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Meet Melati Malay of Young Magic

Sep 5, 2018

Meet Melati Malay of Young Magic


Child of the world, Melati Malay is half of the electronic band Young Magic. She sits down with WW to discuss how she blends visual art with her music, her current most-listens, and how Young Magic came to be.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia. My mother is Indonesian (Yogyakarta) and my father is Irish-American. I’m one of four children and we all live in different corners of the planet but try and meet up once a year and surf together. I look forward to that time of the year the most.


How long have you been in New York? Would you call it your home?

I’ve been here for almost 12 years now. It most definitely is my home, although the desire to leave for greener pastures is always somewhere in the background.


Was music always your creative outlet?

I went to school for photography but have always loved music. My dad bought me a guitar for my 15th birthday and I taught myself how to play by learning Jeff Buckley songs. When I first moved to New York I joined a couple of projects, to learn what I could, most memorably a band called New Moods.


What was the genesis of Young Magic?

Isaac [Emmanuel] started Young Magic in 2010 and he asked me to join a bit later. We had just spent the summer together in Melbourne during this crazy heat wave. I met a bunch of his friends during that time, the kind of people I’d always wanted to meet: spirited, strange, raw, and spontaneous. I remember thinking that it was a special time in my life; I wanted to bottle up that sense of freedom and joy. It was that essence that I wanted to inject into the music and share with people. A “thank you,” of sorts, to all the people that have shaped us.


Do the members of Young Magic have specific roles or do you fully collaborate on all aspects of the project?

We tend to fully entangle ourselves within all aspects of the project but Isaac is definitely the fire starter. The great thing about this project is its multidisciplinary nature – I can dip my toe in design, film, poetry and other fun stuff like, taxes and accounting.


Global sounds and travel are central themes in all your albums; did you craft songs with specific locations in mind or did you take inspiration from field recordings?

We were travelling a lot while making the albums so the locations are inherently a part of the music. Most of the songs began in one country and were finished in another. We wanted to have extensive library of samples to draw from, hence the obsession with field recording. Often these sound bites became the foundation to a song: a loop we couldn’t escape from.

Young Magic is often described as cinematic, would you say this is accurate? Is that effect intentional?

We both come from visual arts backgrounds so I think that might have something to do with it. It’s not intentional, it just ends up sounding that way. Maybe it’s because we both lived in Australia, where the sky is big and the land is so expansive. I’m honored people describe our music that way. It’s a dream of ours to score a film.


Beyond music and film, are there other creative pursuits that excite you?

Surfing is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done. It’s terrifying and incredibly addictive. I feel completely present, my brain feels empty of its usual bullshit, and my body is reacting to the changing state of the wave without thinking.


And you have a line of earrings called Arpeggio, how did that begin?

A friend of mine was working for a fashion label here in New York and she started a recycling program for them after noticing how much material they were sending to the landfill. She gave me a bunch of the leather: real beautiful stuff from Italy, and I started messing around with some bits and pieces. I wanted to make something to wear for an upcoming tour and that’s what I ended up with!  People kept asking me about them so I started making them for friends and strangers.


Is fashion or style important to you?

Fashion is not important to me, no. Style, on the other hand, in terms of it being a way to express oneself, conveying a feeling or as a way to align with a tribe, whether its norm core, punk, salaryman…etc isn’t really important. It’s just fascinating to me. I’m interested in how people move through this world, the idiosyncrasies of how people present themselves and asking myself why I have strong reactions to some and not others. I think style equals choice, and people make interesting choices.


You recently came back from tour, is there anything in particular you took away from this tour? Do you enjoy touring?

I’m not good at sitting in a car for 8 hours a day for months on end and eating weird bad food, but I enjoy playing shows. I Iove the spectacle of it all and the challenge of creating an immersive environments. Not that I think we’ve achieved that just yet, but it’s a goal. I think its special, you know, a show is this fleeting moment that a lot of energy has been channeled into, which sometimes can make for a transformative experience, for the performer anyway. I can’t speak on behalf of the audience.


Do prefer performing live or the songwriting and recording process?

The recording process is definitely my favorite part of being in a band. There have been many tiny moments of satisfaction, when things just start to work, after many tiny moments of frustration and micro detailing. It’s laborious process with so many elements at play. Having so many choices can be paralyzing at times, so for an album to be truly finished is a momentous occasion.


After having been all around the world, do you have a favorite place you’ve visited?  

Sri Lanka! I would love to go back. It’s my favorite place to surf, to be honest. The waves aren’t crowded, the water is warm and clean and the people there are relaxed and beautiful. Also, they use coconut in so much of the food which is fine by me. I was born on the equator, so I’ll be a tropical girl forever.


Is there any upcoming work we should lookout for?

We are currently working on our fourth record, which will be released next year.


What have you been listening to these days, anything you’d recommend?

I started a new project with my friends Tristan Arp and Kaazi while we were in Indonesia earlier this year. It’s called Asa Tone and it’s pretty much the only thing I’ve been listening to. It’s not out just yet but in the meantime I would recommend listening to the NTS mixes from All Styles, All Smiles.


What inspires you?

Dancing. It’s the best therapy that I never knew I needed.