Behind the 'Mall Fantasy' album rollout with 2:00AM Wake Up Call

Behind the 'Mall Fantasy' album rollout with 2:00AM Wake Up Call

The rollout of an album can often be an art form of its own, especially in this era of DIY digital music marketing. From Jimmy Montague's clarion call of "don't fuck me on this" in the lead-up to the release of his album Tomorrow's Coffee, to Penny Bored's QR code cards for their singles, there are infinite ways to get your album to the ears of listeners in your own special style.

But what happens if your album rollout doesn't quite go to plan? Micah Leith, who records eclectic indie folk out of North Carolina as 2:00AM Wake Up Call, has spent the past couple of years putting out a substantial project. Mall Fantasy is a double album originally split into two parts, the first coming out in December 2021, the second in March 2022. It's a sprawling and sincere piece of art—"a concept album exploring Gender, Capitalism, being trans, and Malls," as Micah wrote in their initial email to me—that beautifully captures the feeling of teetering on the precipice of adulthood, even as the concept of adulthood itself is constantly shapeshifting.

Mall Fantasy's rollout had highs and lows, and a longer than expected path that eventually led to its re-release as a reunited double album, Mall Fantasy (Deluxe), in January of this year. I talked to Micah about the process of recording and launching the project from 2020 to 2024; the below story is written in as-told-to style with some edits for length and clarity, and I think it's an honest and realistic look at the tricky logistics and complex emotions artists encounter when they put themselves out there creatively. Hop on the escalator and let's ride...

I wrote "I Left My Home" in fall of 2019, my last semester at college. Soon after that, I got the idea for the album. I think I was listening to a podcast where they said the term "mall fantasy," and I was like, That's a really good idea, I gotta use that.

Then I recorded this weird ambient experimental track in my dorm room with a Blue Nessie microphone and a reverse sample of another song from one of my older albums. That song was later revamped into "Mall Fantasy pt. 1", the second song on the album.

Mall Fantasy pt. 1, by 2:00AM Wake Up Call
from the album Mall Fantasy (Deluxe)

After I made that, I had the concept for the whole double album. It really started to come together in September 2020 specifically, because that's when I realized that I wasn't cisgender, and that clicked a lot of things into place personally for me. I was like, Oh! This suddenly makes a lot more sense. I wrote basically every other song on the album, and started recording in late 2020.

The first thing I put to tape—I was at my parents' house for Christmas, and they have a real piano. I don't have a real piano, I have a bunch of fake pianos. But I knew I wanted to do a song as the big closer that would have this recurring chord loop of piano ("Mall Fantasy Is Dead"). I mocked up all the songs by spring 2021, and I went out and found all the samples that I wanted to use, and I put those in and thought I was done.

Mall Fantasy is Dead, by 2:00AM Wake Up Call
from the album Mall Fantasy (Deluxe)

But then I was in a Discord server for Broken Camera Records, which is a small DIY label. I knew a bunch of people from that server and one of them was Kenny Malloy—kmoy—who threw out at one point that they would be willing to record saxophone for anybody who had a project. I was like, I have SO many things I would love to have saxophone on. That's how I got the saxophone parts for four of the songs on the album. "You Would Kill Me 9/12/2020" — that song has the saxophone solo that makes the entire song.

You Would Kill Me (09/12/2020), by 2:00AM Wake Up Call
from the album Mall Fantasy (Deluxe)

I hired Sylvie Jungheim to mix the album, and she did a really good job. And then I got it mastered by Heather Jones. She's worked with Sadurn and a bunch of other really awesome bands. I got it all mastered by August 2021, and so I was plotting out this whole release strategy.

Late in the game, I actually decided to split the album. It was originally going to be a double album, 24 tracks and 80 minutes long. I don't know why I did this when I was, like, sequencing the album somewhere in my brain. It was so ridiculous, but I was like, It's not a real double album if it fits on one CD, it has to be over 80 minutes. But late in the game, I thought that people might not want to listen to an hour and 20 minutes of music straight through, so I split it.

This whole time, I had been teasing stuff on Twitter and trying to make a meme of it. I had been really inspired musically by the first Glass Beach album, but also by the release strategy. They would be tweeting "glass beach band," retweeting everybody who said "glass beach band."

When I mapped out that I would be able to release later in 2021, I started tweeting "Mall Fantasy 2021" all the time. I made fake political posters that said Mall Fantasy 2021. I was just trying to make a meme of it.

And it kind of worked. I put out the first single,"Y2K", in November, and then on December 3rd I released the whole album and it went over really well. People really liked it. People were sharing it around. It felt really exciting at the time. I actually went to a show that night, a Jeff Rosenstock show an hour away, so I was driving home at midnight when the album was released. I had a label friend of mine do a small run of ten cassettes, so it did technically get a physical release, but I didn't have anything set up with merch at the time.

So then I was like, Oh man, everyone loves the first part of the album. The second part is going to blow everybody away, right? I set that release up for March of 2022, four months away. And I don't know...something was in the air. The label I worked with, who's a really good friend—I don't mean to blame them, but they went defunct because of personal issues, which I totally understand. But that was hard. And then I had a bunch of press lined up for people to write stuff that never really surfaced. It just felt like a cosmic force caused everything to fall apart at once.

It's not like it landed with a thud, but it felt like a lot of the wind was taken out of the sails right away, and it left me feeling deflated. Just judging by the streaming numbers, a large percentage of the people who listened to the first part never even got to hear the second part, and that was disappointing.

But, you know, you pick yourself up and you move on. I worked on other projects throughout 2022 and 2023. I put out an EP...and then I was thinking about it all around October of last year, and I was like, You know what? Who's going to sue me for re-releasing the album as one complete unit? That's the way it was always supposed to be consumed. I don't necessarily regret splitting it up the first time, but I felt like a do-over was necessary, just to have people experience it as it was intended to be experienced.

In the meantime, I had been collecting this wealth of things I could make merch with, raiding thrift shops and dollar store bulk bins. I picked up a bunch of hats for, like, $5. I live near some textile factories, so they often will have American Apparel brand overflow blank t-shirts that I can pick up for $1.50 a pop and then make into merch. This was the real thought behind it: what if I really pushed to try and make everything that I wanted to happen for the first release happen this time?

Mall Fantasy (Deluxe), by 2:00AM Wake Up Call
24 track album

And I'm really pleased with how it's turned out. In a way, it feels like a closure of the project, because before this, I never felt quite like the second part got its due, and never felt like I could move on from it creatively. I actually have some projects that have never even seen the light of day, because I made them and never had the the will to put them out. Because part of it gets in your head, you know? You work so hard on something, and then you're like, What if I put it out and no one cares and it falls to the ground with a thud?

Part of that is a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you don't try to get it out there, obviously that's what's going to happen. But I feel like this re-release has helped me put closure on that era—and also reintroduce it to a bunch of people, and reintroduce it to myself.

I'm hopefully moving on to bigger and better things. I've been working on a new album a lot. The re-release has given me this really intense creative drive for it. Every morning, I'm at the coffee shop, being like, Okay, what's the song that I need to write today?

Thank you Micah! Needless to say....listen to Mall Fantasy (Deluxe)...and check out 2:00AM Wake Up Call's link aggregation. And thanks for reading I Enjoy Music — if you like it, tell a friend, and if you have an album rollout story of your own, email me at as I'd love to hear it.