Interview with Three Day Threshold.
What's the name of your band?
Three Day Threshold
What's the origin of that name? Have you changed the band's name before?
Not really sure. It’s been so long, I have forgotten the origin. Three Day Threshold started out over a decade ago. Since then, we’ve swapped a couple of players out over the years, as people get married and move away. Life changes. It’s cool. We keep evolving and try to grow musically. A name is just a name. We have come so much since we started out; we are literally a totally different band. Three Day Threshold has been fortunate to receive some nice recognition over the years, so why fix t if it ain’t broken. Both WBZ TV and The Noise have deemed us with the title of “Best Live Band” and we’ve gotten a bookcase full of Boston Music Awards, WFNX/Phoenix Best Music Poll Awards and ASCAP Songwriter Awards over the years. Most recently, we were deemed the 2010 “Best Local Band” from Boston Magazine. To be honest, I’m not crazy about the name, but I’m pretty proud of the accomplishments associated with it.
Please list the name, and respective instrument of each band member.
Johnny Stump – bass
Kier Byrnes – banjo, guitar
Evan Gavry – lap steel, banjo, guitar
PJ Aspesi – drum kit
Who are your major influences?
I pretty much listen to everything. I really started listening to more bluegrass & folk when I worked for Rounder Records so I got quite a bit of exposure of that. The Beat Farmers, the New Duncan Imperials, or anything on Bloodshot Records are favorites of mine but I pretty much listen to everything. Classical, jazz, rap, country, bluegrass, reggae, Cajun, punk, metal, world... the list goes on.
Bands like the Rolling Stones or The Band, or more recent bands like Uncle Tupelo and Wilco are some of my favorites; people that just mix and match their favorite sounds from the past to make something their own. I love people like Dylan, Elvis Costello, and Tom Waits as songwriters too, because an especially clever or insightful lyric can make a good song great.
How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?
Kier & I met back in 2003 when my band, Bluegrazer, & the original lineup of Three Day Threshold played a bill at the old Abbey Lounge. I met Evan at Northeastern & I met PJ at a bar.
I was introduced to Kier through a good friend, Tim Briggs, a bouncer at The Foxy Lady down in Rhode Island. The first time we met face to face was actually at a bar in Union Square, which then turned into a bar fight resulting in Kier getting thrown out.
Yeah, awkward first encounter, good thing second impressions count more than first impressions! Besides, if you haven’t been thrown out of Sally O’Briens at some point, it means you aren’t drinking enough.
I've known Kier for ten years, since I moved to Boston for college. I went to a lot of his shows, some of which I even remember. I even sat in with other lineups of Three Day a while back, but I was always in other bands until about a year and a half ago when Kier asked me sit in for a festival he was playing at Harpoon Brewery.
The rest is history.
What inspired you to make music together?
One too many shots of whiskey.
Better judgment was overcome by hops and barley; story of my life.
Do you have a record label? Are you a member of any music organizations?
What’s a record label? Is it still 2010 or did we just slip back into the 90’s? Ha, seriously, we have a bunch of affiliations. Pub Records helped carry us, Pig Pile Records and Hi N Dry Records we all have released on as well. I Scream Records did our European Release. Omnium Records did our “Pub with No Beer” single in Japan.
What can you tell me about your instruments and gear?
I have to take care of a bunch of gear, a Martin acoustic, Fender Tele, a Fender acoustic/electric 12 string and a slew of banjos. I use up a lot of strings so I have Daddario vendor book marked on my computer for that stuff. Fun people, great strings.
I'm really not too picky about my gear. I'm always more than happy to play through somebody else's amp. I currently use Trace Elliot combo. I can add a 15" cabinet when it's needed. I play a Hoener P Bass which I picked up for $175 whenever I joined Three Day. My other bass is a 5 string Warwick Thumb bass & that hardly works for a band like Three Day. I don't use any pedals.
I play a Pacific Drums maple kit. I bought it back in college when I was playing with a punk band. It was a combination of quality and price that led me to it. Pacific is the cheaper sibling of DW Drums so it must be fairly good. I also use a Pearl piccolo snare drum. This was something else that I originally picked out for the punk band, but it works surprisingly well with all the bands I've played with. It has a very bright, crisp attack. One thing I've learned in Three Day is that your gear WILL get beer spilled on it, so make sure its sturdy. As far as drumheads, I couldn’t live without Evans Drumheads.
