"Prog to me means taking something a step further." Joey Eppard on 3 and their Revisions album

(Image credit: Press)

Woodstock proggers 3 were on the verge of signing to Roadrunner Records and releasing a new studio album when everything fell apart. Undaunted, they re-signed with old label Metal Edge and readied a new album of unreleased early material. Prog got the scooop from mainman Joey Eppard back in 2009.

“I like the word ‘prog’; I like the idea of ‘prog’ but I don’t see it as much of a stereotype as a lot of people do. To me it means taking something a step further and I think people enjoy music that people put a lot of work into,” says 3’s frontman, singer and guitarist Joey Eppard. “I think that we’ve stayed more in the song-oriented side of things and what I’m into is being able to have a very well-composed song – not necessarily 10 minutes long, but it still takes you on a journey.”

While this is a true and unintentional testament to the righteousness of the title and subject matter of this glorious magazine, it also encapsulates the core aspects of the Woodstock quartet. Their hometown has also played a notable part in 3’s development, as in 1994 the band performed at the 25th anniversary of Woodstock in their first year. The president of Universal Records witnessed their fledgling performance and signed them two years later.

“It was  a horrible experience because we were kids. I was 20 but I look back at it and… I was a kid. Y’know?” Eppard flounders somewhat whilst recollecting what was clearly a difficult time.

“They told us to go make a record, take as long as we wanted and they were going to pick a city and attack radio. Based on how we did in that city they would make the decision to go with a national or a worldwide campaign with it. That was the plan but what with the merger… They fired the A&R guy and he was our connection to the label.”

They decided to release that record, Paint By Number, and two more on small independent label, Planet Noise Records, before signing to Metal Blade in 2005. Three more albums later and rumours abounded that 3 were close to signing to Roadrunner Records. While these rumours were far from scurrilous, against all odds lightning was to strike twice.

“It was about 99 per cent sure and we had actually signed a deal but it looks like it’s not going to happen now. The A&R guy got fired!” Eppard says ruefully but still refuses to look on the dark side. “When the Roadrunner thing fell apart, for about an hour I was pissed, for another hour I was sad and then I started to feel really good about it because you can’t try to hold on to the way things worked in the past.”


(Image credit: Metal Blade)

While the thought of furthering Roadrunner’s strong position as the stable for prog heavyweights such as former touring buddies Porcupine Tree and Dream Theater as well as long-time local friends Coheed And Cambria is rather enticing, they have a new record, Revisions, to focus on. After five studio albums of original material, their sixth sounds like the perfect collection of rarities for every true fan. Yes, this is a moment where it is perfectly feasible for one to assume that their fans are all obsessive completists.

“Some of them had never appeared on any albums and some of them we never had recordings of so sometimes people will dig this stuff up on the internet or find old versions of the stuff, so we just put together a list of songs to re-record,” Eppard explains.

With that possible major deal in the pipeline the more cynical among us might have written Revisions off as a contractual obligation designed to help bide their time until the brand spanking new material is able to hit the shelves under a much more glamorous umbrella, but talking to Eppard about the thought and effort put into the record, it’s immediately clear that he cares deeply about the songs.

“The oldest track is Rabid Animals, which had its heyday back when we were a local band. The guys from Coheed – before they were called Coheed, when they were called Shabütie – used to open for us and that was Mike [Todd] their bass player’s favourite song and it was my brother Josh’s favourite song [Josh Eppard had a six-year stint as drummer in Coheed And Cambria after five years with 3] and both those guys were like, ‘You’ve got to re-record it.’ So that was the song I really wanted to do.”

It’s a fair desire because the song, which almost touches five minutes in length, is a magnificently unwieldy number with a chorus that seeps surreptitiously into the subconscious until you find yourself manically whistling it in the car, a half hour after you listened to it. It’s an impressive piece of songwriting considering they got tired of playing Rabid Animals a decade ago – when Eppard was just 23. That time away from the song, however, provided a significant and unexpected hurdle.

