Notable alumni: Kate Malanaphy

Read about a Hamline grad’s experiences as a local artist and musician.
Courtesy of Kate Malanaphy
Courtesy of Kate Malanaphy

As an interdisciplinary singer-songwriter and visual artist, Hamline alumnus Kate Malanaphy has been making waves across the world of Twin Cities’ local music.

They recently released their debut solo album “Rock” in May 2023, adding to the discography of their self-titled solo project. They are also a part of the band Keep for Cheap alongside fellow Hamline alumni Autumn Vagle and Ted Tiedemann, as well as the rising four-piece alternative act Fend. In this interview, conducted via email, Malanaphy speaks to their formative experiences as a creator as well as their recent album release, their time at Hamline and the future trajectory of their multiple projects.

Malanaphy’s introduction to the world of music began at a young age. While writing and performing music became a more considerable passion in high school, their first experience writing music happened when they were much younger.

“Throughout school, I was in this extracurricular creative problem-solving program called Destination Imagination, where a team of kids was supposed to make a skit that solves a number of different problems. My first full song was written about ring-tailed lemurs and was written as a scored element in my third-grade [Destination Imagination] team’s skit. I ended up writing music for our play each year after this,” Malanaphy said.

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In high school, they began taking lessons through School of Rock, where they met the members of their first band before starting Keep for Cheap while at Hamline and deepening their involvement with their solo music project. As they continued to pursue their passion, they uncovered a valuable source of creative and interpersonal fulfillment.
“I have always loved bringing creative projects to fruition and music has been something that’s always served that for me, and in more recent years has also served as a form of deep emotional release and connection,” Malanaphy said.

During their time at Hamline, Malanaphy connected strongly with current and former faculty including David Crittenden, Jeff Bailey, Janet Greene and George Chu, who provided valuable feedback and encouragement that ultimately influenced the sound of Malanaphy’s debut solo album Rock.
“I took a production and composition class in my senior year with Jeff Bailey (who I believe was new to Hamline at the time) which changed the way I look at constructing my music and really influenced the record,” Malanaphy said. While their educational experiences through Hamline’s music department helped to shape their vision and direction, many other experiences outside of school have as well.

In November 2022, Keep for Cheap got the opportunity to play the First Avenue main room in support of Denver-based band DeVotchka.
“It’s undeniable that as a young MN musician, I most aspired to play that venue (at least locally), and I will never forget that experience,” Malanaphy said. Multiple recent tours with Keep for Cheap have also served as milestones, allowing the entire band the opportunity to expand their connections with their craft outside of the immediate scene of the Twin Cities.
“I feel I have gained worldly and musical perspective on each tour, and it’s always a bonding experience for the band too,” Malanaphy said. Most recently, they have been inspired by recording with multiple projects and playing bass, which has increased their confidence as a performer.

Out of many milestones, the release of Rock was perhaps the largest. Sonically and conceptually, Malanaphy is all over the board. Their vocals swell powerfully over layered instrumentals including cello, piano and acoustic guitar, as well as “found percussion” such as a band saw buzz and a trash can bang. While in the process of constructing the vision for the album, Malanaphy seemed to be most interested by a maximalist approach.
“I have always been interested in music that’s a little over-the-top in some way or another, but I think the ideas behind this record weren’t directly inspired by any music in particular. I feel like music is very visual to me, and I often think about creating different physical textures and colors as I compose/arrange/produce.”
Malanaphy’s experience as a visual artist shines through on Rock, influencing the project in delightful and fascinating ways, including the album cover, which was designed by Malanaphy themselves. Nature serves as a constant source of musical inspiration for them, which is visible on the cover, but the work also delves into concepts of play, exploration and spontaneity.
“This record feels to me like a collaged paper valentine covered in glitter and scrawling handwriting, or a self-portrait drawn with love, and no concern for imperfection,” Malanaphy said.

As an artist and musician moving into the world of post-graduation and balancing multiple projects, Malanaphy spoke to their experience applying and developing their skills in the world. Routine, and lack thereof, can be particularly difficult to establish outside of the structure of undergrad life, which Malanaphy commented on.
“In college, I was going to practice rooms in between classes and spending nights in my college house basement on a routine basis. These days I find it hard to keep myself to a musical routine and this is definitely not helpful in writing,” Malanaphy said. Collaboration has been a helpful resource, as they have found through working with local artists in many capacities throughout their emerging career.

Malanaphy concluded with a word for other young creatives trying to develop their experience. “In terms of advice for younger creatives, I’d say learn from my poor example; try to keep yourself in some kind of routine, try to deny any voices telling you you don’t have anything useful to say, and just extend patience and grace to yourself as you would for others through your creative process. Art, to me, is just about showing people how you see the world/how you feel – we can learn so much from each other when we are honest and unabashed in our expression,” Malanaphy said.

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