Q&A: Arrange's Malcom Lacey on His Childhood, Perfume Genius' Influence, and Film Experience
Florida-born and Georgia-raised (he's back), Malcom Lacey is technically still a teenager, but he's already created an album of great beauty with Plantation. He imbues every half-electronic, half-organic track with something radiant, something like the picture of him above: hazy, warmly lit, a little fuzzy. Go to his BandCamp and listen to the otherworldly "Veins." Within, he sings, "I'm not lost/I'm capable of being someone" and sounds as vulnerable as the actual veins pulsing under his skin. The equally delicate "When'd You Find Me?" was central in Pitchfork's very positive 7.7 rating. Given the heady atmosphere and heartachy vocals of every song on this latest release, Plantation, we tend to agree with our editor, who placed Arrange "somewhere between Bright Eyes and Xiu Xiu."
Shortly before he released Plantation, there was Quiet State and, two months before that, Paper Parts -- and there was even more before that. Not only is he a magician; he churns everything out pretty quickly. That got us wondering about what's next. Find out after the jump.
From a young age, my family was very adamant about me playing instruments. Piano was the first one I ever found myself behind. As I got older and as my peers began to evolve into "hipper" instruments, I too followed suit. I started taking guitar lessons when I was 12. None of the instruction I received lasted more than a couple of years, but the love and passion for it still remained. It wasn't until a little over a year ago, when I was going through tracks to use as the soundtrack for the short film I had written, shot, and directed at the Miami Film School, that I decided to sit behind a guitar again. I figured instead of looking for music that would fit my needs, I would make one myself. And I did. It was the instrumental piece of music that would eventually find its place on Two, the record I released digitally in June of last year.
Arrange has always been used as a personal project, a way for me to purge emotions I have trouble otherwise releasing. It doesn't make for the easiest time trying to translate the songs into a live format, but it's still worthwhile in the moment.
Yeah, you said on Discosoma that some of these songs might be difficult to translate live and that you'd like it to be more involved than a backing track and piano. What would your ideal live setup be?
As far as the live show goes, ideally I'd like to have a basic two-guitar, drumset, and keyboard/piano setup. In addition to those basic elements and because I spend hours crafting specific ambient noise and field recordings, I'd definitely incorporate a sampler into the mix so I'd be able to have that ambient backtrack if need be.
I'm also curious to know what drives these songs -- you said that it's a purging of emotions.
There seems to be an overarching theme of youth and personal reflection throughout the album. Most of my lyrical content stems itself from an abusive childhood and the relationship I share with my incarcerated father. Sometimes [it's] as direct as one-way conversations with him as in "When'd You Find Me?" and other times more introspective questioning, such as the case with "Tearing Up Old Asphalt."
I'd like to know about your musical influences. What music, films, and books do you love, and which of these may have had a subconscious role in informing your work?
Lately and around the time I was recording the Plantation record, I listened to a good amount of ambient and classical music -- more specifically, the music of Sylvain Chauveau and Jefre Cantu Ledesme. Type Records' roster really keeps me going sometimes. As far as newer singer/songwriter stuff, Mike Hadreas' debut as Perfume Genius really tore me to pieces. I'd definitely say his honesty and simplistic take on the piano man schtick influenced me quite a bit.
I'm a film buff myself. When I'm not spending money on music equipment and vinyl, I'm spending it on Criterion Collection blu-rays. I really love the work of Wong Kar Wai specifically. The romanticism and colors used in his films are intoxicating.
You mentioned the short film you wrote and directed at the Miami Film School -- the one that prompted you to start playing again. Can you say more about your film background? Do the two mediums you work with ever overlap?
I worked for a brief year with the Seminole Tribe's broadcasting department as an intern. It was definitely a perfect way to get hands-on experience behind a camera. Unfortunately, at this point into the project, I haven't yet invested the time in bringing the two aspects of my creative processes together. Ideally, I'd like to direct my own music video and develop visuals for a live show. Which is something I'm now gearing myself towards doing.
That would be beautiful to see. Shifting gears back to your music, do you find it mentally therapeutic at all to express yourself this way? And can you talk a little bit about your general songwriting process?
Writing is most definitely a form of release therapy for me. Most often it's a lot more emotionally exhausting than I anticipate but still worthwhile.
Generally speaking, I begin each of my tracks with an ambient base consisting of sparse piano chords or various field recordings I've taken. From there, I develop the tracks from the base up as an instrumental and add or subtract layers as needed. From there I focus on mood and write lyrics around the way I feel when listening to the track.
What are you currently working on?
I'm working on a four- or five-track EP to be released sometime around September or October. Maybe even earlier.
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