3 – Women, Children (and Ghosts) First

Saturday, 30th March 2013

(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)

The world is a messed-up place. Good things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to good people. Sports teams from Northeast Ohio are incapable of winning championships. Yours truly cannot grow hair. Etc., etc. And 3 is still not a household name. Talk about an injustice.

The long-running Woodstock, NY progressive rock gang fronted by singer/guitarist extraordinaire Joey Eppard have long been at the cusp of a commercial breakthrough, only to have the rug pulled out from under them, first in the mid-90’s after a failed deal with Universal Records, and as recent as 2010 when an announced union with Roadrunner Records went kaput. If bad luck were to have a face, it could be 3. But if perseverance were to have a poster child, it definitely would be these guys.

Anyone who has seen or heard the band cannot but helped be sucked into their intoxicating blend of rock, jazz, prog, and everything else. Eppard and co. write songs as complex as they are catchy and ethereal, having struck critical gold with 2007’s marvelous The End Is Begun and followed it up with 2009’s retrospective Revisions, a record that is a virtual clinic in pop songwriting. Better yet, 3 is one of the few bands that effortlessly dips into the metal pool and snags would-be believers left and right. That’s how good this band is. We cannot stress it enough.

Fresh off a tour with Within Temptation and readying the release of their new (and monstrous) The Ghost You Gave To Me, Eppard phoned Blistering to talk about a myriad of topics. Here’s what the oh-so polite singer/guitarist had to say…

Blistering.com: In terms of where you left off with The End Is Begun, where does The Ghost You Gave To Me take 3’s sound?

Joey Eppard: I think it takes it further, basically. It’s a more cinematic record. We sort of let go the standard compositional vibe that we had in the past. There’s a lot of left turns that happen, but they all seem to be a part of the story, but it’s not for the sake of it doing it, it’s just where [it] wants to go.

Blistering.com: I could see that, being the songs on your previous albums had some regular compositional structure to them.

Eppard: We made the Revisions, which was basically pop songs. This time around, we felt we had the freedom to really go for it. It’s more progressive-type stuff.

Blistering.com: To that point, you always get lumped in with the whole progressive and prog scenes. You’ve done some tours with Dream Theater, so are you okay with being placed with those groups and that scene?

Eppard: I’m fine with it. I think we end up there because no other place to put us [laughs]. If you want to call it “progressive,” then I’m fine with it. What does “progressive” really mean anyway? It just means you can take things a step further. We have our way of doing that; it’s not necessarily the stereotype of being progressive is for a lot of people, but we have our version of what progressive is. We can play our instruments and definitely go over really well with that audience in the live setting. I guess it’s a safe genre for us to be placed in.

Blistering.com: Is there any spillover from the regular metal crowd being that you’re on Metal Blade?

Eppard: There’s some of that, yeah. We like to joke around and say we’re the “white sheep” [laughs]. I really respect Brian [Slagel, Metal Blade president] and Mike [Faley, Metal Blade head of A&R] for getting behind us and having something that’s very different than most of their roster. But they’re really into it and they’re 100% supportive with our creative endeavors. There’s some difficulty – people see Metal Blade sometimes and there’s certain connotations with that. You can’t judge a book by its cover.

Blistering.com: Whatever happened to the deal you had worked out with Roadrunner?

Eppard: Basically, we did the Progressive Nation 2008 tour. We had done several tours with Porcupine Tree which had lifted our profile up. After that, everybody was starting to take notice. There was Roadrunner, the A&R guy was following us around, wanting to sign the band, taking us out to dinner. My attitude was, to call up Brian and asked him what his opinion was and told him these guys were sniffing around and seem like they’re really interested in the band. To me, you have to be straight-up with this stuff. It’s not about being on his label or their label, it’s what’s the right move for our career? Because he signed us because he wants our career to develop the best way possible and we’re always going to have our old records on Metal Blade; we can only sell more of them.

What excited me about Roadrunner was their radio department. That’s one of the frustrating things is that we have the potential [for radio play] but we have realized it yet. It’s a tricky business with radio. We told Brian and ended up having one record left on our contract which ended up being Revisions and then we signed with Roadrunner. We were ready to make the next record, then two weeks later, our A&R guy was fired [laughs]. The first thing I asked the guy was how long he had been with the company. “11 years.” I was like, “Oh, 11 years? That’s pretty good for A&R guy.” He got canned and I was like, “Are you serious?” This is the second time this has happened to us, the first was back in the 90’s with Universal Records. Our A&R guy was Heavy D [the rapper], he fell off the face of the earth [laughs]. He loved the band. He was like, “I expect to see all of you in camo.” I said, “Really? Camo?”

So we’ve been through that and it basically made us stronger. Unfortunately, it stalled out our momentum because we made this other record we wouldn’t have made otherwise and when the deal fell apart, right after we signed, we bought out the contract and were free to go with someone else again, so we went right back to Metal Blade. We wanted to make this record and we’re really excited and Metal Blade is really excited about this record. Roadrunner’s loss, man.

Blistering.com: At least you have a strong lineup to withstand these things. What’s the dynamic?

Eppard: After going through this Roadrunner thing, if that didn’t break us up, nothing will [laughs]. We all knew we had this record on the tips of our tongues that had to get made. We’re all excited to get back out on the road. We just did a tour with Within Temptation and it was so good.

Blistering.com: That’s a unique pairing, the two of you.

Eppard: Believe me, it really worked. We’re the kind of band that can play with anybody and will probably win over a good portion of the audience.

Blistering.com: As for the new album and from the songs I’ve heard, “React” has to be one of your best vocal performances to date.

Eppard: Making something like Revisions opened up me a little more vocally. The one thing that I wanted to do is capture the power of our live thing. You get sick of hearing from people, “You’re so much better live than on CD.” That’s a great compliment, but I want to be just as good; I want both to equally awesome. I broke out that studio-mode where you’re trying to sing it perfect, letting the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll coming in play, just diving in and out as much as I could. I pushed my range up higher [laughs]. My voice has gotten stronger over the years.

Blistering.com: I know you mentioned some of the songs are tied together, so is there a theme for The Ghost You Gave To Me?

Eppard: There are definitely some themes running through it. We were on this rollercoaster, fighting through some depression, all of the frustration we have suffered because of the way things have gone with our career. “React” is a story, but also a metaphor. The girl in the song represents the dream we’ve been chasing. We’re always this close and it’s about to happen, but how long can you live your life like that? At one point, we put our foot down and smashed through the ice and took hold of it. We made the record the way wanted to make it to get it out there to the world.

Blistering.com: Since you’re going to be hitting the road so much and have a few albums under the belt, what’s the consideration to the setlist?

Eppard: The real nightmare is when we’re opening for someone and we get a half-hour. It’s like, “Oh great, how are we supposed to give someone an idea of who we are in a half-hour?” It’s a lot of work to put together the set; we have to change the compositions of the songs. But we do our best to show people what we can do and leave them wanting more. After the first show with Within Temptation, their guitar roadie was asking me for their autograph. Then the next day, they gave us 45 minutes instead of 30 minutes, which was way cool.

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