After one too many trips from Columbia to Kansas City and back, Rachel Mallin decided it was time to listen to her heart and follow her muse.
“I realized there was no way I could go to school and keep coming back every weekend,” she said. “This thing was really developing and growing and blossoming, and I wanted to focus on it.”
That “thing” was her music, which was gaining momentum in the local music scene. So after completing her sophomore year at the University of Missouri, Mallin decided to take a year off from college and focus on putting together a band. The impetus: “The Persistence of Vision,” an EP she released in 2014 that got some radio attention from the Buzz (96.5 FM). It played the song “Razorback.”
Her decision has paid off, so far. Her band, the Wild Type, just finished its inaugural EP, and is getting more attention from the local music community.
“Some things that seemed unattainable when I started are actually happening,” she said.
Mallin grew up in a musical family. She started writing songs when she was 12 and was in a couple of bands while attending Oak Park High School. During her senior year she started tinkering with music production on her laptop. After her first year at Mizzou, she spent much of the summer in her mother’s basement recording “Persistence.”
“I was influenced a lot by what I was hearing on the radio and Spotify,” she said. “At the time I kind of related to Lorde and that whole ambient kind of minimal synth pop.”
After the Buzz started playing “Razorback,” the momentum started: “People expected me to play shows.”
She enlisted two friends from high school, bassist Justin Walker and drummer Austin Edmisten, to join her on stage, with a laptop to add other sounds. Their first show was for a Buzz Showcase at the Power and Light District.
“That was a really big show for us,” Mallin said. “We were all pretty terrified and excited. I’m pretty sure the laptop stopped working during the show, so we kind of winged it on the last few songs.
“We all got tired of that. I wanted a real live band.”
After a few hired hands filled in, she found the band’s two newest members: Jesse Bartmess, who joined in October 2015, on synths and keyboards, and Matt Kosinski, who joined this year, on lead guitar. All five coalesced almost immediately.
“It’s a really cool feeling to have a consistent lineup,” she said. “Now everyone is really into it, and we can get really creative and work on making our live performances better.”
The band performed in March at the Midcoast Takeover, a showcase of primarily Kansas City and Lawrence bands at the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, and more recently at Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest.
At Middle of the Map, they performed a new track, “I Pick Winners,” a song that illustrated how quickly she and her band can find a creative groove.
“It was like when the process goes so fast and naturally that you almost automatically do the right thing, and you kind of have to get out of the way and not try anything hard and let it evolve naturally,” she said. “It’s so great to be with musicians who feel really comfortable and creative together.”
You can see the creative telepathy and rapport in the YouTube video “Blind Covers No. 4: Rachel Mallin & the Wild Type Cover Cyndi Lauper.” The band was given lyrics to a song they’d never heard before and given an hour to write and record their own version. They got the song “I Drove All Night,” a song recorded by Lauper, Celine Dion and Roy Orbison. Lauper’s version, the best-known, is a buoyant disco-pop tune. Mallin and her band turned it into something darker, stormier and more tragic, and as compelling as the original.
“That was a really good team-building sort of exercise for the semi-new lineup,” Mallin said.
This lineup has been together less than six months, but it is beginning to develop its own sound.
“We kind of want to go the way of, like, surf-pop, with the kind of guitar tones from the ’50s and ’60s,” she said. “Like the first Best Coast album, ‘Crazy for You.’ It’s my favorite. There’s something great about music that’s mercurial and intelligent and substantive but still appeals to a wide audience.”
The band recently finished a four-song EP, “Degenerate Matters.” It has released to radio the single “White Girls,” but for the time being it is sitting on the EP and mulling over the next possible step, including some label shopping.
“Matters” was recorded at Element Recording with Joel Nanos, who, Mallin said, was more than just a producer.
“I’m so happy I met him,” she said. “I learned so much. He probably doesn’t see himself as a teacher, but he taught me so much about music and recording.”
Proof that there’s more than one place and one way to get a good education.
Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain
Rachel Mallin & the Wild Type will perform at 4 p.m. at the Briarcliff Brewfrest, which starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at Briarcliff Village, 4151 N. Mulberry Drive. Also on the bill: Baub Eis Band, Ivory Black, Minor Rewind, Outlaw Jim & the Whiskey Benders, the Steamboat Bandits, American Slim, Grassfed, the Spencer Mackenzie Band and the MGDs.