Having toured with tech-gods Hacktivist and the Indian metal sensation Bloodywood, Lake Malice is set to stand above many of their alternative counterparts due to their innovative songwriting and stellar production. Towards the end of August, they will be supporting Enter Shikari on their European tour. I can’t really understate just how important Lake Malice is.
With the rise of two-piece bands such as Vukovi and WARGASM, it is not entirely surprising that Alice Guala and Blake Cornwall are revelling in the creative freedom that the dynamic offers. The unceasing energy of ‘Magic Square‘ and ‘Stop the Party‘ leaves you unsure where to turn your ears next as each section changes melody or rhythm or genre. Each part has meticulous attention to detail, and their merging of metal and electronic dance sounds conjures images of John-Wick-style fight scenes in neon-lit cyberpunk nightclubs. So right up my street, then.
In an interview with Kerrang! Magazine, the pair discussed their creative struggles, each trying to find their way in the industry, but struggling with the egos and ethics of those around them. Having grown up in Italy, Alice has commented on the opportunities that the UK offers in comparison.
We sat down in the press area of Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse after their explosive set at Radar Festival to discuss their artistic values, Alice’s outspokenness, and experiences in the industry in further detail.
You don’t have much music out and Lake Malice is relatively new – how has this happened? What is your secret?
Alice: “First of all, we started everything at a time when we weren’t able to play live. We met around March 2021 [mid-pandemic], and because of that, a lot of the effort that was put into stuff was purely towards online activities. Whatever music we put out, we were trying to promote it as much as we could. Just doing our best with social media and all that stuff. And I think that created some opportunities that helped to get us on the road when everything went back to normal.”
“We had two tracks out, ‘Blossom‘ and ‘Creepers’. We did those two together and dropped them with no real plan besides promoting online. And after that, it was continuous gigging – a lot of shows throughout the UK, first. Lots of support slots and meeting our booking agent was what helped us.”
Blake: “It’s hard to pinpoint the exact catalyst for what enables opportunities such as this one – to be sitting here at Radar Festival. I think it’s always going to be a mixture of things, isn’t it? Work ethic – if you are offered shows that are good for your project, you need to be able to do them. You’ve got to be willing to commit to the project and not only do it when it’s convenient for you, which I think some bands could be guilty of. We’ve tried to do all of the shows that were worth doing, there have been some really good opportunities there. One thing has led to another.”
Alice: “Yeah, and then building relationships with the people who listen to our music. We started this Discord server not long into the project, so we feel really close to the people in the community that is around our music. Even if there is not a lot of it out there, the message we are putting out is pretty clear, I think, to them.”
Blake: “I don’t think there is an exact science to it. A lot of it feels like it’s down to luck, at least from our perspective, because we’re like, ‘Why are we here?’ (laughs).”
“We’ve not released a lot of music, and I think that’s a good thing in some ways because it enables us to understand what this project is through testing it on the road before we dig in and commit to a sound. But it’s been a challenge, as well – part of it is working full time.”
Alice: “And writing music and gigging.”
Blake: “Being away on tour at every opportunity. Something’s got to give, and I think for us, writing has sort of been hard – to do things our way. But we’re catching up with that.”
“You need to try and have a good work ethic and hope that the right people see it. A lot of our opportunities have come through our agents and our manager. Alice was good at promoting us online with paid social media. You’d be surprised by how much of the music industry will see your stuff, even if you don’t realise it. You post a picture or a video – whatever it is – and it might only get 40 likes, but you don’t know who’s seen that. You could have the head of a great management company or an agent come across it.”
Alice: “There’s literally artists making it purely out of TikTok, right now.”
I suppose it’s about having a good look, online.
Blake: “Yeah, that really helps.”
Alice: “Having a strong visual identity, yeah.”
For me, I immediately attached myself to you because you look great, you sound great – there’s something here worth exploring. I think that might be one of the big differences between bands that are doing well and those that aren’t. But I also feel like, even if you have all that, there is that element of luck required to drive it over the line.
Blake: “It’s a combination of all of the above. You need to have a strong idea of how you want to be seen – a strong message with your branding. I think there’s no excuse for thinking, ‘Okay, we’re going to put out a song and work on our branding later,’ or vice-versa. You need to be trying to be at a level which is as high as other bands you listen to yourself because you have all the tools. You can record studio-quality mixes at home, or you can at least send recordings to someone who can mix them without the need to go to the studio.”
“I think a lot of projects might not be willing to invest in those things from the get-go.”
It’s daunting though, isn’t it? It’s a lot of money.
