November 12, 2013

Portland's Mallett Brothers Band on the road to stardom

The fall tour, which concludes this week, is the band’s most ambitious yet, with 21 dates since Oct. 6.

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

It was eight hours before the gig on a warm Texas afternoon, and the thing Luke Mallett wanted most was a nap.

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The Mallett Brothers Band performs Sept. 28 at the Harvest Dance, a benefit for Freeport's Wolf Neck Farm.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Nate Soule, a guitarist with the Mallet Brothers Band, gets his guitar ready for a gig Friday at The Kraken Bar in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Photos by Jeremy M. Lange/for the Press Herald

Additional Photos Below

He and his bandmates had just consumed a heaping pile of barbecue from one of the best barbecue places in Austin. At midnight, they were scheduled to headline at the Continental Club, one of the city’s best places for live music.

It was an important gig in an important town, and Luke needed to be at his best. “I just need to get some rest,” he said. “I feel like I’m about to explode.”

The Mallett Brothers Band has been on the road four weeks, setting out from Portland as far west as Colorado, 21 dates in all since a spirited send-off at Portland’s Big Easy on Oct. 6.

They’ll be home soon, but first the band plays another key gig Tuesday night at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville.

For the Malletts – brothers Luke and Will, and bandmates Nate Soule, Wally Wenzel, Nick Leen and Brian Higgins – it’s another steppingstone in their quest to become a self-sustaining band with a national following. The Portland-based alt-country band has released three CDs to national audiences, played 150 dates a year for the past two years, and logged about 60,000 miles in 18 months on its 15-passenger Ford van.

They’re doing fine, making music and playing for appreciative crowds. But they want more.

The fall road trip, which concludes this week, is the band’s most ambitious tour yet. It was the band’s first trip to Denver, and its second time to Austin. The long trip is part of the band’s strategy to establish an audience in cities outside New England. The only way to do that is to hit the road, play gigs and then go back a few months later. “It’s all about building relationships,” said Soule, one of the band’s guitarists and its de facto manager.

It’s grueling, expensive and tiring.

“That’s always the goal, to get in front of people,” Luke Mallett said. “It seems like we’re always working toward that second trip, the chance to go back. When we finish this tour, we’ll start planning for another. We know we are going to try to do another run sooner than later. The idea is not to take too long, because you don’t want people to forget about you. I think it’s safe to say we’re all in love with Texas, and we definitely want to do Colorado again.”

The late-fall and early-winter calendars are filled with closer-to-home dates, which put gas in the tank and keep the band fed.

In addition to covering a wide geographical swath of the country, the current tour is important because the band booked shows in several rooms regarded as desirable places to play. The Continental Club in Austin and the Bluebird in Nashville are premier music rooms in cities known for their music. The Malletts also played the Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., and Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver, both high-profile clubs with reputations for hiring good bands.

“We’ve been hitting it hard for two, two-and-a-half years,” Soule said. “This is the longest tour we’ve done and also the easiest one we’ve booked. I think that’s a good sign.”

Most likely, it means people know who they are and like them enough to book them.

In addition to planning the next outing, the band’s immediate goal is finding a management team that can help take it to the next level, which means more high-profile and better-paying shows across the country. It’s the difference between being a regional band trying to break through and a national band with an established reputation. It’s the difference between taking a gig to pay the bills and being able to choose which gig to play.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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It’s almost showtime in Chapel Hill, N.C., and the Mallett Brothers Band’s Nick Leen, left, and Will Mallett read Southern Living magazine before going on stage near the end of a grueling six-week tour.

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From left, Nate Soule, Nick Leen, Will and Luke Mallett and Wally Wenzel play at The Kraken.


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