This is the story of “The Malchicks” - and of how a new, untried & very, very young, blues band came to be born naturally, in a world of manufactured, product pop. The Malchicks come from the clean side of the tracks, they’ve never been hungry, homeless, repressed, or victimized. They all even have happy family lives with no hint of divorce in the frame. So how can they be qualified to play the blues? Listen up…….
It started oh, so easily, even before they had reached the age of fourteen, “The Malchicks” had it all sewn up, (or so it seemed), and this is how it began… In deepest rural England, three thirteen year old kids were working in their bedrooms trying to make music. They weren’t making American Idol sounds, they were trying to be a “real” band, with songs, guitar solos and raw edges.
These kids saw the Martin Scorcese blues films and were immediately smitten - like the first wave of British R&B bands, forty years before - they had discovered something primeval, earthy and wholly unique, which had an instant and far-reaching affect on their music, their aspirations, and (it would be seen), their lives.
The young three piece school band cuts a home demo CD. The drummer’s older brother is a friend of a young guy who lives on a boat in Brighton. Boat boy is involved in a huge, weird, funky old-style studio, filled with relics from rock’s glorious past all hidden away in the depths of the English countryside. Drummer’s brother gives boat boy the CD of his brother’s little band.
Boat boy likes it and plays it to his partner - an older guy who’s kind of connected, has deep industry ties and manages some established acts. Older guy likes it, too…..
Boat boy and older guy get the band in and check them out…. Everyone likes everyone else! Young band wants to make a blues record. Older guy likes the idea. Boat boy likes the idea.
It gets better.…….Older guy just happens to manage “The Pretty Things”
“The Pretty Things” - 40 years on - are the last remaining, original line-up, first wave, British R&B band, and have impeccable street and cult cred, with fans like Jack White, The Libertines, Steven Tyler, Van Morrison, & David Bowie. “The Pretty Things” were formed by Dick Taylor, the original bass player in “The Rolling Stones”.
Older guy calls in Dick Taylor to assist in the “blues kids” project. They all meet at the studio. “Hello Old Wave, we’re the New Wave”. The Baton is passed… Songs are chosen. Old recording equipment is rolled out. Young musicians roll in. Old-fashioned recording sessions begin. Fun is high on the agenda.
So, that’s how things stood at the end of 2004. The band, then called BirdWrench Hoffman, a pick up of their last names, was putting finishing touches to their first CD, and it sounded fantastic. The original line up, Scarlett Wrench (vocals), Bryn Hoffman (drums) and Henry Bird (guitar) had developed a raw, energetic and untutored sound, edged with a touch of sensitivity & darkness (courtesy of Scarlett) which was all grown under the guidance of Dick Taylor, whose knowledge and experience of this primal music was (and is) unmatched.
And now everything was perfect……? By the way, your lead guitarist is leaving the band…….. What! Huh? I don’t understand!!!
Yep, it’s true. Henry Bird, beautiful, sensitive, wild, creative and unique - best new slide guitar player Dick had ever met, well, his parents had decided they didn’t like the studio guys much, and wanted their boy Henry to play classical violin…. Wouldn’t sign the studio deal so, goodbye Henry.
The first crack had appeared in their perfect 10.…….For the rest of 2004, the band looked for a guitar player, but it was hard to find anyone of their age truly committed to that unlikely music, or who had any feeling for the blues or understood the sounds. Until one day, right out of the blue, six months after losing Henry, there was a call from George Perez, 14 years old, self-taught, kick-boxing R&B fanatic, with brooding Elvis style good looks, a vintage Silvertone guitar, and a home 5 miles from the studio.
Yippee!….. By April 2005, the line-up was back on track. Rehearsals followed. Augmented by Scarlett’s younger brother Will, trying out on bass. He looks great, plays with real feeling and could make a final full line-up for the band to gig with. Maybe now, everything will be cool
The Blues kids are about to go into the studio for 5 days and start to replace Henry’s guitar parts with George’s, and record some new numbers to involve George fully into the record. Bad, Bad News… Boo Hoo. Bass-brother Will decides he must follow his heart & play rock, so bye, bye blues. Uninspired work from the remaining band - the bad news is taking its toll.
The release is looking very far away. The band’s British label Snapper has officially “shelved” the CD release indefinitely. May 2006 brings some recording time after a studio session is cancelled and the band slowly grinds back into a working studio routine. The songs are taking a new shape and, after all the problems, Scarlett wants to re-record vocals on some of the songs…. The sound of the band is opening out as the problems of the past year make their presence felt in the soul of the music…
The Blues…. is being felt by these young kids…….Older guy & boat boy begin to see a bigger picture than just a kid’s blues record… The sound has an edge to it and really has a “feel” of blues to it. Maybe, this will make the whole project stronger. The record is taking a final shape, with extra songs and the input of George’s huge guitar sound and inspired acoustic and slide playing…. His voice is added, here and there, too. Is there light at the end of the Tunnel…….?
Mid 2006. Snapper re-schedules the CD’s European release and there is now a US release in place with highly credible, eclectic, cult New York indie label ZOHO ROOTS. And while there are still a few problems (band’s unhappy with the old name - it’s not valid with the new line up, there’s no way to gig - no bass player, etc.). It doesn’t really matter, because at last, the veteran teenagers are moving toward a release of the mythical CD, which they began making in early 2004, more than 2 years previously. And by summer, it will be finished and they will be ready for a release. Finally, maybe, a Happy Ending?
On a quiet Sunday afternoon, Late in August 2006, and right out of the blue, the bands’ founder member and driving force behind their blues influences and the eclectic, vintage sounds of their songs - groove drummer Bryn Hoffman - leaves the band. And now things are falling apart with terrifying speed……The next day, the band is a two piece - Scarlett & George. George contracts a “mystery” illness, with blinding headaches and daily vomiting. Scarlett’s parents decide to divorce.
But the CD is finished, sounding eerily authentic, at what cost to these young kids?
Studio Company - Cote Basque - older guy & boat boy - decide to stick with it. The band decides on a new name - “The Malchicks” to continue with. The US release is in place. The Malchicks are totally committed to continuing. Their music is immense.
Their CD is called “To Kill A Mockingbird”. It is about oppression, darkness, pain, and……. The Blues. They have finally earned the right to express these feelings.
The Malchicks have been down to the crossroads….. and truly understand the blues.