Vampire Diaries’ Michael Malarkey on Mongrels, Seagulls, and Sad Bastard Music
“I’m keeping my head above water, and spinning all the plates.”
For those of us who have watched the CW’s hit TV show The Vampire Diaries, it comes at no surprise that we have grown attached to the actors who have portrayed some of our absolute favorite fictional characters. With the shows series finale airing on March 10th, 2017, the members of TVD fandom have been in a limbo of sorts, pining for any bit of gossip of news to keep us attached to the world of Mystic Falls. Luckily for us, one of our favorite actors is in the process of releasing his second album entitled Mongrels. We caught up with Michael Malarkey, who portrayed Enzo, on Tuesday afternoon for a quick phone interview.
“I’ve gotten my team and my band pretty much all locked down except for one person. All the pre-stuff we’re doing is underway, the tour is announced and selling well,” described Malarkey about tour prep. “The European tour is almost completely sold out so that’s been a really positive start.” Currently, Malarkey is in Puerto Rico filming for The Oath, which will air in 2018.
“It’s going to be great. I’m really excited to take these songs on the road. It’s a lot of a fuller sound from my last stuff, although the essence of it is still the same sad bastard music.” Malarkey informed us that he has a friend who has labeled his album as “sad bastard music” as a bit of a joke, and how he can’t help but to mention it during interviews. “It’s just hilarious. There’s a certain breed of singer/songwriters and we call them sad bastards, and you’re one of those.”
Via Shutter 16, I was able to listen to Malarkey’s new album and much to my delight I genuinely loved it. It was not what I was expecting which only added to its distinct character. “Mongrels” and “Uncomfortably Numb” were two of my favorite tracks off the twelve track album. “As far as that track goes, [“Uncomfortably Numb”] started with the lyrics and the melody. It was the first song I’ve ever really written solely in a capella, so that was very exciting to me. It was very liberating not to think about the guitar at all.”
One of my favorite things to ask during any sort of interview regards musical influence we more than likely wouldn’t guess. I have had answers come completely from left field and Malarkey is one of those actors who was swinging for the fence.
“I’ve got so many! I worked in a record store for about six years, and I was in a punk band, and I grew up screaming. So I’ve definitely been inspired by punk and the hardcore scene, and even metal. My favorite hardcore band is Converge, then there’s Rancid, they were my favorite in high school.”
With Malarkey’s confession of being a screamer in a band back in the day, it really made me realize that he has grown significantly as a musician. The Mongrels album to me has a dark country type feel to it which I absolutely love. In fact, lyrics from the album’s first single states “You think it’s strange that I listen to country.” We asked Malarkey if he got this reaction frequently from people.
“I think people are constantly surprised when they find out that I’m into certain things,” confesses the actor. “I guess with the way I dress, ya know I wear my Doc Marten jackets, and hats and shit, and people think I’m in a rock and roll band. Then they hear the music and they’re like ‘Oh! Okay, I thought you’d be a lot angrier or whatever, you sad bastard.’ But it’s very interesting when you can topple expectations. I’m not interested in putting on a punk rock uniform or being in a punk rock band because to me that’s just the same as putting on a uniform and working at KFC.”
As stated above, tickets for the European tour are quickly selling out as the date of the first show quickly approaches. Shows will be held in locations such as Manchester, London, Cologne, Amsterdam, and finally rounding out the tour with a performance in Paris. What’s next? Another tour?
“Yeah, I definitely want to tour as many places as I can, and the great thing about touring is that it really lets people into the whole vibe of the show and the music,” stated Malarky. “It’s not just about putting on your headphones. You know when you go to a show and you see those people performing it takes on a whole new life and understanding of the music. So, yeah, as soon as I can.”
For most of us, we have that one moment when we fell in love with music. Personally, it was listening to The Offspring’s Americana cassette in my dad’s beat up green pickup truck. For Malarkey, it was when he encountered the punk rock metal scene.
“In high school, I got into skateboarding, and I was wearing Vans and Junco’s, that whole thing. Going to those shows, getting into mosh pits for the first time, crowd surfing, and just the connectedness of the scene and the community of it was mind blowing to me,” recalled Malarky. “It was the first time I had found that response to music. I’ll never forget putting on Out Came the Wolves, which was one of my favorite Rancid records, at twelve years old, just singing in the mirror wanting to be the singer in a band.”
