Three Against Four Steps Into The Limelight
"Part of the challenge of being a creative person is being yourself...with no apologies...being really intensely yourself," states Brandon Patton, singer and bassist for THREE AGAINST FOUR.
Now, at the turn of the millennium, Brandon and his fellow bandmates Anand (singer and guitarist) and drummer Jay Skowronek, have come together to create music bursting with vitality and grace. THREE AGAINST FOUR is fusing powerful rock and funk rhythms with a personal singer-songwriter style that has "an intelligence that rises above most of the sea of bands jonesin' to jam" (SLC Tribune, Jan. 99).
Brandon's and Anand's paths first crossed at college, where the two found abundant opportunities to work together. Both musicians shared a need to explore as many musical styles and tastes as possible, and together performed everything from afro-pop to steel drum music to Prince covers. Thus, when Brandon began work on his first major solo project, Nocturnal in 1997, he called upon Anand's talents as a guitarist. The result: an eye-opening, 15 song CD filled with a number of collaborations between the two songwriters.
"Nocturnal was very experimental in certain ways. I really admired the way that Brandon was exploring so many different writing styles and sonic textures with that recording," says Anand of the album that cemented the duo's resolve to put together a band.
The only thing missing was a drummer.
Soon, Brandon and Anand moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, where they were able to set up their own recording studio in the basement of a house, and pressed onwards, borrowing drummer friends to play gigs along the way. Anand remembers how frustrating the search for a permanent drummer was:
"We had this one guy for a while who, previous to playing with us, had left his fiancé to make it in LA with a band, then jilted the band to come back to his fiancé, still hadn't gotten up the nerve to call her, and punched a cop out in a drunken rage. He disappeared the night of a gig, and we haven't seen him since."
In the winter of 1998, Brandon and Anand, still drummer-less, packed up their instruments and recording gear and traveled to a house in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to record their first official album together as THREE AGAINST FOUR.
"We had slowly accumulated some good gear, and some experience, and wanted to have time to perfect things without an hourly rate hanging over us," says Brandon of their do-it-yourself ethic.
Working with co-producer Nate Van Til and mixing engineer Mark Alan Miller, Anand and Brandon created Some Of Us Are Here. Miller, who has recorded countless artists including J. Mascis and Dar Williams, called the 12 song album "some of the best sounding home-tracked recordings I've ever heard." AMZmusiczine gave 'Some Of Us Are Here' four stars. That spring, Brandon stumbled upon an interesting classified ad in a local music magazine. It was Jay, a powerful young drummer whose musical tastes seemed to mirror Brandon's and Anand's. Within a few days, Brandon, Anand, and Jay were jamming in the basement and trading CDs back and forth.
"I remember walking into the rehearsal space and seeing the walls and ceiling covered with Astro-Turf" recalls Jay. "We really hit it off right away. It was magical."
After a summer of practice, Anand and Brandon moved to Boston, and together with Jay, began to perform.
Since then, THREE AGAINST FOUR has put over 50,000 miles on their trusty (and rusty) Econoline, and gained tons of performing experience. In addition to playing all over New England and New York, the band has traveled farther away from home for two self booked tours. Their first tour lasted five-weeks in January and February of 1999. They made it as far West as Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival, where they supported their costs by working at the festival as parking volunteers. This led to several amusing experiences inside Sundance's transplanted celebrity culture, including a party thrown by Perry Farrell, some friendly hostility thrown by actor Jeaneanne Garafalo, and a mishap featuring Brandon spilling the contents of his pockets in front of Michael Stipe. By chance, the film festival also landed the band the first use of their songs in a movie. Keep an eye out for "Who's On First" directed by David Snedeker and starring Allison Eastwood and Jonathan Shaech.
Their second tour lasted but a week and a half in March 2000 but resulted in even more harrowing experiences, including a deranged and destitute booking agent who threatened to single-handedly bar them from all venues in the United States unless the band signed his contract. Needless to say, the man was met with pity rather than fear, and given his seven dollar commission.
Having played over 60 shows and logged over 1000 hours of recording, THREE AGAINST FOUR has changed a great deal since their early days and developed into a powerful force on stage. Perhaps Brandon, ever-philosophical, says it best when he describes the band.
"It's bigger than all of us, man. We've created a monster."