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

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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

Luke Mallett said the band will play a quieter set than normal, out of deference to their dad. They don’t want to overwhelm the crowd with volume and force their dad to play loud to compete.

Dave Mallett laughed when he heard that, and noted that one of the things he likes most about the Mallett Brothers Band is its ability to play within a dynamic range from soft to very loud.

The Mallett Brothers Band has released three CDs, including this summer’s “Land.” The band has earned a lot of praise in the music press for its rootsy mix of rock and country. Among the things that make the Mallett Brothers unique is its range of influences, styles and musical attitudes.

“Land” confirms the Malletts' Southern roots. The recording is spiced with dobros, mandolins and lap steel. It has hints of bluegrass, and the brothers sing with a twang that suggests they are from anywhere but Maine.

On the other hand, they’re also endowed with a rock ’n’ roll spirit. Soule and Wenzel both play ripping electric guitars; Soule plays mostly a Stratocaster and Wenzel prefers a Telecaster.

Much of the band’s music is well-suited for mainstream country radio. This summer, they opened for country star Toby Keith in Bangor, and were perfectly comfortable on a big-stage setting. They’re also comfortable playing an acoustic set in an intimate, sit-down club, which is what they will do in Nashville on Tuesday.

Their current musical orientation seems a logical outcome given the music their father exposed them to and the music they gravitated toward as kids.

“As soon as they got to a certain age, they started leaning toward the pop stuff,” Dave Mallett said. “We had M.C. Hammer records in the house. We had ‘Thriller.’ We had Mr. Big. I was playing my stuff and the country stuff that I was trying to emulate. But they were very independent. Will fell into punk when he got into high school, and that’s all he listened to. He had headphones on all the time. Luke learned to hip-hop and rap. They were aware of the other stuff, but the other wasn’t their first choice.”

It wasn’t until sometime in the mid-2000s when Luke came home to Sebec one weekend and dug up an old PBS tape of his dad playing live that he displayed an inclination for the kind of music the band plays today. Will was away at Middlebury College in Vermont at the time, and coincidentally had been turned on by the acoustic renaissance.

At some point along the way, the brothers realized their musical tastes had merged. The band formed in 2010, and has been based in Portland since.

David Herring, executive director of the Wolfe’s Neck Farm Foundation, where the Malletts played a benefit concert a few weeks before hitting the road, has been a fan for a few years. He likes what he calls the band’s “natural sound.” He appreciates that they seem to be having a good time on stage, and likes that the band plays music that people can dance to. “They just seem like really good guys who are having a good time,” he said.


The band has four songwriters, and both Will and Luke sing. That means it does not have a distinct sound or an easy-to-peg musical motif.

One of the benefits of this fall’s trip has been a few scheduled off days, which allowed for writing time. The band camped in a state park before arriving in Austin. They did some fishing and cooking, and a lot of writing. They also built studio time into their schedule in Nashville to further develop a few songs.

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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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