Interview: Jenn Malzone on Middle Class Fashion’s “Girl Talk”

[show_avatar align=left avatar_size=62] Tomorrow night, local pop trio Middle Class Fashion releases their album, Girl Talk, at Foam with IWTAS favorites Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine and Scarlet Tanager. Jenn Malzone of MCF answered a few of my questions about creating Girl Talk.

Brad, Jenn, and Brian of Middle Class Fashion.

So this is Middle Class Fashion’s first album, correct? Where was it recorded?

This is MCF’s first full-length album. We put out a four song EP in late 2010. [The EP] was very lo-fi and used the original piano and drum tracks that were recorded very primitively by Brad and myself at our practice space. Those tracks were meant to be demos, but when Brian joined the band, he suggested keeping them and just re-recording the vocals. It ended up sounding really cool.

We decided to record Girl Talk a bit differently so we would have more control, and so it more accurately depicted our new three-piece sound. We recorded the basic drum and piano tracks at Brewhouse Studios, and everything else was recorded with Brian on his laptop (usually at one of our houses). It was a really enjoyable way to make an album. We’d have strings players recording in my living room, or we’d do vocals in the bathroom, and at the same time we’d often have friends over, hanging out and listening, drinking beer or having dinner.

So what’s it sound like?

I like to call it minor key piano pop. A lot of the songs are fun and upbeat, but most of them have a slightly more serious theme.

Did you do most of the songwriting?

“Jamie” is the only song not written solely by me. Brian brought that amazingly catchy “Jamie won’t call” melody, and I had some lyrics that weren’t really fitting anywhere else. Once we got the ball rolling, we co-wrote the rest of the song and it was a pretty amazing experience. Brad kept everything moving with just the right drum parts, then he ended up adding a guitar solo toward the end on the recording that just completes it.

I wrote the other thirteen songs over the course of 2010 (and a few in early 2011). Most of them reflect the weirdness of my life at that point. I was still recovering from the Paper Dolls lineup shifting, which started in April 2009 and didn’t really steady out until fall of that year. To top it off, the “fun fixer-upper” house I purchased in the midst of all this turned into a complete gut rehab project. So I was staying with different friends, sleeping on couches, etc. This went on for well over a year. It was really disorienting to be without a solid band and a home all at once. Songwriting is what kept me sane.

How do you manage to create different bodies of work for each project? [Ed: Jenn is also a member of Paper Dolls (w/ Brad) and Tights Pants Syndrome (w/ Brian).]

Playing in MCF is just another great opportunity to sing with Brian, and from the beginning I felt that the simple structure of MCF was taken to a new level with his amazing bass playing. And Brad, who has only been drumming for a few years now, always seems to know exactly what each song needs, without over-drumming. All three of us are songwriters and have fronted a band at some point, so that also creates a unique energy.

To me, it’s easier to keep things fresh with three bands than with one. There’s not all this pressure on one band to be everything, and in turn there’s less pressure on each individual musician. I’ve learned not to be afraid to take on a big project with a deadline, and also not to be afraid to take a break.


Event details for Saturday’s release show at Foam can be found here.
This week’s Riverfront Times features a review of Girl Talk.
Listen to Middle Class Fashion’s EP or listen to and purchase Girl Talk (starting on 1/16) on their Bandcamp site.


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