NO SHAM ROCK
One in a zillion: Three Leaf vs. the world
In a town of a zillion rock bands, it’s easy to miss a few good ones here and there. If Three Leaf is one of the good ones you’ve missed, here’s your chance to get familiar.
Three Leaf was formed on the sandy clay loam of the Texas Hill Country in the year 2000, just in time to celebrate humankind’s world-saving defeat of a theoretically catastrophic computer gremlin called Y2K (look it up, kids; we were very worried about it).
Three of the group’s original four members remain to this day, 12 years later, and they’ve traveled quite a ways in the time between. Let’s see how Three Leaf’s journey stacks up against those of superstars from countries other than Texas.
For starters, Chris Brennand and Kent Chandler (guitar/vox and bass, respectively) built a canoe and rowed it from Minneapolis to New Orleans over a period of six weeks in 2007. A couple of years later, popular Canadian weirdo Claire “Grimes” Boucher tried to navigate the same course in an absolute theater prop of a houseboat and didn’t make it out of Minnesota. Score one point for Three Leaf in the “rugged outdoors” category.
Three Leaf: 1 – Superstars: 0
Drummer Zac Catanzaro voyaged with Chandler and Brennand the following year to Accra, Ghana, one of the nearest major cities to the intersection of the Equator and the Prime Meridian, the Cartesian origin of the Earth. The trio worked with a group called Gouda, a band of Ghanaian neo-traditionalists, producing and playing on each other’s recordings. One result of this trans-Atlantic collaboration is 2008’s Ghana EP, which you can have for free.
Tracking and mixing the record was done in a barn in Martindale, Texas — a wine-farming speed trap out on State Route 81 west of San Marcos
Now, Paul David Hewson’s stage alias Bono has also traveled to Africa, generally in character, and generally for the purpose of acting like the field colonel of a friendly occupying force. Whether or not you condescend to the idea that Africa is terminally troubled and can only be saved by external aid, the truth remains that Bono was a part of 1984’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” a song so bad in such a particular way that if you have to ask why, you’ll never understand.
Three Leaf: 2 – Superstars: 0
Guitar wizard Matt Pantuso joined Three Leaf in the months after the return from Ghana, and the groundwork was laid for the group’s most recent effort, 2011’s Blame the West. Tracking and mixing the record was done in a barn in Martindale, Texas — a wine-farming speed trap out on State Route 81 west of San Marcos — and released in a grand show at the Parish last year.
A Canadian legend of Americana called Neil P. Young also recorded in a barn, for an album called Harvest that dropped in 1972. The Harvest barn, it turns out, was not actually a barn at all. A 1995 interview with Spin magazine reveals the “barn” to be a palatial estate house full of rooms and comforts on Young’s ranch in the Woodside Hills of California. Also, evidently, only a couple of tracks for Harvest were recorded there.
The Martindale barn isn’t actually a barn either, since it’s got bedrooms and a kitchen and a furnace and other domestic pieces, but it was reportedly frigid and drafty during the wintertime studio sessions. Let’s call this one a tie.
Final score: Three Leaf: 2½ – Superstars: ½
Three Leaf wins! Local boys make good in an imaginary contest for the ages. Aren’t you proud? We should all be proud.
Throughout the adventures of the last 12 years, the music of Three Leaf has deepened and sharpened, honing in on the polished sound they exhibit around our fair city in 2012. It’s an energetic and complex thing, sparkling with instrumental hooks and dripping with harmonies. Here’s a sample, taken at the Oh Snap! Festival:
Here’s Brennand, Catanzaro and Chandler playing with Gouda at the Ghana house, in the West Legon neighborhood of Accra:
Here’s one from Tantra Coffeehouse in San Marcos, illustrated in light by digital painter and projectionist Topher Sipes:
And there are more, and more is coming. A swath of new material was exhibited at the Independence Brewing party during American Craft Beer Week earlier this month, and plans are in the works to hit the barn-studio again later this year.
Next time you’re overwhelmed by Austin’s zillions of rock bands, remember: there’s only one eclectic and talented foursome who triumphed over international competition in a truly serious contest with arbitrary rules and no governing body. We invite appeals from Ms. Grimes, Mr. Bono and Neil, although they probably don’t have the guts.
Three Leaf’s first formal release, Big Light, is archived at Billboard.com and available alongside Blame the West for name-your-price download at the group’s digital hub.