For nearly a decade, producer Chris Malinchak has been tantalizing our ears with his soulful and ethereal style of house. We've seen him go from early days with French Express filled with R&B samples galore, to poppier collaborations with artists like Mikky Ekko and MNEK, and some may have followed the producer to radio for The Malinchak Show. More recently he returned to French Express for his Blue EP, but last month saw the release of the Wash My Soul EP on his new label 2 Crows Records. One thing for sure, no matter where you're getting your dose of Malinchak, there's no shortage of positive energy and music that makes you simply feel good.
It's clear those good vibes and spirit naturally come from within. We were lucky enough to spend some time with Chris Malinchak to probe into his past, present, and future in music. In chatting, his excitement and passion is contagious. With his new Photograph EP and new record label 2 Crows Records, it's obvious that big things are in the works.
EARMILK: How would you describe your new Photograph EP?
CHRIS MALINCHAK: Ooh Photograph EP. It's funny when you title it I always hope that the focus isn't just on the one because I love them all. There's also "Watch" and "Simpatico." Oh it just saturates. "Simpatico" is thumpy. If there's a "clubby" one, it's that one. But it's that little bit of vocal you just want over and over. Then "Watch" is just so deep and subtle. And "Photograph" does one of my favorite things that house music does. Like it's sort of the repetitions of—and theory, theory can be off-putting, but it's nothing heavy duty. You'll hear terms in music theory like 7s, like major and minor 7s, or major and minor 9s. So it's like the back and forth at just the right speed, from major to minor 7, major to 7, minor to—and there's just this sort of like lilting, haunting vocal that just dances over it. And a tiny bit of saxophone! I'm excited, and I love it. It's just got a fog, man. Just a feeling and I'm looking forward to sharing it.
EM: You're so passionate, what do you enjoy about making music in general?
CM: Gosh. I think, well okay. So with all of this from the—it's just so crazy with all this. You make songs, you make music, and you get a big record, right. It leads to all this craziness. You're going around the world, you're playing, you're seeing people and the things they share, and the things you feel. But the thing still that is most enchanting about all this is that moment when you have an idea. Then you put it down, and the first time what you've imagined washes over you. That's the thing that I think that you can never get enough of, and you can't get it again! You get one shot at it per song. Think about it, right? You thought of it, okay, "Oh, f*ck, this is going to be f*cking bananas!" You sit down, and it just washes over you. And then there's the first drive with it, but I don't know. I don't know if that's a precise answer, but there's something about what you asked that led me to that. That's the thing I just can't wait for every time. So sometimes you never know when you'll think of something, anywhere. I remember "So Good To Me" was after doing pull-ups at the gym. I raced back to my place to do that because you have an idea and you don't know where it'll strike. And then hearing it wash over you is the thing I can't get enough of. Boom.
EM: You also have your new record label, 2 Crows Records…
CM: [Interrupts] Yes! 2 Crows! It's sort of fabled good fortune if two crows cross your path.
EM: Oh okay!
CM: Yeah, so that's how that came about! I just thought that it was so cool. As close as I am to New York, it's like a half hour out of midtown. It just so happens that it's at the edge of miles of woods, and so you see a lot of crows. They're just such—well I love all animals, they're just all so fantastic. Watching crows, they're so cool and smart. And then that coupled with that bit of lore about the good fortune, I go "How cool!" And I just was like, 2 Crows, I love it. It's a chance to share—and please stop me. Is this way too long?
EM: No! Not at all! You just stole two of my questions, keep going!
