The Band 3
By Dave Schwartz
Photos Courtesy of The Band 3

Hailing from Woodstock, New York, 3 is a band of contrasts. Dark but optimistic. Spiritual but not religious. Simplistic in their approach to a writing style that yields complex arrangements.

"I think that ultimately Iím a hopeful person. But I think thereís something that goes on with writing," said Joe Eppard, vocalist of the band 3.

And legions of fans would agree-- 150,000 downloads at PureVolume.com and over 400,000 plays at MySpace.com will attest to a thriving fan base.

Since their very first tour in support of Coheed and Cambria, 3 has rarely left the road. Itís a hard life but for many, the best way to get their music to the masses. I called Eppard to congratulate him on the bands latest release, "The End is Begun," to ask about the tour and the just-released special edition of the record.

"The record came out the very end of June. Weíve been pretty much on the road since then with only a little time off," Eppard shared. "But we did get to take all of January off."

The main item that prompted my interview with Eppard is the release of a special edition version of "End," featuring a new song.

"The idea to re-release 'The End is Begun' started because we were invited to work on a Syd Barrett compilation," Eppard explained. "I really got into the track we were given. We recorded the song 'See Emily Play.' Doing a cover song, well, itís not something that we do very frequently. So it was just a very cool experience to take someone elseís song and do our own thing with it. We had so much fun in the studio and everyone really stepped up. We gave it our own sound. But once our manager and our label heard the song they were like, ĎForget it! Weíre not going to release this as part of some compilation! We want to put this on the record.í So they started kicking around the idea of adding the track to the record. And while weíre at it, letís release a DVD with some live footage and all the videos. Anyway, thatís how the deal started."

Syd Barrett was famous for taking unusual twists and turns throughout his songs. Calling his material mainstream would be stretch for anyoneís imagination, but 3 was certainly prepared for the challenge of Barrettís arrangements.

"Yeah, there was a lot of psychedelic stuff going on!" Eppard laughed. "It was fun to bring in more of the psychedelic stuff we do into the sound. Plus I got to do my percussive type of acoustic take on it too so that was fun."

3 has a musical style that is different from most bands. Not only do they have a multitude of aural textures going on at any given time, but the music is also very driven by unusual vocal melodies. The vocal counter-melody throughout "The End is Begun" is very dynamic and pronounced. When the listener adds all of this up, they discover a musical style that is very unusual. I asked Eppard if this was something they pursued or is it more of a case of the Popeye Syndrome, "I am what I am"?

Eppard thought for a moment before answering, "Well, there is a little bit of both for sure, but I think youíre on to what we are about and what I strive for musically. At the end of the day, the most important thing to me is melody and song. But at the same time, I love it when there are other layers there. So on the first listen you might think you understand a song, but on another listen youíll discover a whole new level. As you listen and dig deeper into our music, youíll get more things out of it. Especially on this latest record, I wanted to take something that was fairly complicated and then weave something that was potent and melodic and simple through that. Itís kind of like a union of two very different things together to create something new."

After listening to 3ís music itís easy to understand why they are labeled a progressive band. But along the way, I got the impression that they didnít start out as a prog band. The occasional pop melodies interlaced through complex arrangements hinted at an evolution in the music. I asked how they write their music and assemble their songs.

"I take the label progressive on my terms, which to me just means moving forward. So to be considered progressive in that sense, I agree," Eppard acknowledged. "I think all that Iíve ever wanted to do musically is to move forward, to evolve and to take things a step further. This doesnít mean that weíre always writing ten-minute songs. We donít add parts for the sake of parts, this is still about the songs. But because of the way we play our instruments, weíre not a straight-ahead rock band in any sense."

Eppard continued, "What I would also add to that is that we didnít necessarily start out as a progressive band, there has been constant change. In fact, earlier in our career we may have been even more progressive than we are now. As a songwriter Iím very eclectic. I can do many different types of things and do them well and I enjoy doing them. So early on, when it came to 3, I tried to make this band be everything that I am musically. And so it was a project that you could put on and it would sound like five or six different bands. And I think that over time Iíve slowly let go of that and let 3 become what it is. And Iíve let my other songs fall into different categories and different projects. So I do my solo acoustic, more folky type thing on my own. I also have a group thatís more soul and funk based and thatís with members of P-Funk. Actually I just got back from France, I did a gig over there with those guys. Iím just very lucky because I get to have these experiences in other genres of music and I just sort of digest that and then it comes out in its own way in what 3 does."

With such diversity in songwriting ability and with so many exterior influences, it would be difficult to exclude all those experiences from 3. Nonetheless it is clear from their records that these outside inspirations are not the focal point when writing new songs.

Perhaps one of 3ís biggest gifts is the ability to be a chameleon. For example, they just finished several dates on the East Coast with Chevelle. They are following that tour with the "Progressive Nation Tour" in support of Dream Theater and Opeth. When you consider the surprising range of bands that 3 has toured with it is impressive to note the diversity of styles. I asked Eppard about touring.

"Itís been pretty interesting," Eppard replied. "We have been on such different tours. I mean back to back, the last two tours we were out with the Scorpions and then we were out with Porcupine Tree. The two bands couldnít be more different and yet somehow itís working for us. Thatís part of the beauty of what we do. It has a mass appeal to it. As a band I think we tend to bring more people together rather than divide them into different clicks."

Eppard continued, "Iíve got to say, the tour with Porcupine Tree was one of the most successful tours weíve done. We had a really connection to that audience. So I am really looking forward to a more progressive oriented crowd. I think they get what we do and I think that there are aspects of what we do that are really going to set us apart from the other bands."

The "Progressive Nation Tour" kicks off the end of March and will be coming to an arena near you. I want to thank Joe Eppard for having the time to share his thoughts and for being a great interview. Free time is a precious commodity for any artist much less one who spends so much time on the road. For more information on 3 check out their Web site atÖ

http://www.theband3.com/

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