I never knew that there were places (homes, institutions or whatever you want to call them) for people who were deaf. Daniel Marando from the diabolically bluesy Maladies sits across from me, staring out the window. Something seems to catch his eye as he turns and waves to an older lady sitting across the room, intently watching the Bold and the Beautiful with closed captions blaring.
“HI MARGARET, HOW ARE YOU?”
He bellows at the small woman, turns to me and in the same breath informs me that “she’s a lovely lady when you get to know her. Her husband died in the war.”
I wonder how hard it is to get to know someone who can’t hear a word you’re saying. “You’ve got to have a bit of time for these people. It can’t be easy for them either.” Daniel’s words are kind, understanding. My voice seems to echo around the room several times as I ask him how the album is going.
“It’s all been recorded and mixed and mastered and pretty much ready to go. We’re sending it out this week to some labels to see if we can find someone to put it out for us.”
Two young men sit behind us, quietly playing cards, oblivious to our unnecessarily loud voices and happy to be left to their own devices. Daniel tells me more about the motivation behind the album. “It was totally self funded, we just did it ourselves. Musically, it’s ready to go.”
A monstrous sound rips the room apart as a patient begins hammering on the keys of the baby grand piano that until recently had sat disregarded in a corner of the room, her head pressed to the ground in an awkward dance with the chaotic noise. Raising his voice over the din, Daniel explains that “recording to analogue tape made things a bit rough for a first recording. You have to be a lot more accurate.”
The piercing sounds of the tortured piano slowly begin to subside. The random batterings start to resemble a somewhat pleasant sounding melody. “It also limits you to twenty four tracks maximum so you can’t do five hundred vocal takes and take a second from each one. I think doing it to tape worked out well because of things like that.” Daniel starts to talk softer, slowly approaching an average level.
The piano fades into the background noise and I suddenly realise just how hard that is. There are no other sounds in the room but for the subtle flip of cards or the occasional unacknowledged fart. There really isn’t much going on here. It seems like a quiet vacation more than an institution. “It limited our opportunities for editing and we had to have parts more exactly as we wanted them.”
Daniel is hesitant to take any credit for his own actions. He admits that he comes here to help out the less fortunate, but maintains that it is a team effort to keep the place going. “We got a girl choir that we’re calling the Don Walker Appreciation Choir to sing on a few songs.”
“It’s most prominent on one song which is a cover of a song called Silos, which is a Don Walker song.” A tall young woman with a ponytail enters the room. Daniel stands and gives her a warm hug.
“There’s horns and all sorts of percussion too. We wanted to give it a bit of a community vibe and we also liked what those things added and we wanted to do something fairly different to what we do live.”
Hellos and goodbyes are shared. Daniel and I head towards the revolving doors and the outside world. I ask him if The Maladies will be touring soon. “We’re doing quite a few shows in Sydney in December, basically just trying to get a bit of a vibe around the album.”
Passing the visitor registry, Daniel pauses to sign up for another visit next week. “We’ve been trying to write songs really since recording, we’ve been rehearsing a lot, getting together a lot and just nutting out some new material which is coming along as slow as ever but it’s all been rewarding.”
We stop and turn to face each other as we reach the kerb. I decide to ask Daniel straight up how he thinks he’ll manage, trying to balance all these different sides of his personality.
“I imagine it’s gonna be difficult. Especially with writing songs, it’s time consuming and it’s pretty hard to balance it all but you’ve just got to find a way to do it I guess.”