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Mala Vista: A No-Holds-Barred Injection of Pure Rock 'n' Roll

Ahead of their weekend tour, we caught up with guitarist-vocalist Myke Miranda of New York City garage punks Mala Vista to discuss how they hooked up with England's No Front Teeth Records for last year's debut LP, plans for their anticipated sophomore album, and how they've landed on bills alongside the Mummies and 999.

Photo by Johan Viper

Mala Vista, one of the many garage punk bands tearing it up in New York City right now, combine the hook-heavy charm of Eddie and the Hot Rods, the snotty tenacity of Dead Boys, and the super-fast chainsaw buzz of Ramones. While they've been compared to the many legends of punk rock, they've also shared some concert bills with a few of them including the Gories, the Mummies, 999, and once almost Protex, but the pandemic disrupted that. Composed of guitarist-vocalist Myke Miranda, bassist-vocalist Manuel Labour, guitarist Erik LAMF, and drummer Ben Heymann, the band's debut album, Ruthless & Toothless, is packed full of '77-style punk call-and-responses, sing-along choruses, and slashing guitar riffs that kick the adrenaline-filled record into an untapped level of marvelous frenzy. Distorted drums, buzzing bass, and a wall of ripping guitars all provide the fuel that's needed and it’s over before you know it. Ahead of their weekend tour, we caught up with Miranda to discuss how they hooked up with England's No Front Teeth Records for last year's debut LP, plans for their anticipated sophomore album, and how they've landed on bills alongside the Mummies and 999.

Paperface Zine: There's been a lot of stuff happening for you guys over the last couple years. I remember finding you online after seeing a bill where you were supposed to open for the Belfast punk legends Protex in March 2020. Did that ever get rescheduled?

Myke Miranda: Unfortunately we never got to play that one which fucking sucked because we love Protex and everything that came out of Belfast at that time but we knew that all that was happening was well out of our control and way more urgent than anything that could have come out of that show. We really hope Protex can make it to NYC again, but it would be even better if we could play a show with them out there in Belfast.

PZ: I think that was scheduled just a few months after opening for the Gories and 999. What has it been supporting so many legends?

MM: Supporting 999 was great because we grew up listening to them obviously, but also because it brought out all the OG NYC punks and all the young punks too. Hearing 999 play all their classics was nuts. There are always so many questions for guys like that, being from the original era while we are here, hacking our way through that style of playing or whatever. There is definitely a weight to be felt, a pressure, whenever we open for bands like 999, but we always go in with the intention to have fun and not see things in terms of legend status or whatever. It's only rock 'n' roll.

PZ: Back in February, you guys played the special screening of Rock 'n' Roll High School. How did you guys become part of that and what was that like? That had to of been pretty legendary especially meeting the director Allan Arkush.

MM: Our dear friend Todd-O-Phonic from WFMU has helped put us on some of our best bills including that one. In fact, it was Todd who put us on the Protex show. He's known us since we started back in 2016 and knew well that we love the Ramones so I guess it just made sense to him to have us. We also played a show with Justin Savage's band Ultrabann back in 2022 and stayed in touch with him. He helped MC the event and had been in contact with Allan Arkush and Ramones tour manager Monte Melnick over the years.

Photo by Johan Viper

PZ: What was it like being part of NYC's Fear City Fest? So many great bands were on that bill including your pals Killer Kin and Mystery Girl.

MM: We love them. It was great! NYC was long overdue for a rock 'n' roll fest of that sorts and we were so stoked that it was Jenny Manfredi who pulled it all together. Manny helped with design and branding for FC. She's a veteran rock 'n' roller and has known a lot of those bands for years. It's always nice to see homies like her doing big things that have more of a grassroots feel to it where it's a fest for rock 'n' rollers by rock 'n' rollers. Having it at TV Eye made it even better and even more so a festival for us because there is such a community based around the venue, the shows that go down there, and the owners and staff there. Best of all, it was sick having bands from all over and people in attendance from all over. We're talking France, England, people from all over the U.S.A. Fear City definitely put NYC back on the map for rock 'n' roll music and presented a clear force to recon with in a city mostly known for hardcore or whatever. I'm looking forward to Oh Bondage Up Yours coming up June 3-4. That's going to be fun.

PZ: Right before your debut LP rolled out last spring, you opened for budget rock legends the Mummies. What was that like? I heard recently that Trent Ruane is Billy Yule's son-in-law!

MM: Opening for the Mummies was insane. It was by far our largest crowd yet. We got the full treatment you'd expect from a large venue like Elsewhere — the bar and production staff were amazing. Pretty nice for a bunch of bums like us. We spotted Trent as soon as we walked in for soundcheck and he was such a cool guy. He asked us a few things about our amps and hung out for our soundcheck before getting all Mummied-up. Right away vibes were good which helped us feel way more comfortable walking into a room of like 1000 people later that night. All around good times. Erik LAMF probably knew that about Trent.

PZ: Alright, let's backtrack now to some basic questions. Take me through the origins of Mala Vista. The name is Spanish for bad eyesight?

MM: That's the literal translation, but the intention was for it to mean bad outlook, or perspective. It was also a play on Buena Vista Social Club. We've booked a few bills under the name "Mala Vista Anti-Social Club" too. Manny and I just wanted something that tapped into our Latino roots being that he is Colombian American and I am Mexican American. I hardly speak Spanish and the name has been pretty confusing at times, but on the other hand, I wanted to see how the band would do in a "general market" with a name like Mala Vista.

Photo by Johan Viper

PZ: What bands were in prior?

