Ben Tolich’s earliest forays in songwriting were born from obsession - captivated by songs he loved on skateboarding tapes; he’d rewind the VHS over and over, playing along until he wore them down. Years later, his band Mali Mali emerged - titled in tribute to an affectionate nickname bestowed upon Ben by his Croatian grandfather.
Throwing himself into the process of writing and recording, Ben quickly immersed himself in a scene of prominent musicians, playing with established bands such as Great North and Artisan Guns before releasing his Brotherly EP. He and his band began to frequent the stage around Auckland, while working on the debut LP, in a dream-come-true session at Mark Myers’ Big Sister studios in what passes for winter in Cairns. The result was 2013’s Gather 'round the Gooseclock. “I’m totally/utterly sold on the sound,” said Simon Sweetman at Off the Tracks. “Sweeping and majestic and there’s a touch of David Byrne to the voice and Ben Tolich (Mali Mali) is one clever f*cker.”
After a particularly intense period of touring, 2015 saw Tolich chucked in the live circuit to write and record As a Dog Dreams, sorting through the politics of his own mind by way of music. In spite of its heavy impetus, the album strives for enlightenment while embracing pain and wonder, coloured by Tolich’s own attempts to face up to his darkness. Sonically, it is lush, with precise melodies and dishevelled textures, tethered together by acoustic guitars and synthesizers.
Released in April 2016, As a Dog Dreams explores uncharted sonic territory for Tolich; it’s rough around the edges, layered and personally edited, wearing its flaws like hard-won scars. Much like the artists he admires (Sun Kil Moonand Bill Callahan among them), words are important to Tolich and remain a crucial part of Mali Mali’s output. His songs are the expression and template for his the workings of his own subconscious and psychological journey. “I'm interested in the subconscious and how a song can make sense months/years after writing it,” he says. “I'm interested in nostalgia and beauty and how sounds can take us to a physical location in our imaginations.”
Mali Mali has toured Australia with Jack Carty, shared stages with such international acts as Perfume Genius and Boy & Bear (including playing to a sold out crowd at Auckland’s Powerstation). Not restricted to the pop format, Tolich fosters an interest in soundtrack composition, having composed music for the eerie, picturesque video-game "Desolate" by artist Elliot Collis.
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