Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with 3:1

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with 3:1Don’t ask me where I met these guys… I have no idea. But they sort of fell into my lap recently, and I was immediately impressed. (They didn’t actually fall into my lap.) I had the chance to see them perform (without them knowing I was in the crowd of course), and was even more impressed with their live show. They were a blast to see perform, were fun and conversational on stage, and really got the crowd energized. That’s rare for a band these days, to engage with the crowd as much as they do. But after having heard them live, it made me even more excited to chat them. The conversation could have lasted for hours; they are a treat both on stage and in person. Regardless, I would later sit down with these guys for an exclusive artist interview. That all being said, it is my pleasure to introduce you to 3:1.

So I have to know… 3:1? Or… 3 to 1? What’s the deal with the name? How did you guys come up with that?

(Ranch) I came up with the name. I sat up in bed; we were trying to think of these names that had to do with the trip. Tonos Triad really jacked us up on that. But we like those guys. So I am looking through all this stuff, and we had been working on a Miles Davis song called So What. The form of that was 3:1. I sat up in bed, and thought that the ratio idea would look cool. It had various connotations to people. Some people thought Vegas. Some people thought it was a biblical reference. Some people thought it was 3 voices, 1 sound. It really is just insomnia.

And the Beatles… that was taken. Most names are taken, as you well know. We were going to do a cross between the Beatles and the Eagles, and be the Beagles. But we went with 3:1. The name also, you can do a lot of different iterations. We wanted people to think from the very beginning.

So you guys are a cover band. Do you play any of your own material? Do you even have any of your own material?

We do. It’s something that we are getting into, as we develop, and as we collaborate with other players in the area. As we do gigs, it’s just something we… are not pushing it, just letting it happen. So far it is pretty interesting. Thin Mint Jelly Bread is the instrumental original that we perform. Followed soon by Laundered Ninja. The three of us have done a lot of original music, in different context.

So is that one word, or two?

Well, it’s two. We were riding to Ohio one day, and Tom mentioned his stomach hurt from burning out on thin mint cookies on jelly bread. It didn’t take five minutes for me to put that right to this melody. It had been banging around in my head for years. That gave it a reason to come on out.

There are a TON of great cover bands in this city. Who is your favorite cover band to see perform?

We don’t go anywhere. (Laughs) We are always playing. I don’t go out unless we are playing anymore. My Yellow Rickshaw is a great cover band because they make you think, which is something we think is essential. I can turn on the radio at home…. or the Internet, or the Xbox, or my phone. There are a zillion kinds of media that will give me what the world thinks is cool. When someone takes a familiar song and does something different with it, it’s kind of cool. It’s what makes us do our thing to a good degree.

There are some great cover bands in town, but we just don’t make it out a lot. As far as pop/musicianship, we like The Flying Toasters. There are a lot of people that are bringing the music that you know to you, the way you know it. That’s just not us! That’s just not our thing.

You guys do parties, receptions… even corporate functions. Do you prefer playing one style of event to another?

I don’t think so. Parties are a lot more fun than bars. Bars are bars… and a lot of bars just don’t care. You have a bunch of drunk people sitting around wanting to hear the game. On the other side of that, we have played some bars that were a great time. I think it’s like anything in your life. You are going to get out of it what you put into it. It’s pretty cool when the other people go along with it.

Private events are when people usually cut loose. Plus, they are there just to party and to have fun. They aren’t there to drown their sorrows and get drunk.

If you go to a certain bar, say it’s a sports bar, and they have classic rock… there’s some constraints there as when you go into a party, or a function of some sorts… it’s a little more wide open. But we play all kinds of stuff. We would play a Chuck E. Cheese’s; do you have an opening?

So let’s say I want to book you for one of those private parties or corporate events. What sort of rate am I looking at here? What do you guys charge to play?

It depends. We are surprisingly affordable in the world of live music. Part of that comes from our ability to tailor our show to your needs. Acoustic, maybe acoustic duo… maybe you only want a couple of us. Maybe you want the acoustic show plus a sax player. We have a young kid that comes out and does stuff with us. We have Jon Martin that does stuff with us.

The core band is a trio, but we are like the Swiss army knife of local bands. We can be the right things for your thing; we just need to know what your thing is.

Before I start to assume… what’s the “ranch” for there Randy?

It… happened in the 80s. It really all goes back to a customer service story. I was bartending. A guy walked in, wanted ranch dressing. I had spandex shorts on, no wallet… I went to the store, stole it and had to come pay later. There might have been a dog collar involved. There are pictures online, but there’s Photoshop… so those images could have been doctored.

People tend to remember Ranch… it’s like Sting, just not near as good looking. Or talented. Or relevant. Or talented. Or good looking. (Laughs) I don’t have tantric anything.

I am sure you guys have an endless array of tunes you could play. When you decide to add a new song to your set list, how do you decide what songs make the cut?

Whatever is easiest to remember the words to! (Laughs) We have been coming up with ideas for a while, and just throwing them on a CD… throw stuff down on CD and hand them out. See what we think about… trying to be as diverse as possible. That’s one way.

