One of the most thrilling of America's thousands of "unsigned" alternative rock bands are THRE3 from Corpus Christi. Their leader, PR, spoke to Andrew Privett.
Alternative rock is just one of the music forms now marketed by America's contemporary Christian music companies. Sometimes CCM giants start alternative subsidiaries (Reunion's Rode Dog label or Benson's Tattoo), sometimes the whole company specialises in alternative rock (Seattle's Tooth And Nail Records).
But for every Christian alternative band who gets a CD into America's bookstore racks there are a hundred who gig and record with no such sales opportunities. For them 'demos' (privately recorded tapes) and more ambitiously, self-released CDs, are the order of the day. Such is the volume of these releases that Cross Rhythms can review only an occasional US recording that takes its fancy from the review pages of HM, 23:4, Cornerstone and the other excellent US mags documenting America's Christian alternative rock scene.
Thre3, from Corpus Christi, Texas, have released several recordings in the last couple of years and all have left the CR reviewers (well, me, actually) clamouring for more. 'Bleeding Youth' (CR30), 'Ultra-Violet Waves' (CR32) and 'Liquid Sky' (CR35) have all brought forth paeans of praise with a unique sound I fumblingly tried to describe as "intense, emotionally-driven alternative Euro-rock". These are no Nirvana-clones or garage band hopefuls groping for a style here, but a band who under the guidance of an extraordinary singer/composer Paul 'PR' Pawlak have come up with something thrilling and fresh to expand the alternative rock template. The band have gone through various personnel shifts before settling on their current line up of PR (vocals), Greg Garcia (guitar), Mike Stockton (bass) and Ben Montes (drums). After two days of getting answering machines; I managed to track down PR.
It was 6:00am his time and midday here. I was keyed up and he was about to hit the sack, as he had just finished work; but I am glad to say that he was happy to talk. I was expecting, him being from southern Texas an' all, that I would find his accent difficult to understand; but to the contrary, it was the other way around. PR was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, then forced to live in Iowa for five years. Then he was "jerked" down to Corpus Christi in his senior year of high school, "and people wonder why I'm such a freak!"
So who is he? "I'm not really sure. I lost track of myself years ago." Is he crazy? "Sometimes... but functional. I'm extremely compulsive and moody. I'm a frustrated perfectionist. I hate that about myself."
Besides Thre3, what else does PR do? "I am a graphic designer. I find that I'm more creative after midnight so I work up 'til 6:00am. I have been a professional commercial artist since 1986." What impact has this occupation had on the band? "Tremendous. I get off on the music, art and video mixture. Thre3 is my blank canvas. The sky's the limit with creativity. Our lyrics are usually pretty poetic and imaginative - very much open to interpretation; and our videos are no different. Our graphics have grabbed the attention of people all across the globe. Record companies, radio stations and magazines have all commented on the promo kit. God has given me this gift, and it has put me in contact with people in all aspects of the industry."
Thre3 were formed in 1993, with PR on drums and a guitarist jamming at the Northwest Christian Centre (PR's local church). They decided to take PR's poems and make them into original songs. They found a bass player and PR got a headset microphone. PR created an outreach flyer with the Salvation prayer on the back and they hit the streets with their music and message. Such were the dimensions of their do-it-yourself zeal that they also created a TV show which featured music videos, behind the scenes and interviews. They also gave away tickets, band info and tracts. They have over 300 people on their mailing list from the TV show alone.
What direction is Thre3 heading now? "Forward. We are always paving ahead and looking back at nothing. The things we retain, we learn from and move on. Certain songs stay... while others get away from us. Time is cranking by so fast and complacency can set in too quickly if you live in the past. Our love for God keeps the river of creativity flowing. Our passion keeps us headed for bigger and bigger things with each passing turn and God says he will give you the desires of your heart. So naturally the future looks good if your eyes are fixed on faith in him." A good perspective indeed!
I ask, are Thre3 a 'Christian' band? "No." But God seems to be a central theme, so why not? "I'm terrified of a life without him. I've seen such an increase in fear, hate, lust and violence in the world that it scares me to think of a day without trusting him. I refuse to wear such a title as 'Christian' band because you open yourself up to the religious rules and regulations. Not to be confused with biblical guidelines. We used to receive letters of support from religious radicals until I unbuttoned my shirt for an early video. This lady wrote me, called me worldly and said she took her Thre3 sticker off her car. I thought to my self...'Gee, hope she never sees me at the beach in my leopard skin speedos (ha, ha).' We also got banned from a local bookstore. I knew that these narrow-minded morons would never really understand or accept me."
We talked for some time about the double standards in society, especially political correctness. "I go for my cappuccino. That's my big thing every day, and in this one shop there's this one girl, pushing for me to sign this petition to say that they were hurting dolphins (we've got a lot of dolphins here), and she was going on and on and on -I mean almost in tears. And I asked her what her stand was on abortion, and of course she was pro abortion. And I'm thinking, 'Now she's in tears about Shamus the whale! Now I'm a surfer and I dig dolphins. So she's crying over Shamus and real human babies are getting butchered, and it doesn't seem to faze her!'"
After we had vented our fury on a world gone mad we returned to the job in hand. Musical influences: "Well, one of my heavy influences is U2. I went to a lot of concerts before I became a Christian - you name it: Rush, Kiss; but when I went to see U2 on the 'Unforgettable Fire' tour, and this was probably about two years before I got saved, it just impacted me! I remember leaving that arena going, 'You know, it was like a revival.' And I didn't even know what a revival was back then. I said to myself, I want to be like that.'"
So what is the latest Thre3 project? "We just finished recording three new songs and remixing a few others to finish our third CD. Thre3 is also in the middle of a video shoot as well as the daily grind of practice (7-10:30pm). I have a few side projects with other bands I'm recording and promoting. My business (PR Productions Graphic Design) is booming as well."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.