The members of Malahat pose for a group photo.

Hitting the road with Malahat

West Shore band makes huge strides in their first year

There’s a new band making waves in town.

Four Belmont secondary graduates collectively known as Malahat have gone from jamming in their basement to playing Rock of the Woods, the Vancouver Exhibition, headlining the Five Acre Shaker in Port Alberni and booking a gig with the Island’s biggest music festival, Rock the Shores. All in just over one year.

“People like the energy,” said lead singer Tristan Savage. “We’ve been told we have an enormous presence on stage; our energy level is 100 per cent. We’re not just going to stand on stage, we’re going to play for you. We’re entertainers, we just give ’er all we can and people just love that.”

Savage, joined by lead guitarist Ben Smith, bass player Brad Morley and drummer Ross Bowen, draw musical inspiration from bands like Led Zeppelin, Big Wreck and Deep Purple with hues of blues rockers like Robert Johnson and heavy guitar riffs of Monster Truck rounding out the sound.

With their unique sound driving the band, the hard-hitting quartet have not only found success on the festival circuit, they find themselves in the thick of the CBC Searchlight competition. The national music competition currently sees them atop the Vancouver Island region top 10 rankings based on fan voting that’s now closed.

“We didn’t honestly believe it would go this far. We have major gratitude to the community who voted; it’s amazing to see everyone come together and support a local band,” Savage said of moving into the second round of the competition. “I have everyone from my doctor voting. He phoned today saying ‘congrats.’ We all just thank everyone who is helping out, win or lose. It shows we live in a great place and have a lot of great people around us.”

On the strength of their first single, “The Grit,” Malahat is up against nine others in the Vancouver Island region, going into a selection panel that includes George Stromboloupoulous. The panel selects one of the 10 bands from each of the 23 regions across Canada, and the two bands with the most votes nationally punch a ticket to the Top 25. The regional selection is in the hands of the panel, with the winners announced today (May 3).

“Our sound is very unique. Structurally, looking at it if you take a look at drums and bass and isolate all those tracks, you are going to hear the weirdest stuff in the world,” Savage said. “When you bring it together it makes a sweet song … If you’ve never heard us, it is gut wrenching.”

The contest has already been pared down from more than 2,000 applicants to the 230 left across the nation. Contest winners receive $20,000 worth of equipment from Yamaha Canada, a performance slot at the 2016 Festival in Toronto, a package from Canadian Musician magazine including a studio session, mentorship, album production/distribution and more valued at $25,000. Winners will also be featured on CBC Radio’s Q program alongside exposure on national TV and radio.

“The best part is honestly doing something we all love. You get to be with your best friends and play your music for a bunch of people who appreciate it,” Savage said. “It’s honestly a blessing to be able to do what we all love.”

Their next local performance is at Rock the Shores on July 22. For more information visit

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