Malphino are an outer-national, mystical band from an imaginary tropical island that has dreamt up a cinematic score and audio backdrop to their idyll. A promised land of hypnotic cumbia rhythms, subtle digital warbling, accordion textures, voodoo vapours and woodblock charm awaits the off piste explorer willing to step through the arch and Visit Malphino, the debut album released today by the London-based collective.
Their debut album builds on their 2013 EP titled ‘El Lava de Gabacho’ and dives deep into the island’s mythology. It’s a 17-track epic that provides the soundboard to years of imaginative cultivation.
We caught up with Malphino to get an insight into the UK’s freshest proponents of cumbia.
For those that are new to you. How did you folks meet? What does each member bring to Malphino and where does your name come from?
Three of us started a music night at a pub in Hackney, east London (Wednesday evenings), it was around 2009? the idea was to make people travel from Europe to South America through music. Yu Sato was playing his obscure music collection from Latin American including cumbia, Alex and David played live music in-between the DJ sets. Soon after we realised that we needed a name for the band to promote the night, so we came up with Malphino – Alex is half Filipino and David has a Malaysian heritage, together Mal-phino. It was simple like that but it really brought us the core idea of the imaginary island/country theme without even realising. Then friends and musicians turned up to play with us, like that way we suddenly had a band or collective of musicians.
How long was ‘Visit Malphino’ in the works? And how has your sound developed since releasing, ‘El Lava de Gabacho’ back in 2013?
We started to work on Visit Malphino after recording tunes for our NYCT release around in 2015, it took about 2 years to complete… it’s because it was difficult to find time to work on it together – many of us play in different bands and projects. Alex and Yu Sato work professionally in art & design and they’ve been so busy with it.
Tell us a bit about your creative process? And what’s the concept behind the album?
“Make any tunes but something about malphino in some way and whatever way” was our idea. It was quite open and vague concept to start with. Sound wise, we spoke about making an album like as if it was a compilation album, so we tried to divert our sound by recording in many different ways – recorded in tapes, basement studios, semi-pro studios, made loops out of our owns, etc. Axel, Antonin and Yu Sato travelled back and forth in between France and London to lead the production, then Antonin mixed the album.
What was your favourite moment in creating ‘Visit Malphino’?
Every moment was great, it was totally like a process of sculpting sound. The more we work on it, it started to shape into something depictive in our imaginary Malphino world. Once we reached a half point we had more ideas or clear ideas of how we could finish the album. It was very organic and doodle like process. The title came up towards the end of the production process as it really sounded like we are visiting Malphino.
You clearly have a deep love for cumbia. How did your passion for the music come together?
We have different characters in Malphino band and love different kinds of music, but we all got trapped in playing Cumbia. Once we got that groove we could not escape! Think there’s more south Americans came to London past 15 years or so, they brought cumbia with them and we somehow picked it up. Yu and Alex remember going to an Ecuadorian restaurant in Elephant and Castle a long time ago where there was a one-man band playing so many different instruments at the same time by himself, maxed volume, and it was cumbia. Ridiculous setup and sound but it stayed in their memory. Axel and Antonin picked up cumbia from visiting Mexico, helping out some kind of a theatre production there. It’s a wonderful genre because it has no gender and age restriction… in South American, everyone listens to cumbia and they dance to it. Such a happy thing and the groove makes people together. We love it! We always joke that when Julian (our only Latin American, from Colombia) joined Malphino, he must have felt confused us loving cumbia so much.
I’ve read that multiculturalism plays a big part in the band’s ethos and your global sound reflects this diversity. Can you tell us a bit about this?
This is not something we are intentionally doing, but it happened to be in this way as we have different cultural backgrounds. It is nice that we are not actually standing up on it but naturally comes up in our music or concept of Malphino island. Actually, the biggest part of Malphino ethos is a visual presentation. We are kind of the band that hides behind all that amazing concept and artworks.
You’re releasing the new project on the wildly eclectic London label Lex Records (Doom/Kate Tempest/BadBadNotGood). Seems like a good fit, tell us about how that came about?
Yu Sato has been making artwork for Lex for many years, so that was the first connection. Lex always came to Malphino presents Sunday daytime events (embassy of Malphino) but Lalango (7inch release from NYCT) got them in business with us. We are really glad that Lex picked us up by purely music and didn’t categorise our music as “world music”.
For anyone that doesn’t know your music, what would you say to get them to listen?
Your next holiday destination!
You have some gigs coming up. What can we expect from a Malphino live show?
Joy and smile, that get you travel to Malphino island
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Any last words?
A huge thank you to Malphino! If you’re in and around London you can them catch live at the Cinco de Mayo celebrations at Pop Brixton.