Joji Malani, aka Pei: “As a solo artist, I’m able to be way more intentional about everything”

(Image credit: Hudson Reed)

For much of the last decade, Joji Malani was best known for doling Gang Of Youths their musical bedrock, armed with an ear for theatricality, a fierce will to break the boundaries of genre, and a love for rock ’n’ roll at his core. But in 2019 – just when Gang Of Youths became mainstream darlings on the back of their insta-classic second album, 2017’s Go Farther In Lightness – Malani bid adieu to his chosen family, eager to explore a new direction as a solo artist. 

Under the moniker Pei (a Fijian word for “baby”), Malani’s new material glimmers with a hint of the charm heard in his work with Gangs – ‘Growth’ and ‘Trying’, for example, are both progressive indie-pop songs made epic with operating strings and soaring harmonies – but it shows a breadth he couldn’t truly embrace with four other voices to contend with. In allowing his mind to run wild, unrestrained by the opinions of bandmates or the shackles of major label A&R (instead forming his own Broth Records imprint), Malani was able to mine from levels of creativity that not even he knew existed.

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Ellie Robinson
Editor-at-Large, Australian Guitar Magazine

Ellie Robinson is an Australian writer, editor and dog enthusiast with a keen ear for pop-rock and a keen tongue for actual Pop Rocks. Her bylines include music rag staples like NME, BLUNT, Mixdown and, of course, Australian Guitar (where she also serves as Editor-at-Large), but also less expected fare like TV Soap and Snowboarding Australia. Her go-to guitar is a Fender Player Tele, which, controversially, she only picked up after she'd joined the team at Australian Guitar. Before then, Ellie was a keyboardist – thankfully, the AG crew helped her see the light…