They’re an ice-cold beer with a shot of dusty old whiskey.
I’ve always been interested in family: how people come to be, looks and traits, who is like whom? With music, I’m intrigued by bands containing brothers: Van Halen, the Kinks, the Bee Gees. How does it work? Does their bond and blood affect creativity or performance? What about the children of musicians? Did the apple fall far from the tree or did they build their own orchards?
I never give anyone a free pass due to a family connection. When it comes down to your music, it’s just that: your music. Not your mother’s or father’s. You might share their smirk or raspy voice, but when I put on your record or see you in concert, I want to hear you.
Luke and Will Mallett have been doing a damn good job of getting people to focus on them specifically for the past seven years, even if listeners have known their dad—singer-songwriter David Mallett, most recognized for his folk hit “Garden Song”— for well over 30 years.
The Mallett brothers were born in central Maine in the mid-1980s. When they were toddlers, their father’s involvement in the music industry led the family to Nashville. In Music City, Luke and Will grew up listening to all kinds of bands. “Punk, grunge, hip-hop,” says Luke. Even with a young Garth Brooks singing background vocals on their dad’s demos, country music was out. “We stayed away from it,” says Will. While David found success writing and recording folk music that would be covered by musicians such as John Denver, Pete Seeger, and Emmylou Harris, the brothers say that music was never forced on them. They did watch their dad build his craft, though. In the studio, on the stage, and at home, they saw it all and learned.
The Mallett family moved back to Maine in the mid-1990s. David wanted to bring them all home. They landed in Sebec on North Road—the same road where five generations of the family have lived—and this return was the true start for the Mallett Brothers Band. Over the next ten years the country rock they ignored for so long finally materialized. They cut their musical teeth learning and performing separately. Then, in 2007, Will started crashing on Luke’s couch in Portland. They wrote songs at all hours and paired up to perform at venues like Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath and East Sangerville Grange Hall—some of the same places where their dad had played. “Being brothers and trying to make music together, there never was an issue,” says Luke.
In 2010, the Mallett Brothers Band— which, in addition to the brothers, currently consists of talented local musicians Nick Leen, Matt Mills, Brian Higgins, and Wally Wenzel—delivered their self-titled debut album filled with alt-country rock and some Maine back- road snarl. They followed up with Low Down, and then Land. All three albums have become top local sellers in Maine, prompting the band to test the waters outside the (207). The boys have toured extensively a dozen times, building strong followings in Virginia, Arkansas, Upstate New York, and parts of Texas. Regionally, they’ve been honored with plenty, including the title of Band of the Year in 2013 by the New England Music Awards. The whole time, the balance of Will’s rock n’ roll coolness with Luke’s battered hat and gritty outlaw smirk exemplifies the Mallett Brothers Band. They’re an ice-cold beer with a shot of dusty old whiskey.
Their fourth album, Lights Along the River, was just released in April, and the band couldn’t be happier with how it came out. It will surely solidify the Mallett Brothers Band as one of the biggest and busiest bands in the Northeast. Even though they look and work like Dad, Will and Luke are doing things their own way. They’re being recognized for their own version of the name.