The Refrain Interview: Malibu Nights

Malibu Nights is a 3-piece electronic rock band, and the brainchild of frontman/ composer Levi Garrett Smith, with Cody Kuehl on drums and Matthew Shaw on guitars. They hail from Denver, Colorado and bring with them a formidable and fun sound, with momentum in their tracks and electric energy on the stage.

Malibu Nights have just dropped a video for their single “Callie”. The song is a dancy synthwave track showcasing singer and composer Levi Garrett Smith’s vocal and songwriting skills.

We had a chance to chat with Levi from the band as part of our ongoing Refrain Interview series:

Refrain Music Blog: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. You have a new single out
now. Tell us about it? What’s it called?

Levi: The single we just released is named CALLIE, from our latest EP, Golden Vol.1. This track is one of the first tracks we wrote collectively as a group.

RMB: What’s the single about?

Levi: The lyrics for this video are inspired by a sense of fearless freedom, but also the fleeting and unreliable experience of time. These passing moments are often distorted upon reflection, and filled with dizzying ecstacy while taking place. The sensation of these lyrics were inspired by the final scene of the film Thelma & Louise, and the freedom of choice portrayed in that moment. The title of the song was named after the woman who wrote the screenplay for that film, Callie Khouri.

RMB: What’s the story on how it was recorded? The Who, When, Where etc. Was it a long
process or quick? Any good stories about the recording process?

Levi: The EP was recorded in Golden, CO at Fun Machine Studios, which is the home of our 4th Malibu
member, Stephen Tucker, who is also the brainchild of LiveStream Remote and The Control Room,
which are gold standard livestream/ production companies. I tracked vocals in Denver, CO at The
WICK, which is a local non-profit and music space, ran by Tj Wethington. The process for this track
was fairly smooth since we had it laid out, but the mixing process for the entire EP was a slow burn
since we were tackling the studio as a full band for the first time. Some of my favourite parts of
tracking this song were the guitars, since they play so prominently in the song. Choosing the right tone
and Matthew exploring the lead parts were explorative moments and explosive creative fuel for the

RMB: How many songs are on the ep?

Levi: 4 tracks, limited release

RMB: Is this your first album? If not tell us about your previous work and how this differs from your
previous work.

Levi: Technically, yes, this is our first official release. In the midst of production of this EP we released a 4 track demo which was part of a 24 hour songwriting challenge sponsored by Mad One Records. The idea was to write, record and release as many tracks as possible in a 24 hour period, and we managed to get 4 done, with a decent mix as well. This work was done very rough, but there is a powerful essence of songwriting and creative outflow in these tracks. You can check these tracks out on our soundcloud:

RMB: Tell us a little about the band. Who are the members and what do you each play?

Levi: I write most of the songs, arrange and produce the backing tracks, and sing. Matthew Shaw is our
axe master (guitars), and Cody Kuehl plays the drums and technically controls our set on stage. Our “4th member” Stephen Tucker is our live & studio engineer and creative liaison.

RMB: How long have you been together? When and how did you form?

Levi: We have been together as a group since 2018, but Malibu Nights has been in rough development as an idea since 2014. I formed Malibu Nights as a dance/ electronic rock project, but had to build the technology before we could have a full band. I play keyboards in several other bands, and wanted to remove myself from behind the keys and front a band. This meant building large synth backing tracks and utilizing them on stage, which took some knowledge building of how to properly engineer this in a seamless manner live. Once the band formed we tried it as a fully live rock band, but the vision was wrong so I dismantled it and started building the backing tracks, and really forming the style I was looking for. This is the version you hear today.

RMB: What’s the one thing you are most proud of in your career so far?

Levi: The thing I am most proud of in my career so far is playing with The Bunny Gang, I really love those
guys and the experiences we have had, and the skills I have learned from that group have taught me how to progress forward with Malibu.

RMB: If you had to pitch your music to a potential fan in less than 10 seconds, what would you say?

Levi: Sexy. Dangerous. Neon.

RMB: What’s one piece of advice you’ve gotten that you think everyone needs to hear or that has meant the most to you?

Levi: Artists pay double. You have to sacrifice many things to pursue your dreams.

RMB: If you could go back in time, what’s a piece of advice you would give to a younger you?

Levi: Invest

RMB: What’s coming up next for your musical project?

Levi: We have a few new singles in the pipeline, and a new EP in the works. Also, check out our new

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