I'll play anything that stays in tune. My main guitars are a Gibson Les Paul Special and Chandler lap steel. You can't beat a tube amp, I will say that. The Three Day sound lends itself to Fenders, but I have Marshalls that I love for other stuff. It's tough because the playability and sound tend to be better in more expensive gear, but at the same time you're playing bars and lugging it all around yourself, so you don't want anything so fancy it can't survive the occasional dents, dings, and misplaced beverages. I go back and forth between an Ibanez Tube Screamer and a fuzz from Way Huge called the Swollen Pickle for leads, but the real tone has to come from the guitar, the amp, and most importantly the player.
What are your favorite venues?
We’ve been fortunate to play sold out shows at just about every venue in town, at one point or another. Whether it’s headlining some of the bigger clubs in town like The Paradise and The Middle East or jamming out three hour sets at intimate rooms like Toad and Atwoods, we are just happy as hell to be on stage.
We've played Toad a lot, so I'm pretty at home there and there's always a good crowd. Church takes good care of bands but it's a little out of the way for people without cars. I'm not really gonna badmouth anyplace, because I'll play just about anywhere.
Do you have any upcoming shows?
Yes. We did about 100 shows a year for the past few years, but now that I’m back in school working on my doctorate, we only do about 50. We are playing a Beer Festival for the Massachusetts Brewers Guild this week, Next week, we have a couple college shows then we are playing out in the middle of Harvard Ave for Allston Village Street Fair. This winter we try to get out of town to do a few shows in the mountains like up at Mt. Snow in Vermont.
Do you ever play any covers?
Yeah, when we do a three hour gig, which some of the places like The Chicken Box on Nantucket or The Cannon Mountainview Tavern up in Franconia, NH always has us do, you need to throw in a few covers just to break things up a bit. I like doing “Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones, because it gives us a good excuse to bring some cute girls up on the stage from the crowd and have them play the cow bell.
I like “Look Like Rain” by Morphine and “Going Down in Style” by Robert Earl Keen Jr.
I agree with Johnny.
My favorite cover song is when we do Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues” because it’s never the same twice.
Who writes your songs?
We all contribute. I must admit, I’ve kinda hand picked the members and each one is a top notch musician. Each person brings their own styles and ideas. But we are definitely a band that’s whole is greater than the sum of our parts.
Could you briefly describe your music-making process?
You play notes. If they sound good, you keep playing them again. You write lyrics. If they are good, you sing them.
In Three Day? Find good musicians, add beer. I try to practice an hour or two a day, work on writing songs or learning more theory, but after a while I just want to go out and play with and for other people. Nobody knows or cares that you can play if you live in the woodshed.
How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
The music changes as the lineup changes. Some players are more rock style, some more bluegrassy. I also feel that the longer you play with certain people, the easier it is to have the music grow intuitively.
I'm a lot more confident now about putting my two cents in. When I joined I had already been to a bunch of Three Day shows and was a little bit intimidated by the caliber of musicians that have been in the band. But once I realized that Kier had asked me to join because I could add something of my own I really started to loosen up and have fun.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band?
The biggest challenge is keeping the band and the music fresh. You have to keep bringing something new to the table or, as your fan base grows older & moves to the suburbs, you no longer have people coming to your shows.
We're so busy sometimes that it seems like we play more often than we practice, so working up new tunes can be a little challenging. We all have day jobs, which makes it tough to play weeknights or out of town, but we make it work.
What's your ultimate direction for your band? Are you seeking fame and fortune?
The quote Spinal Tap, "Have a good time ALL the time." I personally am not seeking fame & fortune. Sure it would be nice not to have a day job & just play music all the time, but there are literally millions of great musicians & bands out there that are trying for the same thing. The odds of it happening are about as good as winning the lottery.
Sure, where do I sign up? I love playing, so I'm OK with it just being for a couple of free beers at the end of the night. Anything else is gravy.
What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands or
are in bands? Have any secret tips? How to get shows, promote, get radio play?
