Portland, Oregon post-hardcore act takes it on the road, tours relentlessly (State of Grace)
By: Alex Steininger
As the guitar player for Portland-based post-hardcore trio Thirty3, Chris Paules has been asked a lot, much like any other musician, "what does your band sound like?" and, like others, finds himself hard-pressed to answer that question. But, unlike other musicians, for a good reason: the band melds indie-rock, hardcore, punk, and other sonic elements into their post-post sound.
"We come from a very broad range of influences, from what we all listen to," explains Paules. "So it's hard to peg what we sound like. We play with all type of bands, all the time. We don't really play with indie rock bands, punk bands, or hardcore bands. It's in between all of that."
"If anything, we're the oddball band in a way," furthers Jon Campbell, vocalist and bassist for Ether. "We're not a traditional hardcore band, we're not a traditional punk band, or a traditional indie rock band. To find acceptance in all those scenes, people always find things that are different about us and don't want to accept us. On the other hand, people accept us a little more at times because we are that crossover band. We can cross over to different styles. It's one of those things; people think one thing and believe another. We're in the middle."
But, fitting in isn't something Thirty3 is trying to do, or forcing on their sound. Instead, they bulldoze ahead with fourteen fierce, fist-pounding, aggressive, yet melodic-laden tunes on their debut, Ether, released on the hardcore label State of Grace earlier this year.
Since the album's release, the band has found acceptance and fans everywhere they tour, leading the band to believe that their hometown, or the mere fact of being a local band, is a quick way to not fit in to any tight-knit scene, but that on the road, if you're good, the crowds will find you.
"It's like night and day," comments Paules, discussing the difference between going on tour and playing hometown shows. "We fit in so much better when we're on tour. People seem to be way into it when we're on tour, and we've met a lot of cool bands and people on tour who are really accepting. It's really weird to come home after that. I mean, I love where I live and I love a lot of the bands here, and granted I don't know a lot of people who go to shows, but it's weird to come home and play a show and nobody is into it or nobody is there, and nobody gives a shit that a band is playing. When you can go two hours south or to the middle of California and kids are excited because there is a show. It's really interesting."
"There is no magic in local bands anymore," adds Campbell. "If you're from here, it's not magic, because they can see you play next month. There isn't a local band that has a draw anymore. You used to be able to go see Hazel and they'd sell out the bottom of La Luna, now I doubt there is a local band who can sell out Berbati's. The magic is gone, but when you go to a different town, the magic is there. And it's fun. I wish the magic would come back here."
David, the drummer, also points out that, "It's everywhere," he says of the have under appreciation for local bands. "Except in small towns, where kids don't give a fuck. They're more accepting of bands."
All of this doesn't bother Thirty3, however, because the band stays on the road as much as they can. The band put several tours under their belts, prior to recording Ether.
Recording twenty songs, the band knew going into it that only fourteen would comprise Ether and the rest would be used later for other projects, include three which are on the Countdown To Life/Thirty3 split EP, released in the latest issue of A.M.P. Magazine.
"We picked out the ones that would make the best possible record and then put the others aside to use for other things," David says, commenting on the selection process for Ether.
"The track listing was a bit hard," follows Paules. "When you record twenty songs it is hard to weed through them all and figure out your strengths and weaknesses and figure out what sounds good together and what doesn't."
Prior to going to the studio to record Ether Thirty3 did a lot of pre-production and demoing on their home studio, going as far as to record demos with multi-tracked guitars, trying to fully map out what they wanted to do in the studio, prior to entering, to know how everything should go, but also to save money.
Paules is quick to admit, however, that even with all the pre-production, not everything worked out the way they had planned it to.
"We went in there with all these ideas and once we got down to the bare bones of things a few of the ideas didn't work out the way we thought they would, so we spent some time re-arranging them," Paules tells me.
"Some songs turned out way better than we thought and some turned out," David says, before trailing off.
"It just didn't turn out very well," he finishes. "A song that we really liked live, it just didn't work out on tape."
"There are some songs we spent two practices on and recorded them and they turned out great and other songs we spent so much time on live and played live at every show, and they just didn't turn out so well on the record," adds Paules.
After finishing the recording, the band went looking for a label, but didn't have to look too hard. Preparing a tour with friends Countdown To Life, State of Grace, Countdown To Life's label, asked the band to tell them about their tour mates. Thirty3 sent a CD to State of Grace, and with Countdown to Life suggesting to State of Grace they should release the record, a relationship was born.
"Our friends, Countdown to Life, wanted to take us on tour. And they were very happy with their label. And their label asked them who they were going out on tour with," recalls Campbell, telling me the story of how they got hooked up with State of Grace. "We met him. He liked our stuff. It's not a very romantic stuff. Just a guy we met, he liked our stuff, and we liked his vision. He got our stuff. He understood it. And he was willing to take a chance."
Brett Matthews, founder and owner of State of Grace, also publishes the wildly popular A.M.P. Magazine, a magazine that recently released the Countdown To Life/Thirty3 split CD-EP.
The band just got back from a tour in support of the CD-EP and the full-length and plan to hit the road again very soon.
When asked what one of his proudest moments of playing in Thirty3 is, Campbell quickly replies, "the fans".
"I like it when people e-mail me, who we don't know, and they're excited about the record. Your buddies will always say 'that's a great record'. Not to diss your buddies, but they're your buddies. But to hear a kid who doesn't know you say he/she really likes the record, that makes me happy," furthers Campbell.
Look for Thirty3 on tour throughout the rest of the year and well into the next year -- and more.