CM: Oh okay, this will be all the questions in one! So naturally, this leads me to, you ready? Having had a gigantic record with "So Good To Me," it led to experiences I would not trade for anything. Things thrown at me, people, plans, deals, and I went with Sony. Nothing but good intentions and good people! But with an organization that gigantic, it's very easy for things to [trails off]. You know, you could take one facet of that operation and spend hours and hours talking about it. I guess the point I'm getting at is, having had the big hit and then experiencing what it's like to be with a major and the things that are great about it. And there are tons of things. And the things that are just nobody's fault, but things just happen. Really, and that's not being evasive. It's what happens. Things you wouldn't even expect. Like say you meet with the guy that runs the whole operation. You love him, it's like a love-fest! Three weeks later he's out. And he may not have even seen it coming. So all these people, the changing of the guard, it's ceaseless. So anyway, but the point is, after all that happened and having gotten clear of it, and feeling so good. And you know I'd always been kind of with all of that slightly reluctant with the touring. Like doing a show is so special, to land somewhere and go on a stage and share things you've written with people that just want to be there with you because they love what you've written, and they're just curious, and want to share the night with you. It's tremendous. It really is. But um, I was reluctant because I did one outing in Europe for a number of weeks with Sony and just, things weren't right. You know what I mean. So I wanted to wait until all of that was taken care of. So now—I guess that was a BIG explanation as of part of my excitement with 2 Crows—it's a chance to do things exactly as I see them, when I see them, when I feel them, when I hear them. You just want to move quick. You hear something, you have an idea, boom, you want it out. Literally you can have a song you love and it can get so tied up with the majors, a song comes out nine months later. You think of a song at a certain time for who knows why, like literally everything's aligned a certain way. You know, feelings, you're feelings, everyone's feelings, culture, everything. So it just doesn't hit the same way. So the immediacy of putting things out when you want, and then to kind of jump back to the shows. Now, I've got this wonderful new team around me and so the shows are going to make sense, it's so exciting! This is how I envisioned it when I struck the whole thing with Sony. And I'm either very close with most, or still in touch with some of the people, so it's fantastic, no hard feelings. And now it's just like, the runway's clear.
EM: Would you say you're most excited about the freedom in having your own label versus being on a major label?
CM: Yeah, and free only in that like, a manager who never officially managed me but is a good friend of all this, kind of always joked, he goes "Too many chefs and not enough… no, too many chiefs and not enough Indians, or something like…" It's true man, even though you have so many good-natured sweet and powerful people, yes, the freedom, just to make a record. You love a record, let's share the record, that's it. You know, that's it. It's as simple as that.
EM: Do you see any other artists joining you on your label?
CM: Oh sure, if it feels right. Absolutely! I think what will happen because I just love making songs, love making records. So I'm always meeting up with people, sessions, doing this, doing that. So now you have a record you love. You're like, "I love it but it's not right for me." And something that's just happened, and because it hasn't officially happened yet for her in stone, I don't want to say. I was just hanging out with someone and now this record is signed with Armada. So I think that's kind of cool, and I'm happy, because now this record has a life that didn't feel right. But it still should have its journey. And that's something I may do too here and there, you know, like a one-off with someone. There's no reason, I'm not antisocial. I play with others. But yeah, I could see just putting out things here and there. Perhaps if something feels really good, getting behind a few records with someone and like set them on a journey. Nothing like "Oh you're all locked in stone. But we'll do a few records together. Let's have fun." But yeah, definitely.
EM: Going back to where you've come from with "So Good To Me" up until now, French Express is also very important in there.
CM: Of course it is! My boys, I love 'em all!
EM: How did you first get involved with French Express?
CM: French Express was a blog, and the dude that ran it, his name is Leon. He was making records under Perseus. Acutally, he hadn't even yet. He found something I just threw something up on SoundCloud, and he loved it and he's just one of those dudes who goes "Big guy!" You know, he tracked me down, and he's a really nice guy. Everybody that was involved in French Express are really decent people. All of them, for real. I was figuring out what I wanted to do. I was pumping gas, I was just doing whatever. I wasn't doing too much, but I knew I wanted to start doing things in a more serious way I guess. So let's see. I guess the point of this is, he was just loved this tune. And his idea was, "I've got this blog, I want to turn it into a label. Why don't you know, make records, and then I can just kind of jump in and do the things that a label would do. I want to turn this blog into a label." And I just loved his energy and I loved how he looked at things. Always positive. One of those guys that's never negative. And he has a sense of humor. We're still very tight, we're good friends. And we joke around. That's the thing man, we laugh at a lot of the same stuff. So that's the thing. Sometimes we would just get on the phone and laugh at things and just f*ck around. That's how that kind of started. So I just was making tunes and he messed with the art, and posted it, and people got excited. And he brought some other guys on board and it just kind of had an energy and a sound everyone was really getting into. Then of course "So Good To Me" was just monstrous. That just exploded. And then Leon still jokes, he goes "That ruined the label!" It did! Because it was just so big. And that was it kind of. Because then you pause for a second when something like that happen. Then I got with Sony, then we stayed friends, then just he was like, "I don't know what the next move is." And that's kind of what happened. Then my buddy Jonas was like, "Well, nothing's really… I guess I'm just gonna go off and do my thing." And then that was it. That was literally it. But it was fun and they're all sweet dudes. Was that a relatively thorough answer?
EM: Yeah, it just kind of came together and you guys loved it.
