Maleveller Frontman Departs Metal for New Shoegaze Band

Brian Smith decided he wanted to sing more and growl less.
Brian Smith decided he wanted to sing more and growl less.
Katie Treat
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In 2011, guitarist and vocalist Brian Smith was in a buzzy heavy-metal band. Maleveller was breaking through the DFW area with a sound reminiscent of Iron Maiden and Metallica. But two years later, the band slammed on the brakes.

Other adventures had gotten in the way. Smith had started managing Three Links in Deep Ellum, and guitarist Jeff Biehler was working at The Foundry. Drummer TJ Prendergast and bassist Luke Harnden had married their girlfriends and finished college.

Now some of the members are ready to get back out there, but Maleveller isn't the focus. Instead, it's a very different band that Smith has developed with Prendergast and bassist Blake McWhorter. The project, Wax Ruins, has a slower, more doom-ridden sound with a bit of shoegaze thrown in.

Smith decided he wanted to sing more than growl. He had been a metal fan from a young age but also spent plenty of time in nonmetal bands like Mandarin, Lift to Experience and Pegasus Now. He wanted to bring those nonmetal influences into Wax Ruins. When he realized his original vocal melodies weren’t the right fit for the band’s sound, he found inspiration in the low, deadpan vocals of Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields.

“I like a challenge,” Smith says. “I have this full spectrum of music from different bands I’ve played in over the years at my disposal. I was starting to get some ideas on how to fuse everything together.”

The new band reflects his entire musical journey so far, not just a part of it.

“My whole upbringing in the '90s was, I wasn’t listening to metal music at all,” Smith says. “I listened to everything else, from shoegaze to post-rock. All that stuff burns into who you are and what you can do. When Maleveller ended, I wanted to open up the sonic spectrum to do something different. I wanted it to be good.” 

Before he and his bandmates finalized the name Wax Ruins, Prendergast dropped out, deciding to focus on finishing a degree, working and spending time with his wife. Thus began the arduous process of securing a new drummer — “no easy task because he’s hard to replace,” Smith says.

After a few auditions, Smith and McWhorter found the right guy in Mark Baker, who had played with Ministry, the Riverboat Gamblers, the Hellions and the Black Dotz, among many other bands. Baker practiced next door to Maleveller’s practice space, and Smith liked how he played, so they asked him to audition.

Sessions for Wax Ruins' six-song debut, Heavygazer, were spread out from August to December 2016. It's finally available digitally, and the group will play a release show at the Double Wide on Friday, May 26. Wax Ruins plans to do more shows before the end of year, but June will be interrupted for a Maleveller reunion gig.

The idea for the reunion came up at Smith's birthday party last year, which his Maleveller bandmates attended. But don't expect the reunion to last long. Harnden and his wife are moving to California this summer, and the band has no plans to continue with another bass player.

“We’re definitely enjoying this,” Smith says. “We’re enjoying relearning these songs, and it would be cool to write a new album’s worth of stuff.”

The door remains open for Harnden to return, but until then, Wax Ruins is Smith’s main gig: “Wax Ruins is my future and my priority at this point,” he says.

Wax Ruins, with Plandroid, 10 p.m. Friday, May 26, Double Wide, 3510 Commerce St., $7, prekindle.com.

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