Malcolm Brickhouse doesn’t want to do this interview. He was up until 1 a.m. last night playing Grand Theft Auto V with his bandmates, Alec Atkins and Jarad Dawkins. Then he spent all morning in a Manhattan courthouse, where a judge approved the five-album, $1.8 million record deal that Sony (SNE) recently offered his band, Unlocking the Truth. Atkins and Dawkins sit on a sofa in Sony’s offices, drinking Vitaminwater and waiting for Brickhouse to join them. But he refuses to. He slumps on a beanbag chair in the corner of the room, tapping away on his smartphone until his manager comes over and takes it away. Do the interview, he tells Brickhouse, and then he can have his phone back.
This is not the behavior of a childish rock star; Brickhouse is an actual child. He and Atkins are both 13 years old, and Dawkins is 12. As of this morning, they’re the youngest heavy metal act ever signed to a major label. This is particularly impressive considering they don’t have a single out yet—until recently none of them could even sing. These are just minor kinks for Sony to work out. Right now the label is focused on marketing three adorable black kids from Brooklyn who are deeply, and unexpectedly, into heavy metal.
It’s an easy sell. Brickhouse and Atkins have been friends since preschool, and Dawkins entered the picture a couple of years later when he met Brickhouse at a birthday party. When they were 6, the boys discovered heavy metal through the Japanese anime cartoons Bleach and Naruto and through the WWE wrestling matches that Brickhouse’s father sometimes took them to. “They loved the theme music. We’d come out of the show, and they’d be all duh-nuh-nuh-nuh,” says Tracey Brickhouse, wailing on an air guitar in imitation of the boys. He bought them instruments from Toys “R” Us and helped them figure out how to cover songs by Linkin Park. They got into Metallica. Then they started writing their own stuff. Brickhouse worked on the guitar riffs; Dawkins and Atkins fleshed out the sound with drums and bass, respectively. They called themselves Tears of Blood, after a band on the Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place.
“The first time I heard [his music] I thought, ‘Oh, my God, what the hell is he playing? No!’ ” Dawkins’s mother, Tabatha, says. “ ‘He’s going to be demonic. He’s not going to love Jesus anymore.’ ” Other kids at school thought they were weird. “They’d make fun, say a black kid wouldn’t listen to this music,” says the younger Dawkins. Brickhouse was teased for painting his nails.