Ryan exclaims.
“That’s why I have to put a catchy beat behind it!” Sharon, an English major, goes for a different approach. “I’m inspired by different things, but we both have the goal of trying to vocalize an experience and make people relate to it,” Sharon says. “When I write, it’s harder for me to think of things as lyrics. I just make lines that make sense to me, even if they don’t make sense to other people.”
No matter what, they both write songs to speak to the band’s motto (and T-shirt slogan): “Setting you free three minutes at a time!” “I remember a couple of people saying, ‘Hey, I really had a bad week, but when I came to your show it just all went away!’” Emmett says. “And that was the greatest feeling. Really, that’s the best we can do.”
Right around this point Sharon spontaneously takes over the interviewing job. “Jason, tell us what lyrics and song really speak to you,” she says to Jason. “Any song he solos on!” Toby exclaims. Jason shrugs and smiles. “Any song I solo on.”
She turns to trumpeter Cory Shields. “Cory, what makes you want to be a Malcontent? What drives you to come to practice all the time?”
“I bought that trumpet and it was really expensive, so I figured I should use the fucking thing!” Cory replies. “Everyone believes in me, so I can’t complain!”
“I can’t believe that I’m part of something that affects people so much they want to sing along and be part of it,” Emmett says. “Even if that album flops, I’m going to be the proudest man ever. I’m proud of everything in that CD. It’s totally us.” He looks at the album in a ponderous moment. “I didn’t think we’d come to this so quickly.”
“Any sooner would have been too soon and any later would have been too late,” Ryan says.
Vital stats : The Malcontents
CD release parties for their first album, Never Enough: Jan. 23, 8 p.m. at the Emerson Theater with Audible Thought and Loretta. All ages, free admission.
Jan. 24, 8 p.m. at the Patio with 83 Feet and Rhymefest. 21 and up, $3 cover. The first 200 attendees at each show get a Malcontents souvenir.
For a two page comic strip by Barfly comics author Wayne Bertsch, check out the printed copy of NUVO this week