Do it!!! Despite all of the pitfalls & issues with the music industry & creative people in general, there is nothing better than playing music & sharing it with others. Secret tips? Stay hungry. Be tenacious. Be true to yourself. Write & play music that YOU like, not just what is popular. Be prepared to hear "NO".... a lot. Don't let that stop you. Promote. Promote. Promote.
Play music because you love music. Anything else you get out of playing should be driven by that. I'm pretty lost on the booking end, I've always been the guy in the band trying to make sure the show sounds good and is a good time for the people there. It's always just ended up as someone else's job to get people in the door, and I've been lucky to play with some people who were damn good at it. Along those lines, it's been great to watch Kier in action close up, because he knows a lot of the ins and outs and what works and what doesn't, so I'm getting an education without having to take out any more loans.
Ha, Well that’s your first mistake there Evan. Don’t listen to me, I have no idea what the f’ I’m doing.
How can fans-to-be gain access to your music? Do you have a website with sample songs or a demo CD?
Come to a show and we will give you a CD. That simple. There's also threedaythreshold.com, Myspace, CD Baby and of course, iTunes.
Myspace- is it dead? is everyone on facebook? Do you have a myspace page and does it serve any purpose anymore?
Myspace is pretty much dead but we still have a site up. People still use it some so it's good to have out there. I use it to find out when our next gig is. Although, I guess that you can do that on facebook too.
People keep asking if myspace is dead, that must mean it is; though it is a good way to listen to a band’s music just to gauge your interest. Facebook keeps changing their setup which is hard for bands to keep up with.
Myspace at this point is pretty cluttered with spam-bots masquerading as cute co-eds and other scams along those lines. Facebook did a much better job keeping that kind of stuff out, so at least the people telling you things you didn't want to know are at least people you know.
Is there anyone you'd like to acknowledge for offering support?
My family. Without their encouragement in all of my music throughout the years, I certainly wouldn't be answering these questions for you now. Also, the many musicians that I've listened to, seen live, & jammed with.
My dad kind of gave me a bluegrass and country foundation against my will. He plays the fiddle and accordion among other things and always has an ear out for good records (I'll admit here in pint: half of the LPs on my shelf have my dad's name on 'em in Sharpie, including Sticky Fingers, ironically enough). I was into classic rock and blues, but the country stuff was always in the house and I as I worked my way back through the stuff I was listening to I realized the stuff my dad was trying to turn me on to was at the foundation of a lot of it. My mom (who I also swiped some choice cuts from) always encouraged my sister and I to do what we enjoyed and made us practice when we were in piano lessons and school bands. So I'd like to thank them for their records, and no I'm not giving ‘em back!
I say Fuck ‘em all. I’m just kidding. Though it was tough starting out, over the years we have been fortunate to have a lot of people help us out. That’s why I always like to give new bands starting out a hand so they can get a leg up.
Any last words?
Beek - definition (to bask or warm in the sunshine or before a fire) I'm not use how that helps anyone, but it's a fun word.
I'm sure however I go, my last words will not be suitable for print.
God, I hope it’s a long long time before I utter any last words. Gonna try to keep playing until then I suppose.
Kier Byrnes - 617 794 4003, email@example.comThree Day Threshold - Americana Roots MusicGood Country Gone Terribly, Terribly BadWinner 2010 Boston Magazine Best Of Boston Readers Poll for Local BandSelected to the 2009 NXNE Music Festival2009 Winner of the Iguana Music Fund/Passim Folk Music Cultural Center Award for Musical Achievements.Selected By Surfing Airlines for a 2009 & 2008 Tour of Belgium and The NetherlandsSelected By The US Armed Forces for a 2008 Tour of Military Bases to support the troopsWinner: 2007 CMJ/Zig-Zag Tour Live ContestWinner: 2007 WBZ TV "A-List" Arts and Entertainment Award for "Best Stage Presence"Winner: 2006, 2004, 2003 WFNX/Phoenix Best Roots ActWinner: 2004, 2003 Boston Music Award Winner "Roots Rock"Boston Music Award Nominee 2007, 2005, 2004, 2003www.threedaythreshold.comwww.myspace.com/threedaythreshold