FOR SOMEONE who understands the power of community, the Mallard's Greer McGettrick is admittedly a bit of a control freak.
"I call myself the benevolent dictator," McGettrick laughs. "I'm always amazed when bands are purely democratic. I'm pretty set on how I want the songs to sound and what the parts are."
McGettrick started the Mallard upon her arrival to the fertile psych-garage scene of San Francisco in 2009 after leaving Fresno, and she recruited a lineup to parlay her scratchy, lo-fi assortment of songs almost immediately after the move.
"I was just like, 'We're starting a band, we're doing this right now, we're playing our first show in a month!'" says McGettrick. "I think once you have the set, you need to play it immediately because you can work on things so much more intuitively after you play a show."
The shotgun ethos didn't exactly pan out, and soon McGettrick was performing her tunes as a one-woman project. Around this time she self-recorded and released an eight-song cassette that found its way into the hands of Thee Oh Sees' John Dwyer, whose Castle Face Records was beginning to gain traction in the West Coast's garage-rock consciousness. Thee Oh Sees have since brought the Mallard along with them to SXSW, and invited them to open shows in the Bay Area as well.
"Thee Oh Sees have been incredibly kind to us," says McGettrick. "I feel very safe, like a little sister. There are a lot of people in this city who I feel are big brothers or big sisters. It's a really nice feeling of community and family."
Now a quartet, the Mallard—also featuring Dylan Tidyman-Jones ("Boy Dylan," guitar, keyboards), Dylan Edrich ("Girl Dylan," bass, guitar), and Miles Luttrell (drums)—is hitting the road for a cross-country tour to support their debut LP Yes on Blood, a strangely nostalgic brew of junky surf-pop numbers and punky garage jams.
Yes on Blood volleys between peppy, hip-swiveling psychedelic pop on tracks like "Shallows," and heavy, meandering mishmashes of both contemporary garage acts and pioneers like the Velvet Underground or the Sonics, as found on tracks like the excellent "Ants." But McGettrick is quick to admonish the easy comparisons made in an admittedly insular scene.
"Generalizing bands is easy to do, but [those bands aren't] necessarily where the person that wrote the song got it," says McGettrick. "We get a lot of 'it sounds like the Breeders.' I like the Breeders, but I don't really listen to them. So that's interesting."
McGettrick utilized the expanses of her own practice space, and the warm buzz of a 16-track, half-inch reel-to-reel to lock down the album's squalling patina. She also played nearly all the parts herself, with a few exceptions from Tidyman-Jones' nascent drumming expertise. McGettrick relates that having a solid lineup has brought some of the pressure off of her, especially considering that the Mallard's live sets will now actually include bass lines and guitar parts as heard on the album. And despite Yes on Blood's relatively recent release, McGettrick is already writing and recording tunes for a possible late-year full-length.
"It's way more freeing to be able to write for a four-piece," says McGettrick. "I think it's going to be better for these songs. They're a little bit more complex, a little bit darker."