Malek Azrael has long been one of my favorite musicians from Kansas City. His debut album “Waves” was a jam packed record full of baby making soul comparable to the likes of D’angelo, Stevie Wonder, and Prince with a voice that rivals the greatest RnB singers of our generation. Malek then added ‘The Vibez” as a live band to support the record and the combination of Drummer Josh Luke, bassist Jack Roberts, and guitarist Calvin “CLAV” Haverkamp created a groove that would make even a geriatric shake their hips.
So needless to say, I was surprised when the first bars of the new single from the Kansas City group brought a sound that was almost ENTIRELY different. Set to release in the first moment of 2023, the band’s new single “22” features driving guitars and drums that are much more My Chemical Romance than they are Musiq Soulchild. But does it work? In a word- Yes! Malek’s vocals depart from their typical smooth caresses to absolutely SHRED notes that would make even the best pop punk singers blush. The shift is like an IV drip of espresso as the sheer joy and enthusiasm that the group brings to the genre is special and that energy will make every Malek Azrael and The Vibez show of 2023 a Must Attend Live Event. I got the privilege to sit down with the band and ask some questions about the song and their experience!
Q + A
1. Why do you think 22 is such a difficult year of life? Are the vibes pro or anti taylor swift?
There are a lot of growing pains and learning lessons in your 20’s, but it’s even harder when you turned 20 and 21 during the Covid epidemic where you’re not out making mistakes and living life. So when I turned 22 and I was finally able to leave my house, I found that it was toxic overload tbh. Your 20’s are toxic and hard and so my 2022 year was exhausting trying to be a young adult and learning to be a social human again.
And The Vibez are total Taylor Swift fans but we realized after naming the song 22, that our song was in direct opposition of hers’. She was selling the awesome party, hipster version of being 20 and made us believe that we were going to be these cool adults drinking and laughing with our friends and we are all looking at each other like “this shit sucks” but we’ve got to keep going cause maybe it gets better… hopefully. So we love TAY SWIZZLE, we just wanna know when we can say “It feels like a perfect night to dress up like hipsters and make fun of our exes” cause its not feeling that way just yet.
2. If you could slap any celebrity, living or dead, who would it be?
Honestly, do I have to pick just one?! I guess most of it would have to be Taylor Swift to stay in the theme of things lol but the vibez try to keep a passive energy so ya know
3. This song seems to have more hard rock influence than your previous work- what inspired that genre shift?
Well , this year I had a particularly hard time with being told what music and sound was expected of me because I was a black male R&B singer and it made it extremely hard to create. I started writing because I loved telling a story no matter the genre, and I actually grew up with a huge appreciation for rock thanks to my dad and his obsession with most of the soundtrack from guitar hero. I decided to say fuck expectations and make music thats fun and that me and my band align with right now in this part of our journey. I’m not saying goodbye to my roots at all, I’m just saying “ hey i’m an artist, not a genre” and creating freely, that is what i think music should be. I want to remind others that black rock stars still exist!
4. How has the transition from a solo artist to a band affected your writing process?
The transition wasn’t easy because a lot of it dealt with trust. It was a challenge of trusting the growth, the process, and others to care for the something that you nurtured by yourself for so long. It was extremely new navigating being a man who spoke for himself to be a front man who now has a band of skilled artists who bring their own style and point of views to this project. Honestly, I have to thank my band mates Josh Luke, Jack Roberts, and Calvin “CLAV” Haverkamp, along with our producer and friend Brandon Yangmi because they allowed me to be able to speak my truth and actually helped me elevate my recording technique and see the potential in my work. I dream bigger when I write now, which I didn’t even know was possible until we started this project.
5. What is your dream headline bill? pick any venue and two supporting artists (the sky is the limit)
I want to headline COACHELLA, and I would love to share a bill with Paramore, H.E.R. and Billie Eilish, I would be extremely honored.
6. What smell best describes this song?
22 smells like boxed moscato wine, birthday cake, cigarette butts, and gasoline.