Alice: “Oh, yeah.”
Blake: “That’s been catching up with us, hasn’t it?” (turns to Alice and laughs)
You’ve mentioned missing out on career opportunities. How do you balance working full-time and doing music?
Alice: “I’m struggling a lot with that, right now. It started off easier because it’s gradual – you see changes and opportunities and you don’t want to say no to them. But at the same time, you’ve got this whole other life that is completely different and aimed at keeping a roof over your head, I guess. It’s hard to juggle.”
“It takes a bit toll on your mental health, as well. It depends on the type of work you do, but it’s really hard to be there with your full mind when you’re splitting yourself between things. Sometimes it’s really hard to manage and prioritise – what comes first? If you have the weekend to work over a track or a music video or organise a tour, you’ve got so much going on, and you’ve got to be so good and planning. And it takes energy to be good at planning. You’ve got to be on it, and sometimes the energy is just not there.”
“Some things could be going faster than they are, right now, but … yeah. And this is the reality for a lot of artists that don’t do this full-time because you’ve got to.”
Blake: “We’re fortunate that we both work at home, most of the time – we’ve got that flexible working.”
Alice: “Yeah, that’s lucky.”
I’m in a similar position and I find that it helps massively. Being able to finish working at five and then get picked up for rehearsal immediately. Or being able to meal-prep. It saves a lot of time.
Blake: “It is just kind of how it is, and if you don’t fully love what you’re doing then that will be the thing that stops you taking it as far as it goes.”
Alice: “I think even if you love it, sometimes it’s hard because it’s not only about loving it, it’s believing in it. It’s a thing that fluctuates. Maybe some other people are always confident, but I don’t always feel confident. There’s periods where I’m like, ‘This is great! This is amazing!’ And then there’s periods where I’m like, ‘What the fuck are we doing?'”
And that’s natural, I think.
Blake: “To play the show today, we did our full weeks of work, and then we basically left straightaway on Saturday. It’s five hours up here and then we’ll do five hours home. And then it’s straight back into work. Because we’ve done that, I’m going to go insane.”
Alice: “We’re going to enjoy it.”
Blake: “I’m going to have the best time I can possibly have, because we work hard for it, and these are opportunities that so many bands would kill to have, I think. It’s great to be in that privileged position. I try to never forget that.”
I think that’s a good way of looking at it. Especially when you consider all the admin you’ve got to do. It’s like running a business, isn’t it? And if you don’t have the money to pay for someone to help you do some of those things, it’s tough.
Blake: “My god, yeah. 100%”
You’ve said that being a two-piece offers you more creative freedom because in the past you’ve both struggled with that. What were your issues at the time?
Alice: “I mean, it always comes down to the people that you work with. It’s like being in an office, or any other workplace. If you find the right people to work with then it’s fine. But at the same time – this is going to sound really stupid – I think it’s mathematical (laughs). The more people you work with, the more likely you are to meet someone you’re not fully aligned with. I think it’s very rare for people to be able to work creatively together and not have to compromise as much on some aspects of the project. So, combined with the personality aspects and the creative control aspects, I think that’s where being a two-piece helps us. Not having to go through too many obstacles.”
Blake: “And signoffs on decisions. The bands that I’ve spoken to that work really well – I’m thinking of some particular bands we’ve played with recently – they all have specific roles. One member is the creative, writing side, and someone else will do the photography and the visual side of it, and I think that’s a really good case of how you can work as a team but not tread on each other’s toes.”
“Whereas, my experiences have been, ‘Everybody’s involved in everything,’ and ‘Everyone is too controlling,’ and I’d never really found that group of people where we could all fit into those roles. And I think that’s a really hard thing to come across, isn’t it?”
Alice: “We’re both traumatised, basically. That’s why Lake Malice exists.” (laughs)
Blake: “Built through trauma!”
I understand that, though. You don’t want to get 20 years down the line and end up hating the people you’ve gotten the success alongside.
Blake: “It does happen. It’s a common challenge for, probably, all bands – the relationship side of it. We create more work for ourselves because there’s only two of us. There’s more we each have to do to make this project work, and that eats into our time. But at the same time, we’ve realised that the project probably wouldn’t be happening at all if it wasn’t just us two. So it’s harder, but it’s the only way it really functions.”
At this point, I’d been trying not to burst out laughing as I had noticed Blake wearing the same glasses as me. There’s something incredibly grounding about discovering an artist you like also goes to Specsavers.
I’ve just noticed – do we have the same glasses?