CM: Yeah, it was very loosely designed and just kind of worked out. But he was excited. So the way I can be, I tend to go, "That could be cool, man, yeah look I've gotta run." But he was so persistent. I was like, "F*ck it, I like this guy's energy." The truth is when you do certain things, you're approached, you're kind of careful. Because if everyone wants to always do shit, you've generally got to be selective. And I just felt like there was something there, and there was. A bit of energy, a bit of vision, and camaraderie, and friendship, and humor. Humor's important, with any relationship. You've got to be able to laugh.
EM: Do you think you guys will ever come back together for maybe a reunion tour or something?
CM: Gosh, boy, anything's possible. I won't say never. The truth is, nothing like that's been talked about. But I don't see why not. I don't see why that wouldn't be a thing, it could be fun!
EM: I'd be excited!
CM: Yeah, see! You'd be excited. Right? For sure though, I'm sure everyone would be happy to get together because why not? It's fun.
EM: Do you yourself have any shows lined up for the future?
CM: Yeah, well, I'm getting a real proper plan together. I'm going to be playing end of the month in San Francisco. There's a bunch of other things being looked at and I don't want to [trails off]. I think it'll probably land so there'll be just the right shows. Because you could be playing continuously if you want, it's got to be the right feeling shows. I think that probably through the summer there'll be the right few a month, just here and there. And then just go from there, because I think what I want to do is all the shows that feel really good, a couple festivals sprinkled in through the summer into the fall, and the right releases kind of with them give or take every 5 or 6 weeks, literally, "boom, boom, boom, record, record, record." You know? And then kind of look at things, I kind of want to take it past that. That's just scratching the surface when I tell you, for real. I've sometimes said that "So Good To Me," of course nothing stopped, and after "So Good To Me" because of the trickiness of Sony, I had fun doing a radio show and all these other things, but it was a bit of a holding pattern. And now suddenly, here we go.
EM: The floodgate is open.
CM: Yes, it's true man.
EM: We also heard you have a new collaboration with Kiesza.
CM: Kiesza, yeah, absolutely. In fact, I think the way that will be is towards the end of the year, you know we have fun. We've met up here and there and we just go on this "boom, boom, boom, write, write, write" and there's a couple that are just doing something extra special. And that is what's fun. You just write, write, write, play, write. Then the dust settles and there will just be that one, or two, or three! So you want to make perfect sense of those, so yeah, end of the year. Definitely.
EM: How did you guys first start working together?
CM: Okay so she, again there was, I alluded to him before. A real sweetheart, he really is. He's a friend in this. I'll tell you what, people go "f*cking business…" I love music and I love the business, I love it, and I love the people. Because music, it just does this thing. It just captures everyone's soul and imagination, and all people want is to be near and around it and be part of it. I've never felt any evilness with anybody. Sometimes people are just pressured by things around them and things happen. So his name is JD, and he used to be her manager. And he and I have been friends, and we met around "So Good To Me" and I've always been friends. And whether we've done this together or shared that idea, or I've gone in and we've talked about seeing a Yankees game. He's like, "You gotta come see a Yankees game!" And then there was this occasion like 2 years ago I guess, maybe 2 like winters ago. And he's like, "You know, you should meet up with, you know I look after Kiesza." So he suggested that I meet up with one of the people he looks after, and she's just so cool and down to earth, and just a nice person. And so we just sort of hit it off and every now and then we'll meet up and make a few songs and just have fun with it. Because writing just for the sake of it is fun. You know, I do this all the time where I'll make something and I'll be like, "I want to see what happens in 6 minutes." And sometimes it's like un-f*cking-believable, and then other times you're like, "I love it but I don't ever want to hear it again," and you literally never will or maybe you come back to it in a year. It's just the pleasure of writing. Along the way whether sometimes I have a friend that's on the Thames, you know I look forward to going to London and seeing those people there. If Kiesza's coming through New York, we'll meet up for a couple of days and just [pow pow pow] but yeah that's how we met up, JD. He's like, "you guys should meet up" and we did.
EM: Is there anyone that you aspire to collaborate with?
CM: No…[laughter] that's the truth! What I love about all of this, and this is always how I've felt is, you just meet and do the most unexpected things with this. I just love, I relish, I embrace that unpredictability. You literally don't know what's next. So rather than, I have no interest in doing anything in particular but know that something awesome will just keep happening because I just love to wake up, and write, and play, and do what I do. And somehow people and things just get pulled in. You know? And I love it.
EM: Nice. Any last things you'd like add, or any words of wisdom or advice?
CM: Hmm words of advice? What do I know? [Laughter] Oh please, I don't know anything. That's my bit of advice.
Chris Malinchak's new Photograph EP is out now, available to stream on Spotify.