The sons of well-traveled Maine troubadour David Mallett, Luke and Will Mallett always knew they’d end up in the music business, just like dad. Yet it wasn’t until 2009, with the two siblings were well into their 20s, that they finally collaborated musically, forming the core of six-piece rock ‘n’ roll/Americana outfit the Mallett Brothers.
“I’d been in a ‘party band’ with some other guys, and that was starting to wind down,” says Luke Mallet. “Then my brother came back from college with a handful of songs, and we started running with it. We’d come from a musical household, but we never played together when we we were kids.
“Once we did, it was really cool, right from the get-go. And we haven’t looked back since, because we’ve been having too much fun.”
Luke tells that, early on, he and his brother were on separate musical trajectories. Following in father’s footsteps, Will trafficked in classic country, traditional string-band music, and singer-songwriters of the ’60s and ’70s. Luke, meanwhile, was a stone ’90s rock ‘n’ roll kid, weaned on Pantera and the hip hop of Wu Tang Clan.
Brother Will’s influence told, though — “He introduced me to a lot of the stuff I rely on in my songwriting now,” Luke says with a hearty laugh — as the Mallett Brothers evolved a sound that melded folk and rural/traditional musics with the heartland rock of artists like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty.
“Our first record was more acoustic, with banjos and mandolins,” says Luke, describing the band’s evolution. “But from there, our live show really started dictating what we sounded like. At that point, the band turned into another animal, one with more of a rock ‘n’ roll feel to it. The road became our biggest influence very quickly.”
The brothers’ home state also looms large in the band’s creative process. The Malletts hail from a small town in mid-state Maine — “very much logging and papermill kind of country,” says Luke. For their fourth record, 2015’s “Lights Along the River,” the band hauled studio and band equipment into a wooded backcountry just outside their hometown, and recorded the entire album lakeside, in the shadow of a mountain peak.
“We built our own studio in the middle of nowhere, in a camp with boat-only access,” Luke says. “It took six trips to get all of the equipment up there. It was perfect; it was October, and the lake was empty. We were the only people up there.
“We had the mountains behind us and the lake in front of us. We just wanted to catch the natural reverb and see what happened. One hundred miles of wilderness and the woods and mountains of Maine. That’s probably my favorite record for us as far as writing is concerned.”
For their latest record, 2017’s “The Falling of the Pine,” the brothers looked to an aging tome on the family bookshelves, a work entitled “The Minstrelsy of Maine.” Compiled by a local archivist in the 1920s, the book is a compendium of lyrics from folk songs passed around the lumber camps and fishing villages of the region in the 19th century.
Luke says the band had to make up their own melodies for the songs — the original melodies being lost to time, or else conforming to stock Irish folk-tune structures. “It took us nearly two years of down time to finish the project,” says Luke.
“For the most part, we had to imagine the melodies. Most of the lyrics were just swapped interchangeably into traditional Irish folk songs. We took the lyrics and made our own arrangements, trying to modernize them in some respect. Kind of: ‘What if they had electric guitars in the old lumber camps?’
“The lyrics were really heavy; there was a lot of dangerous stuff going on in those camps back then. So the stories were the important thing for us. We didn’t want to go the route of making a traditional-sounding record. We wanted to make a rock record, using these traditional song lyrics.”
The Mallett Brothers will play Preservation Pub Thursday, April 20 at 9 p.m. with opening act Matt Urmy.