Stuff that maybe the audience didn’t see coming. That’s something that’s kind of a cool thing. Stuff that’s maybe, fairly current, and make it something different than what they are used to.

Is there any one genre you refuse to cover? For instance, would you cover a rap song? What about a country song?

We cover some Merle Haggard and stuff like that in our set. I think that speed metal is really “not us”. I don’t see us spitting our rhymes, but I can bust a flow.

We tried a Michael Franti song, but Tom couldn’t feel the flow. It was a rap thing… and I understand that. But we can cover just about anything, whether we cover it well may be another interview all together.

Don’t be mad… but I got the chance to see you live last week at the Flatwater Restaurant in Broad Ripple. (I love that space, by the way.) I say don’t get mad because I didn’t tell you I was coming! I just wanted to see you perform before the interview. Having said that, what can someone expect from seeing you live? Tell the audience… not me. I have seen it!

What you saw… three geezers on a patio. Three old dudes sweating!

They can expect to see a lot of different instruments. They can expect to see all three of us play percussion at some point through the show. They can expect to see a mixture of electric and acoustic instruments. They can expect to see us doing what we would be doing even if we were not playing out. I believe that this band will be playing music, like other people are in a dart league or other people are in a bowling league… we get together and play cool versions of songs. We like making music together.

And like you saw, 10-15% of the songs we had never played before and just tried. We like to have fun with the crowd and have a rapport with the crowd. We don’t care if our hair is just right, or that we have the latest Ed Hardy fashion. We want the audience to get what they came for. And well worth the cover charge at Flatwater. The show you saw was an acoustic based set… we can be all electric too. It varies.

The Front Porch Swingers? I LOVE that name! Tell me more about that project, Tom.

That’s only two of the three of us… Tom and I started that band, actually. It was in April of last year. That one allows us to get our hippie on. We play a lot of jam band stuff. We have two drum kits. It’s more jam band; a different beast totally. It’s like a freight train coming at you… run away!

You know, the more of your tunes I listen to… you play some pretty obscure cover songs. Any particular reason?

It’s what we like. I think you have to sell something you are willing to buy. It’s just playing something because it reached. There are a lot of people doing that. Part of our motivation for doing what we do, is if a member of our audience decides on Monday morning after seeing a 3:1 show, that maybe he’s going to download something jazz… and he doesn’t own any other jazz, that if he only spends $1 in that direction he is thinking about something different than he gets in his musical diet every other day… then our thing is coming home to roost a little bit.

If the country fan that would never think about buying a Little Feet album, and seeing the connection and they “get it” then I think it was well worth the $0 that they paid to get in. It’s about making people to think a little bit outside of their musical box that they operate in every day.

There are people falling over each other to give them that. A lot of it, a lot of people like the same types of bands. We don’t like to cover the same songs other people in the scene are coming. We try to pick things that are a little deeper. People can still recognize it, and like it… but it’s not the hits. You don’t have to play the Brown Eyed Girls. One of my friends recently called us the Lords of Vinyl. I thought that was kind of cool. We always hear, “That’s a great song… I haven’t heard that in a long time. And I like the way you did it.”

Are there any legal issues with playing cover songs? Do you need to get permission to play covers?

The venue pays dues to BMI and ASCAP; I think it’s mostly BMI. They pay a fee to them to be able to play cover songs both by cover bands and by their music system. Just when you release a recorded piece, if we would release a disc of covers, then we would have to pay royalties to those artists. You then have to get permission. We don’t know who did the CD that’s in here! (Laughs)

Places like Locals Only and Birdy’s Bar & Grill, that don’t pay those fees, you have to do all original music. Radio Radio is that way.

Do you guys have jobs outside of music? If so, what do you do for a living?

I stay at home. One of us works at Monon Food Company in Broad Ripple. The other guys are just musicians.

Randy, you have performed in rock bands, country bands… you have even done gospel. Why can’t you just pick a genre and go with it?

I am not very smart. From as far back as I can remember, I liked a lot of different types of music and I never really just jumped into one thing and said, “This is me.” Even when I was a kid, I might listen to Chet Atkins and KISS and the Stones in the same evening. It was a thing that appealed to me. Music, not just one particular style. I think it would be like just reading one kind… only reading poetry or fiction. I only do addition, not subtraction. Its good to experience a little bit of all of it. It’s one of the things that I really love about this band.

Who are some of your biggest influences, in both life and in music?

(Randy) Johnny Cash… Glen Campbell. I remember watching those TV shows when I was a kid, and just being in awe of those guys. In real life, I would say Abraham Lincoln. I am actually writing an Abraham Lincoln musical. It’s actually more about John Wilkes Booth, and making choices… pop culture. John Wilkes Booth was Johnny Depp in 1963. Other people for me include Martin Luther King Jr.

(Tom) I was always a big Beatles freak. The Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead… the AM hits of the 70s. Influence… I don’t know. Go around the table; I have to look at the menu.