Blake: “I actually dropped my glasses on the way to a dentist appointment and they got run over, literally last week, so these are my backup pair.”
How did they get run over?
Alice: “Imagine dropping them, and then they get run over as well.”
Blake: “That summarises most of my days, to be fair.”
Alice, you’ve talked a bit about the differences between working in music in Italy compared to the UK. Is it better here, in a lot of ways? What is the situation like in Italy for women artists?
Alice: “I think, besides the gender side of things, which is an issue pretty much everywhere, I’ve always felt that, from my perspective, in Italy, it’s a bit more … it’s got to be a cultural change that’s happening a bit more slowly, there. But just in general, the alternative music scene isn’t as big as it is in countries such as Germany or the UK – it’s just not the genre that most people listen to.”
Would you say it’s not as well-progressed, because the scene isn’t as aged?
Alice: “100%. There’s a lot of traditionalism around pretty much everything. If you look at Italy right now – this is going to sound off-topic, but – there’s a conflict between Ukraine and Russia and one of the countries that is most pro-Russia is Italy.”
I didn’t know that.
Alice: “Yeah. Not so much in the government, fortunately. It’s a right-wing government, but they’re not supportive of Russia. But if you go around even online, looking at comments on the news, there’s a lot of people supporting Russia. Which is insane, if you think about it.”
It is. You just don’t really get that here, at all. Does that show a more conservative attitude among people, do you think?
Alice: “I think so. But, again, I do think it’s also a generational issue. A lot of young people leave Italy because of the economic side of things, which doesn’t really bring any security for young people, but also because of the state of things. It’s very conservative, and it seems to be going backwards, as well, with all these far-right movements coming up. Even for music – if anything, it’s probably getting worse. When I was in Italy – maybe ten years ago – and I was playing in bands, no matter how far you’d get … well, I didn’t have the same work ethic, but I also felt like the industry itself was not as mature as it is here.”
I feel like you can only really operate with the tools you’re given, in that case. There are a lot of problems in the UK, as well. Issues like saturation in genres, no money in the industry – everyone’s kind of just trying their best.
Alice: “But we did get the opportunities – something that doesn’t happen in Italy. Under every aspect, it’s not just music. It’s a country that’s owned by dinosaurs. They’re aging but their position stands the way it is and there’s nothing changing. It’s really sad. There’s so many instances where people don’t get opportunities. I’m really passionate about this topic! (laughs) I feel really strongly about it.
You can look at what the news is saying, but when you hear it from someone who used to be in that environment, it’s a lot more insightful. It’s not off-topic at all, it’s important.
There’s a line in Blossom that I resonate with, ‘Play the feminist but you can’t stand when the ladies grab a fucking pair,’ which is a fucking great line. (Alice laughs) ‘Got me wondering if you believe anything you say.’ Is that inspired by a specific experience?
Alice: “Oh yeah! (laughs) By a specific person. Usually, all the things I write about are about a real situation. No matter how many times something happens, usually there’s a trigger – sometimes it’s a person or a situation – that inspires me to write the song. In that case, it was somebody who was behaving or acting … Do you ever meet people who say, ‘Oh, I vote left-wing,’ but they’re the poshest people ever? (laughs) Not that I’m saying if you’re rich you can’t vote left-wing, but there’s people who like to sound as if they’re progressive, and they tell themselves a story about how they think they’re something they aren’t.”
It’s an image thing, isn’t it?
Blake: “No substance behind what they’re saying.”
Alice: “It’s ‘extrinsic’ values – a very interesting word that I just learned, which means you’re not doing something for your own beliefs, you’re doing it for other people’s perception of what you’re doing.”
Like virtue signalling.
Alice: “Yeah. And I noticed it in one particular situation, but then I noticed that it wasn’t just that one situation, it happens way more than you think with a lot of the values that we think we are carrying so well, right now. You’ve got to pair your words with some sort of fucking action, not then behave in a way that is not respectful towards women. Be in line with your values. Or shut up. (laughs)
There are lots of big personalities in music, especially in genres where technical skills and integrity are valued so highly. But I needn’t have been nervous to talk with Lake Malice. Alice and Blake are two of my favourite people I have met through doing this work; integral to their cores and highly skilled at what they do, yes, but also unafraid to have a laugh and speak with honesty.
British alternative is becoming a bigger genre every day; this year, the UK’s Heavy Music Awards was hosted at Wembley Arena; the surges of Sleep Token, Vukovi, Yonaka. I’m confident that Lake Malice are going to be massive and that all their hard work is going to pay off.
Photos: Courtney Turner
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