MKTO, the duo behind hits including ‘Classic’, ‘American Dream’, and ‘Just Imagine It’, are back and better than ever before.
Made up of Malcolm David Kelley and Tony Oller, MKTO burst onto the music scene in 2012 with their debut single ‘Thank You’. This was followed up by the smash hit ‘Classic’, which propelled Malcolm and Tony to new levels of stardom across the globe.
The duo released their self-titled debut album back in 2014, in addition to their Bad Girls EP in 2015 and two singles, ‘Hand On My Heart/Places You Go’ and ‘Superstitious’, in 2016, before taking a break from the music industry.
After a brief hiatus and a two year gap since their previous release, MKTO made a welcome return last month with their brand new single ‘How Can I Forget’. Armed with a mature sound yet laced with Malcolm and Tony’s signature style, ‘How Can I Forget’ has already created big waves on streaming sites after just a few weeks.
With such a strong start to their brand new chapter, we’re truly excited for what the future has in store for MKTO. We recently had the chance to quiz Malcolm and Tony about ‘How Can I Forget’, their musical journey so far, future plans and much more. Check out what they had to say below.
First off, a huge welcome back and congratulations on your new single ‘How Can I Forget’! What’s the reaction to the single been like so far?
Malcolm: Thank you! It feels good to be putting out music after a minute of silence, so to pick up where we left off and to see the numbers and hear people enjoying it is a good feeling. Reaction has been great I think so far, just want to keep going.
Tony: It’s been insane, best we could ever ask for! Already over two million on both Spotify and Apple Music! So grateful!
Why did you choose ‘How Can I Forget’ as your comeback single?
Malcolm: It just felt right. And it’s also an ode to our fans meaning, how can we forget them for helping us get to this point, and without releasing music in like two years! They never forgot about us and we never forgot about them. So it just worked, and the bass in the song always gets me going.
Tony: We’ve had a few songs we wrote a while back. Malcolm and a few writers did this one and it just felt like a good song to put out. Single or not, we just wanna share the music we love to make!
Malcolm, you co-wrote the song. What was the creative process like? How long did it take for the song to come together?
Malcolm: A lot of songs have different creative processes. For ‘How Can I Forget’ we had a writing session with some dope writers. I love bringing in a couple writers to get different perspectives on a song so you can connect with many different people.
We had the song while on our hiatus, brought in another writer from overseas to add his touch and we just felt great about it. The timing was right, our team and new partners at BMG were excited and so were we to get something out to the fans. How could we ever forget them?!
What’s your favourite lyric from the song?
Tony: “Standing there wearing my t-shirt.”
Malcolm: I love the whole chorus and definitely the tag, “how can I forget”. I also like, “play like you’re tough but you grew up by the beach.”
We love the music video for ‘How Can I Forget’! What was the filming experience like? Were there any memorable moments on set?
Tony: Well the two lovely ladies we had in it were such troopers and so kind! It was just a fun day especially being by the ocean seeing some dolphins!
Malcolm: I mean, definitely memorable because it’s our first video back since our hiatus! We filmed the music video in Malibu at Point Dume – dolphins in the ocean all day as we filmed… it was nice. The girls were troopers for hanging out with us all day and it turned out dope so check it out now! How Can I Forget!
The video’s got a Westworld vibe to it – were there any other creative ideas on the table or did you love this idea straight away?
Malcolm: Shout out to our director, Izak Rappaport for coming up with the idea. We dug it right away and it was a journey getting to the end of the shoot, but we did it and we’re glad people enjoy it.
Tony: Yeah our director had this concept and we loved his ideas for it!
You’ve been away from the music scene for over two years but we’re so happy that you’re back sharing music once more. How did that time away help to shape your new music?
Malcolm: The time off really allowed me to experience life. Got to do some films and just stay in a creative head space. I took the time to get my body right before making moves again.
Tony: As we get older we experience new things, which lead us to new stories on paper. But we’re just so excited to get back out and play shows!
Since your debut single ‘Thank You’, it’s safe to say that over the years you have evolved a lot musically. How would you describe your musical journey so far in terms of sound?
Tony: Music is always evolving and what’s played on the radio is always changing, I think the only thing we try to do is make sure it’s a song that is simple to understand and relate to. Has to be catchy. If you think too much then you get too much into “what sounds like what”.