(Joe) Musical influences, for me, Buddy Rich… big band music for me. I was listening to big band when I was young. Buddy Rich and Mickey from the Grateful Dead. Babatunde Olatunji, he’s pretty much the father of hand drumming in the United States. He’s from Africa, recorded a record in 1959 and pretty much brought that African hand drumming to the US. He was a big influence. I am into a lot of world beat music, and hand drumming.

You guys have a ton of shows coming up this summer. Do you always play that much? Do you ever get the chance to play outside of the Circle City?

Some… luckily we will be doing more of it in the fall and winter. We recently did a private event in the Chicago area. We have some gigs, actually playing in Muncie and in Peru here in the Hoosier state. We have done some shows in Kentucky. That was a big dream of Tom’s. (Laughs)

You guys look like you have a ton of fun up there on stage. What’s your motivation night after night?

The groove… the groove. I think that’s one of the things about this band that separates us from the other bands, we play very soulfully. We focus a lot on the feel.

I think hooking up with that groove, and the people in the room… the people at the gig. If you see three 3:1 shows in a week, and pick one of our songs that we do in one of those shows… the people in the room are reacting differently. Every night is something different. We play the same songs different. It will be fast, slow, country… We are kind of bipolar, musically.

Let’s say I want to request a song… say, Sweet Home Alabama. Do you guys take requests?

Absolutely. We are not one of those snobby bands. If we can get anywhere close to it, if we can pull it off without falling on our face… we’ll do it. People are there to have fun, and without the people, we wouldn’t have much to do. We are competing with HBO, the Internet; my phone does more stuff than my first computer ever did. I can be entertained. This thing can entertain me. If we are competing with that entire media, we probably need to do what the people ask us to do.

At the same time, we also need to bring something to them that they are going to be open to receiving that they are going to take out of there with them. That’s just another part about being interactive with the crowd. If we have something new, we try it… if it sucks, then everyone laughs about it. If they write it on a $50 and put that in the tip jar… it’s the next song. The more requests we get, the better just because it’s fun. Anyone can memorize a song, but to go out there and stretch your neck out like that is a gas. The people dig it, even if you don’t do it perfectly. Even if it sucks, people laugh and throw stuff at us… maybe not to take you too serious. There is a time to be serious and a time to have fun.

Being a cover band, I bet you play a ton of long sets. What’s the longest set you have ever played? Have you ever played a set so long you did the same song twice in the same show?

In this band, or in general? We have an awful lot of songs. We have done a couple three-hour shows, straight, but never repeated any songs. There might be a reprise… you might have a song that is early in the set and then we will finish that song finally, after 7-8 songs. Putting songs together in medleys that wouldn’t be next to each other on the jukebox is fun to do too.

Do you ever forget the words to the songs?

Pretty much every other song! (Laughs) We do forget the words, sometimes. I don’t like to read lyrics on stage. I don’t wear shorts on stage. I don’t read lyrics. Doesn’t seem very rock and roll. It’s because I am into fashion! Not a barista, but a fashionista! We digress.

Joe, tell me a little bit more about Clang!

Clang! is an educational project… it’s an all percussion group. There are four of us, and we do school programs. It’s based around getting kids to play instruments that are handmade, homemade, found instruments… found things. That educational program is built around that. We also can show them what playing professional instruments is all about.

The performance side of it is all-improvisational. Normally we will have coffee prior, and discuss some themes. It’s just an all improv group. We are doing a show in September at the Clowes Library downtown. That’s on September 25th. It’s real fun.

The educational side, with the economy right now, has been tough.

What’s the biggest crowd you have ever played for? The smallest?

I know I have played for 18,000 before… Played for a couple bartenders in my day too. We all have. That’s just part of it.

Where do you see yourselves in five years?

(Tom) I try not to look that far ahead. It always seems to fail when I try to play out past the next day. Hopefully doing the same thing, only better on a bigger scale.

(Randy) I think in five years we will be stretching out and doing even more genres of music and brining more more tunes to people that they either haven’t heard or haven’t heard the way they are bringing them. We want people to continue to think outside the musical dialect. We are like the fiber in your musical diet.

(Joe) I see us being successful… playing more original music on a festival circuitry. There is that other leg, that other thing we haven’t really scratched much yet. That’s the leg that we haven’t scratched.

Success, for us, is to just keep looking forward to doing it. Success is just being happy for doing what we’re doing.

When this is all said and done, and 3:1 has come to an end… what’s your legacy? What do you want to be remembered for when this is all over?

They just didn’t know any better… they were a happy bunch. Just didn’t know any better. I would like to think that we made people smile and have a good time. That, and that nobody got hurt. Nobody gets hurt with 3:1… remember those guys? They seemed to be pretty happy, and no one got hurt!

In all of the interviews that I do (I have done more than 300 of them to date) I always let the artist get the last word. Go.

Just try something different… try something different from what the world tells you is the thing to do. That, and be true to yourself.

Click here to visit the official 3:1 website.