MM: I was in a few punk bands back in Texas growing up including Potential Violence which was a street punk band in the early 2000s, a Clash-style punk band called Usual Suspects around 2003, and a straight up '77 punk-style band called The Pubes… nothing to write home about. New Oldies Club in Brooklyn was my punk band just before MV. We met Erik and our first drummer B. McIsaac after playing with their band True Confessions. He was also in a few hardcore bands growing up. Ben Heymann, our current drummer, was in the Othermen who we love, and the Bothers. Ben also plays in a sick rock 'n' roll band called Cold Dice.

PZ: Take me through the lineup of Mala Vista. What do you admire most about this gang of rock 'n' rollers?

MM: Our current line-up is myself, Myke Miranda on vocals and rhythm guitar, Manny Dominguez on bass and also who I started the band with. We have Erik LAMF on lead guitar and Ben Heymann on drums. We've had this line up for four years out of the seven years we've been a band. The current line-up solidified the band and our overall sound. In terms of sound and as a band, we are our tightest now. Being a band for this long, there is definitely a family aspect to the group and to the people we are closest to around us. That's what I admire most about this lineup.

PZ: Looking back on that first release in 2019, what are your thoughts on it and how have you all grown together since then?

MM: I love our first release. The sound was raw and we were at our most rudimentary stage. We were getting to know our groove and did everything ourselves. We recorded that record with our buddy Mr. MusicTime Scott in our practice space at Danbro practice studios in Brooklyn, sent it out for pressing ourselves, and designed and assembled the original jackets and sleeves ourselves. To me, that captured not only us as band in that moment, but a bare bones to feel to our sound that I still prefer now, having taken other approaches since. To me it's our core, our constitution.

PZ: Back in May, you released your debut LP Ruthless & Toothless, a fine slab of distorted three-chord guitar melodies and adrenalized garage stompers. How did this album come together? I know it's got tracks from the debut EP.

MM: Marco with No Front Teeth Records in England re-released our 2019 EP in 2020 which gave it a huge boost in areas across Europe and the rest of the world that we'd never have the resources for. We wanted to do another EP, but he suggested we combine our new material with the first EP to release an LP. We took the same exact approach and recorded with Mr. MusicTime Scott for the follow up so it made perfect sense. The only difference was that the newer material was recorded with Ben Heymann on drums, which was handy in the sense that tracks with him gave a more definitive indication of our sound and direction. So in a lot of ways, it was like the EP, our constitution, and the new Ben Heymann tracks, our direction and style. Toothless sold out in England within two months at No Front Teeth. There is a U.K. version and a U.S. version which I love, being The Clash fan that I am.

Photo by Johan Viper

PZ: You followed up that album fairly quickly last fall with the single "In the Dark" b/w "Dirty by the Dozen." Is that single signaling your sophomore album?

MM: Yes. We immediately started writing once we were able to meet up again after the pandemic. "Dirty by the Dozen" came up early on and "In The Dark" came together shortly after. Ruthless was all material we wrote before the pandemic so there was a major delay in getting it out there. As we released that one, we already had a ton of songs banked away that needed to be worked out which meant we had a full record ready to be recorded. We had it in mind that if we were to record and release a proper LP, we should maybe try a different approach to recording and production so for the next one we went to NY Hed Recording Studios, which is run by Matt and Rocio Verta-Ray on the Lower East Side in NYC. They had recorded friends and other bands we like such as Daddy Long Legs, Bloodshot Bill, and Televisionaries. It was our first time as a band going to a full recording studio, working with analog tools, cool old vintage gear, that sort of thing. We got some interesting sounds out of it all and it's been interesting hearing our sound come through in such a different way than what we are used to. That sound really came through after Teddy from Spaghetty Town Records out of Atlanta suggested we have it all mastered by his guy Justin with Mystery Room Mastering in Milwaukee. We hope to tour Europe for the first time with this record in 2024. Spaghetty Town Records is on board to release it with hopes to link up with a Euro label to really get out that way. All is looking like 2024.

PZ: You guys got some shows this weekend including stops here in Rochester, Troy, and Brooklyn. What are you looking forward to the most to this weekend?

MM: Super excited about the shows this weekend. I've never traveled to this part of NY nor have we ever played Rochester so I'm very much looking forward to seeing what's up. Everyone has been very kind as the date approaches. We definitely have a few things on our list to see, time permitting. House of Guitars is definitely at the top of that list. As far as Troy goes, this will be our first time playing there. We've played Albany once before a couple of years ago, but this will be our first time doing a show with our buddy Sean Secor of Hey, Greasy! Fun times ahead there too. To me, this is us gearing up for a longer run toward the Midwest. We've always wanted to play Detroit and Chicago… sup Criminal Kids and the Stools.

PZ: What's next on the horizon for Mala Vista? I know you guys are part of the 20-year celebration of the Exploding Hearts' Guitar Romantic at TV Eye in July.

MM: We never really know. We're always working on new material so it's always a matter of pulling it all together to figure out what we want to record and what we want to do with the material. We've been a band for seven years, but have hardly done any touring. Being a band from NYC, transportation is hard and maintaining it in the city is even harder and expensive. To be able to figure out how to get around that would be game changing hence our focus on Europe. I guess we'll keep doing this until we can't. And we've been a hearts fan since they started. Influenced the shit out of us. I work with Chad at TV Eye who's playing bass with Terry. Our guy Murat is gonna be on guitar with Terry too. We'll be the opening act.

Ruthless & Toothless is out now on No Front Teeth Records.


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