Malcolm: We have always been a group that likes to take advantage of the fact that we are very diverse when it comes to genres of music. Combining rap with soul-pop melodies and bass is usually what you would find on a track with a feature, but we have that all in one. We just allow the music to evolve and grow with us as we mature in our everyday lives. I think you can hear the growth from when we first started to now.
You achieved great success with ‘Classic’ and followed it up with some great songs, which in our opinion didn’t get the credit they deserved. Having taken a hiatus, how are you feeling about releasing music this time around?
Tony: To be honest I’m just grateful ‘Classic’ did what it did. If you’re in this business for awards or recognition then I don’t think you’ll enjoy it that much. The person I care about is the one who says, “this song helped me”, or the one in the audience knowing all the words. As long as we can connect with people, that’s all I care about.
Malcolm: I think ‘Could Be Me’ could have been a smash, but I mean, I don’t dwell on things like that. When working with a label and a lot of different people, you’ll have different opinions on whatever task is at hand. But we appreciate the run we’ve had, definitely learned from it and use that to our advantage now. Music has changed a little, so I think it was perfect timing releasing ‘How Can I Forget’ now.
A lot has changed in the music industry over the past few years, including the rise of streaming. How has your perspective of the industry changed? Has the likes of streaming impacted the way you plan to release music in the future?
Malcolm: I think it’s changed for the better. I like the idea of streaming and listening to a song over and over and watching that add up as opposed to buying a song for $1.29 and that’s it. So I dig it. The demand for content is being digested faster with so many ways to get the music and videos. I love it. It was one of the ways during our break we were able to see we still had support. While on our hiatus, fans were still streaming our previous songs millions of times, so that was one of the biggest things that pushed us to release new music.
Tony: Music and ways of hearing it will continue to evolve. As long as I can release something, I don’t care what platform it’s on!
You’re now signed to Crooked Paintings, meaning that you’re continuing your work with longtime collaborators Evan “Kidd” Bogart and Eman Kiriakou. Why do you think you’ve clicked so well with those two over the years?
Tony: When ya start with a family there’s no need to leave the family!
Malcolm: Just them believing in us I think was the important thing for me. They have been supportive this whole time and have helped us create some great records. For MKTO it’s only right!
Despite going through several changes and taking a hiatus, one thing that’s remained is your incredible friendship. What’s your favourite thing about each other?
Malcolm: Just being able to make music and the love we have for it I think is my fav.
Tony: My brother from another. Grateful we get to share the stage and both do something we love.
What are your next plans in terms of releasing more music?
Tony: Right now I’m just happy ‘How Can I Forget’ is out! I’m taking it one day at a time without thinking too far ahead.
Malcolm: We’re taking it day by day helping ‘How Can I Forget’ keep growing legs, but definitely soon.
Are you planning on going back out on the road? We’d love to see you return to the UK!
Malcolm: Definitely! We have a couple shows we are gearing up for. We can’t wait to come to the UK; we haven’t done a show there in a while…. it’s long overdue. There’s so much love and support it’s only right we do a show. Can’t wait!
Tony: Absolutely! We hope to be building up those frequent flyer miles very soon.
What would you say has been your career highlight so far as part of MKTO?
Malcolm: I feel we have accomplished a lot of milestones; I mean from first radio play, to first album, to ‘Classic’ going platinum and opening up so many doors. Then headlining tours and opening up for Demi in arenas was a great feeling. Performing in front of 60k with Taylor Swift was dope and meeting President Obama and the First Lady at the White House…I will never forget. But also making this comeback. So many things to be proud of and a lot more I want to accomplish.
Tony: No specific highlight on my end. Everyday I get to work with our team is a highlight with our group.
What’s next for MKTO? Are there any definite plans you can tell us about?
Malcolm: Next is definitely doing some shows, meeting our dope fans and winning new fans over. Promo promo promo! Letting everyone know we are back.
Finally, do you have a message for your loyal fans?
Malcolm: We love you! Thank you for being with us through our break! Glad to be back; will enjoy this day by day and can’t wait to do some shows to see people in person.
Tony: We love you!!
You can also follow Malcolm and Tony on their individual accounts:
‘How Can I Forget’ is available to download and stream now.