“Honestly, we thought it was going to be really easy. We were like, ‘Oh, the songs are already written. Let’s just go in and have a lot of fun. It’ll be really easy.’ It turned out it’s actually harder than writing new songs because you’re reinventing something,” he winces briefly. “You want to not only do it justice but also take it a step further, and even though it is something that’s coming from the past it’s being recorded today.”

The past that Eppard speaks of is a healthy one that stretches back 15 years to the early years of his high school career. He says that 3 is “pretty much the first band [he] ever had” and while other members – including his aforementioned sibling – have come and gone, his staying power says a lot about his resolve and belief in his own talent.

“When we started people would just say, ‘You won’t believe these little kids are playing.’ Even back in the early days we were playing really experimental and really progressive stuff. We’ve all grown in our voice and our natural ability that even if our musical vocabulary has increased, back then there was a thing that I think still holds up.”

Due to the huge interest in their talents at such a young age, however, there were some naysayers who doubted the authenticity of 3. “People got attached to that thing of how young we were,” Eppard bemoans. “We were a real band and sometimes when you’re kids people think that some guy just put together this band but we were kids that played in my parents’ basement.”

While they were wowing both locals and major label presidents in equal measure at an early age, it wasn’t until 2003 that they left that basement for enough time to seriously tour the US and tuck all the doubts about being a manufactured band firmly into bed. Prior to then, 3 simply stayed in Woodstock and wrote music. Now, seemingly, it’s all come full circle as the band has been back at home recording both Revisions and writing and recording all the new material back-to-back. What, we wondered, has he been doing with all his spare time?

“You’ve gotta be creative to make a living from music,” Joey chuckles. “While I’m not on the road people started asking if I’d be willing to give guitar lessons, so I just started doing it and it’s actually a really cool experience for me. It gives me the chance to analyse what I’m doing because I don’t normally think about it like that but in order to teach it to someone else you have to break it down into a step-by-step. It’s helped my playing.”


(Image credit: Press)

This is yet another indicator of Eppard’s attitude and willingness to learn and further his talents in even the situations where he is the one doing the teaching. When he’s not in the studio with 3 or in the classroom with another willing student, he’s been taking to the stage with anyone else around who shares a surname.

“Josh and I have actually have been playing together a lot. We do a thing, like The Eppard Brothers, where we do a bunch of various songs – some older 3 stuff, my solo work,” Joey explains. “We come from a musical family so the last few weeks we’ve done some gigs where it’s me on guitars and vocals, my brother on drums and my dad’s playing bass. It’s like a family band but it’s been really fun. It’s like there’s something in the DNA because we’re all on the same page.”

“I didn’t really set out to be a great guitar player or anything,” he says when quizzed about how important the musicianship is in relation to the message the music carries. “I was always more about songs. I just love music and doing my own thing taking my own approach has kind of given me my own unique voice and unique technique on the instrument.”

“I think what’s most important of all is that the performance has passion and heart,” Eppard says quite definitely. “Then, if you can grace that with skilful playing then good, but if you have passion and heart but it’s a sloppy performance… It’s all subjective and it’s all about what the song calls for. I think that on this record I put a lot of work into the guitar parts and the intricacy is there to be melodic but people might be surprised how difficult some of the stuff is, even if it doesn’t sound so flashy.”

Deceptively simple guitar playing and passionate performances aside, there are seemingly no regrets or worries about how or where the next record is going to be released or what the future holds for 3; quite the opposite in fact: “Times are different now. [Major labels] are a dying breed. What I really wanted to have was their radio department but we have other labels interested and then there’s always the possibility of going DIY. We’re in a spot where we own ourselves and that’s nice.”

So there you have it. There’s your proof that progressive music is made by progressive minds. And despite two massive opportunities being cruelly snatched away from 3, with a brand new album on the horizon, one feels that Joey Eppard isn’t about to slope off into the sunset with his proverbial tail between his legs just yet.