Having his first full-length album looming “feels great” for K.C. Maloney, working under the moniker Adult Karate. But Del Mar, whose title track ft. Adaline premieres exclusively below, didn’t come easy for the Los Angeles-based producer, singer and songwriter.
“It was a long and stressful process to put it all together — mostly by myself,” Maloney — who has worked with Adaline, Amp Live, Radar Cult and Del The Funky Homosapien — tells Billboard. “There comes a certain time when you’re working on stuff for so long you just have to kind of stop. Before, I would sit around and tweak things for two years to be 100 percent happy with it. I just got to a point where I was like, ‘OK, it’s done no matter what…’ and let it go. But it was tough getting there.”
The stylistically diverse Del Mar — which runs the gamut from electropop to vintage new wave, dream pop and various electronic music flavors — reflects the “large ambitions” that Maloney brought to the project. “I get bored quickly if two songs sound too much like each other,” he explains. “Then I’ve failed as an artist.” But the set is also deeply personal, weighing in on Maloney’s past battles with heroin addiction (he’s been clean since 2011, with help from MusiCares) and the toll that took on his life and relationships — what he calls “the cheery subjects of paranoia and addiction and death, that kind of stuff.”
“I didn’t plan to make a concept album, but as the songs were coming together it started to take on a concept of its own,” Maloney says. “I think every song on the album has some kind of sliver of truth of something that happened in my life, some very real feeling I had at a certain point. The songs are kind of like therapy in a way, my dealing with the past from the perspective of the present.”
In that regard, Maloney created Del Mar‘s dreamy, ethereal title last, to be “a good introduction to the album.” “It just kind of happened one day where I was playing with some chords and stuff and I came up with the verse melody for it. It came together pretty quickly; I think I finished the song and the movie for it in maybe about two days or so.” Good pal Adaline (Shawna Beesley), meanwhile, came in to help Maloney finish the lyrics and vocal melodies, and the two crafted a song that, besides just chronicling Maloney’s struggles, also addresses depression and suicide overall.
“People can also interpret it as a breakup song, but my lyrical parts are about the daily kind of struggle of addiction and the seeming futility of life and living like that,” Maloney says. “I was trying to write it from maybe the perspective of death welcoming you to the other side, telling you it’s OK to go and come with me — which is how I used to think, that it would be much easier if I just kind of died. It would be better if I wasn’t here.” He hastens to add that he doesn’t feel that way anymore, however.
“My life today is great — it’s better than ever. I’m married and it’s going well,” says Maloney, who was moved to get clean after a previous partner kicked him out and delivered him to a hospital. “I still have a lot of shit to work out in my head, but I’m happy and I feel good. But when I’m writing music or playing music I just gravitate towards a darker kind of thing. Straightforward, happy songs, to me, are boring.”
Maloney, who also plays in the L.A. rock outfit Arms of Tripoli, is planning to play some shows around southern California in support of Del Mar‘s Aug. 3 release and will consider a broader tour “if the right opportunity comes along.” Meanwhile he continues to create — and to pursue an even broader palette than he demonstrates on Del Mar. “I’m always ready to release something,” he says. “Even now I’m working on a whole entirely different sound that’s kind of ’50s-flavored indie rock — I don’t even know what I’m doing with that! I love it, but how does this fit into what I’m doing? I’m not gonna worry about it. Making music is my natural habitat. I can’t not do it; I know that sounds cliché, but I can’t not always be doing it, so I’ll just see what comes and deal with it then.”