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Several months ago I heard from a Seattle-area band called 3dB down. They had read On Leaving - something I wrote as a farewell message to my family before deploying to Iraq. I'd never met these guys, but they wanted to turn On Leaving into a song, and that seemed like a fine idea to me. Their new CD - including that song is available here now.
The more I listen to the new 3dB down CD the more I like it. It's grown up rock - smart lyrics, an acoustic touch, great melodies. It sounds so different from most stuff flying through the airwaves these days that it takes a couple listens to really appreciate the depth of their talent. Students of the Britney Spears/Justin Timberlake school of pop just aren't going to get it. Even if I weren't involved I think I'd find the circumstances that led to their use of On Leaving interesting. A band on the rise, using the internet to market themselves, finds inspiration for a song about a GI saying farewell to his family on a weblog. If that's not a story for the new millennium then I don't know a good story when I hear one.
Band co-founder Jeremy Berry took the time to educate me on the group's background. 3 dB down is a Seattle pop-folk-rock band. Scott May and Jeremy Berry began playing together in 1997. They co-founded a group called Aerial View in 1998, going on to write, perform, and record until 2002. In that year they returned to an acoustic duo format, releasing the EP "Five Songs This Fall". This CD was produced by Paul Speer and included several well known local Seattle artists. As much as they loved the stripped-down format, they longed to get back to a full band. They added bassist Scott Syltebo and then guitarist/songwriter David Kubiczky. After writing together for most of 2 years they added drummer Donovan Pfeifer and were inspired to release a full length CD. In 2004 they began recording again with producer Paul Speer. The result is the new disc, "Holding Up The Sky", now available.
Here's my conversation with Jeremy Berry of 3dB down:
Greyhawk: Tell us about your musical influences - where do you fit in?
Jeremy Berry: It is always hard to pick a genre. We always say "pop-folk-rock" because the songs have catchy melodies, the lyrics tell stories, and we like to put an edge on some of the tunes. There are also blues and jazz influences. All of the members have deep and varied influences, but none seem to dominate our sound. Someone once compared us to Toad The Wet Sprocket and we definitely took it as a compliment. Here are a few of the influences listed in our bios: Led Zeppelin, Steely Dan, Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, Yes, Poi Dog Pondering, Francis Dunnery, James Taylor, Tuck and Patty, Dave Matthews, U2, Counting Crows, Toad The Wet Sprocket, Shawn Mullins, Edwin McCain, Patty Griffin, John Mayer....and so on...
GH: How did you guys find On Leaving?
JB: I found the post on Mudville Gazette. After feeling that the mainstream media was missing much of the reality of what was happening in Iraq, I went looking for alternate news sources, ultimately reading a few prominent milblogs. The post "On Leaving" just grabbed me. Being a parent myself the words tugged at my heart as I imagined what it must be like to leave your family under those circumstances, and how hard it would be to explain to a child why you must go. I felt like these words captured the moment so well and applied not just to current events but to history. We were in the process of writing a new song and I knew all at once that these words would fit it perfectly. After getting permission to use the post, I adapted the it to fit the song. I am extremely happy with the simplicity and emotion of "On Leaving".
GH: You emailed me and asked to use the song. I said "yes" because I'm inclined to do anything I can to help a band out - I played guitar "for a living" before my military career. I confess I had forgotten about the project until you sent me a note months later saying it was almost ready. I was concerned with what I thought I might be going to hear - some head-banging death metal thing or even a twist into some sort of anti-war statement. I realized that knowing nothing about you guys I took a risk giving you authorization to use that but I have to say I'm amazed with the result. You captured the meaning exactly, and your style fits it perfectly. It's not a flag-waving, Lee Greenwood "here I go proudly off to war, not worried about dying" thing - it's just a guy saying farewell to his family, hate to go but there are things needing done and I'll be back.
JB: We've played the song live a couple of times now. The crowd is pretty quiet as they immediately tune into the solemn feel of the verses. I can sense that they are moved when we get to the final choruses....it seems to have a real impact.
GH: "Holding Up The Sky" is an awesome disc all around. I haven't heard a single bad song on it. Are there any in particular you hope will be heard?