“The first time I sang live it was for my senior project. I put together this festival. So I had a one-day festival at the amphitheater in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I booked like ten bands, all the equipment, and I thought I’d kick it off by doing a couple Operation Ivy songs. So I did ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Big City’ and it was kind of, like, from that moment on, being involved in the whole planning of the thing, putting on the show, singing in the show, and the sense of fulfillment of actually breaking even and doing alright that was pretty inspiring,” Malarkey recalled about his first performance.
Earlier this month, Malarkey tweeted “Last ten minutes spent trying to usher a seagull out of my hotel room with a towel, kind of feel bad maybe he was just diggin the tunes.” If Malarkey was listening to an early copy of his upcoming album, we definitely can’t blame the bird for wanting to stay and chill. When asked about how the seagull encounter progressed Malarkey in good humor gave us a quick play by play.
“I had just come out of the shower and there was the seagull in my hotel room. I had left the balcony door wide open, and I was trying to usher it out with the towel which was the only thing I was wearing. It would have been comical for someone to see! I was just like ‘get out of here and don’t try to take off with my pecker.’ It was a super weird situation and those are really big birds!”
If you haven’t done your research on Malakey, you probably wouldn’t know that he has a dual citizenship, which means he is a legal citizen of both the United States and the UK. With having this, I asked him a question that had to be treated on lightly. I questioned him about his views on what has been going on in the United States the past few months. Most people would have given me a bullshit question and kept the interview going, Malarkey, however, answered my question and wasn’t afraid to actually talk with me.
“I think right now whats going on is in a sense a necessary step for all of us to analyze our beliefs, and think about what we really care about for our children and for the future,” explained the artist. “I feel like there is way too much emphasis on pointing the finger and blame, and who’s on the right and who’s on the left, and who’s at fault, when the real battle is not between the right and the left, it’s between negativity and positivity. I know that sounds a little hippie-dippy, but when we are thinking about all this stuff, we have to dig deep and think about what our motives are and whether what we are trying to do politically is supporting our own feelings of self-righteousness or is it, in fact, wanting to support and include the greater whole. All I want to encourage is the fact that we need to be coming at it from a perspective of love, no matter how hard shit gets and how stupid people are. We have to try our hardest to maintain that sense of humanity because otherwise we are literally adding to the shit storm.”
Malarkey’s music career preceded his acting career in both theatre and television. I asked if his musical talents influenced his TVD character, especially in the last two seasons where Malarkey’s character Enzo is teaching his girlfriend Bonnie Bennett, played by Kat Graham, to play guitar.
“You know the great thing about being on a long running show where there is mutual respect between the people at the top and the artists is that they want to draw on your talents and they are hopefully as inspired by you as you are of them,” he admitted. “The great thing about working with Julie Plec is she’s always been hugely supportive of my music and has always been a fan. The real proof of that was when, you know, one day I’m hanging out at the lake house with her and my wife, and was just sitting around the fire, and playing some of the new stuff. I was just in the studio that morning, and I played ‘Scars’ and she was like ‘What is that song!’ and from that point, immediately she knew what she wanted to do with it. She wanted to place it on the show, and it is a really lovely thing for her to do. So, yeah, I feel like both sides inform each other. My acting is definitely somehow influenced by my music and I feel like the voice is a part of that. There is a musicality in the way people talk when they listen to different people with different accents and they portray their inner feelings by the way they’re talking or by the way their voice creeks, and I feel like from a musical perspective, I hear those things in musical tones in a way. It works the other way around where the way I look at the world as an actor informs how I think about it and how I end up writing my lyrics.”
Our entire interview carried on for around thirty minutes and unfortunately, we had to begin wrapping things up. The last question I asked Malarkey before getting off the phone was, of course, if he had anything he wanted to say to his fans who were going to be listening to this interview.
“Don’t listen to a word I say.” (insert his adorable laugh). “Just take everything with a grain of salt and don’t punch me when you see me. I am hugely grateful of especially everyone who has been supportive of the music and I know a lot of my fans who listen to the album have often times not been exposed to music of this kind before so it’s in a way an introduction for some of them to a different realm of music, especially if they follow my playlists on Spotify. It’s all this obscure stuff and I’m constantly getting messages from fans saying they have found their new favorite band. So I just want to thank them all for their love and support and I hope they love the record.”
Mongrels will be available on September 8th via Cap on Cat Records/Kobalt. I’m telling you, you don’t want to miss out on this gloriously brooding and defined piece of music. Make sure to check out the music video for single “Mongrels” here. Michael is also very active on Twitter and Instagram, so be sure to follow him on your favorite social media outlet.
Hear the entire interview:
EU Tour Dates: