It’s any musician’s dream to have a video on YouTube lead to a record deal and performances with some of the biggest names in their genre. Metal trio Unlocking the Truth is living that dream. The difference is that they’re still teenagers.
When guitarist Malcolm Brickhouse, bassist Alec Atkins and drummer Jarad Dawkins performed on the street in Times Square, a video of their performance went viral, leading to a record deal with Sony and festival performances and tours. They’re the subjects of the documentary Breaking a Monster, and a book about their journey, titled Unlocking the Truth: Three Brooklyn Teens on Life, Friendship and Making the Band (with a foreword by Questlove of The Roots), was published in May.
In advance of the band’s show Thursday morning at Wolf Trap’s Theatre-in-the-Woods, I caught up with Brickhouse (age 14), Atkins (14) and Dawkins (13) over email.
Bandwidth: Whose idea was the Times Square performance?
Jarad Dawkins: The idea of going in Times Square was Malcolm’s mom and dad. Since they work in the heart of Times Square, they knew all about it. They knew that tourists come to Times Square for sightseeing, so they thought we would get good exposure there.
Were you nervous to set up and play in the street like that?
Malcolm Brickhouse: Not really. I think we were more excited because we had an audience. It was much better than playing in my basement.
How has Unlocking the Truth’s sound changed in the years since that video was posted?
JD: It has changed because as we grow, our musical influences change. Nowadays, we write more intense and melodic songs, which I like a lot. I feel that a good song always gives a message and that’s what we are doing.
You’ve played at clubs and at festivals like Coachella and SXSW, but your show on Thursday is at Wolf Trap’s Theatre-in-the-Woods, which is Wolf Trap’s summer series for children. How is performing for an audience of your peers different from performing for an audience that’s mostly adults?
Alec Atkins: The adults are more likely to enjoy our music and will truly understand where we are coming from. But an audience of our peers might have a not so good reaction because unlike an adult audience, they are not nearly as mature.
JD: I prefer adults but kids are good too because you need kids to increase your fanbase and for them to really buy your music. Adults take music more seriously where kids see music everywhere. They are the ones who are really going to buy your product. So kids are very important to us.
MB: I think the main difference is the crowd’s reaction. Adults like our music but are surprised that we are kids. The kids who like our music are surprised that we are playing metal. Adults are too, but I prefer any audience who likes our music.
“[We want to] become one of the biggest metal bands in the world and to be not just one predominantly because of race. People from any race can listen to us as well. I want Unlocking the Truth to be universal.” —Jarad Dawkins
You’ve gotten to perform with and meet a lot of great bands in the metal scene. Which band has been your favorite to open for and to meet? Any cool stories about meeting one of your idols?
MB: We have met so many great bands like Guns N’ Roses, Marilyn Manson, Motörhead, Chelsea Grin, Motionless In White, Metallica, but we became very good friends — just like family — with Living Colour. Doug, Vernon, Will, Corey, those guys are the best. They’re like our new uncles.
JD: Marilyn Manson was my favorite just because he treated us with great hospitality from beginning to end. I just thank him so much. I would love to tour with him again in the future.
What’s it like for you now being an idol or role model that kids look up to?
MB: I don’t consider myself an idol, but I am proud that we are looked at as role models. We want everyone to know that they shouldn’t give up on their dreams no matter what people say.
JD: It feels great because now kids really see that dreams do come true and that they don’t have to be scared to try them.
What do you see is the future of Unlocking the Truth? What are your goals and plans for the band?
JD: Just to become one of the biggest metal bands in the world and to be not just one predominantly because of race. People from any race can listen to us as well. I want Unlocking the Truth to be universal.
Unlocking the Truth performs the morning of July 9 at Wolf Trap.