JB: I think the CD is all about variety. There should be something for everyone. I think the pop hits will be "Fast Forward", "The Truth Between Us", and "Don't Go". People also really respond to the groove of "About Nothin'".
GH: That's a great opening riff on "About Nothin". "Don't Go" is catchy - I liked it the first time I heard it. One you didn't mention that I like is "Long Shadows". It might be more of a musician's favorite - bluesy, has a great guitar solo and smart lyrics. In fact it might be the most poetic blues song I've ever heard.
Do you think you could have done all this without the internet? It seems to me the web is starting to make a difference in the music world, from "back in my day". The indie musicians challenging the corporate music world, ending their role as gatekeepers for success reminds me a little of blogs taking on the big media...
JB: The internet is an amazing resource for indie musicians. Being able to get your songs out there and communicate via a website is crucial. The online retailer CD Baby is an excellent company. They handle everything for a reasonable fee. We have both our CDs for sale there.
I'll be keeping in touch with these guys. In the meantime, try reading On Leaving while listening to the song it inspired here. A "multi-media" presentation brought to you by little guys taking on the giants. Or perhaps the dragons, if you will.
I awoke in the quiet watches with my youngest in my arms, wondering what I might say to her and her brother and sister and their mom and knowing I was done with sleeping for this night.
Here is why: Some must go to fight the Dragons. And if you think such things don't exist then it must be I read you the wrong sorts of stories when you were young.
If you ask only why I and not some other than I can tell you this;
"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."
The President of the United States said that when I was very young. Now some will tell you that such thinking is out of fashion these days and that the causes we turn our energies to are unjust. I can tell you only that I don't think so, and that I'm quite certain the dragons themselves would raise such concerns were we to give them voices.
This is for us all: Have faith, not fear. Trust God. Stand fast, be strong.
For me the time is here to leave precious things behind for just a while, and that cost is not too great to bear. After all, what things could be called precious if not worth any price?
For you it's simply time to be brave, as so many of your friends have. Think about this: Without bad there could be no good. Hard times pass. Be kind to one another in every possible way; lift the burdens that others bear and I think you'll find your burden's lighter too.
Worrying helps nothing, try not to do it. Don't feel bad when from time to time you do. And please do fun things and enjoy doing them - you owe me nothing more than that.
And never tell me anything's too hard.
See you soon.
(Original Post 2005-06-10 22:51:21)
I hate that...now I'm going to have to go and buy the CD!
Congratulations, mostly because your thoughts will now become known to many who would never wander across your blog.....Posted by Curt at June 10, 2005 11:33 PM
Oh, and BTW, decibels are the measurement of sound "pressure," which our ears recognize as volume (I know, most people know that).
A change of 3dB indicates 1/2 (going down) or doubling (going) up in the sound pressure/volume. It's measured on a logarithmic scale...
So these guys are 1/2 the loudness..
(all this used to come in really handy when chasing submarines, or trying to help my engineers retain their hearing)Posted by Curt at June 10, 2005 11:54 PM
I remember that post vividly - now I can't wait to buy this CD.Posted by Barb at June 11, 2005 07:30 AM
Just got the CD, and it is beautiful! I did re-read your post while listening, and cried all over again. I certainly didn't expect to react that way, since I know that you are back home, safe and sound, but I guess the tears came because it made me think about all of the other dads and moms who are leaving their families every day to fight the dragons. I'm sure that you expressed beautifully what each and every one of them feels "on leaving." I love you, and I am proud that God gave you such a wonderful gift of words. May you always use that gift to His glory.Posted by bigsisevengreyerhawk at June 16, 2005 02:02 PM
I am so happy about this. I continue to be impressed by your style of writing, Greyhawk, and this just proves the feelings that are generated by some of your writings. I think I will make the CD a part of my christmas list for the rest of the family members.Posted by nanahawk at June 17, 2005 04:43 PM
God bless you
An affectionate greeting from Chile
soon you be back at his house
i don't know if i got the right web site, but i'm looking for Donovan? send me a e-mail if i'm at the right site. anyway's my name is becky and i knew donovan from high school. just wanted to know how he was doing? thanks for your time.Posted by becky at September 22, 2005 12:16 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(7) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)