By Morgan Y. Evans
Photos by C3 Photography/Catharina Christiana
Woodstock, NY based guitar prodigy and thought provoking lyricist Joey Eppard has been a staple in the Hudson Valley region for many years. Joey’s dedication leading his band Three (3) on a quest for meaningful rock glory has inspired many, and his focus on musicianship and craft without the pretension of your average snobby prog rock guitar dude have made fans applaud how accessible and personal he is with fans (and in general).
I’ve known Joey a long time and it was a pleasure to interview him about his first ever live solo DVD. It is one thing to see Joey perform in a full band setting, but seeing him acoustic and solo really underscores the crazy level of talent this guy possesses. I almost really feel like some of the stuff he plays goes over the heads of some people and short circuits them so they don’t even know how to react. He’s like a guitar Bodhisattva who has decided not to advance to the elven realms of the future afterlife, so he can stay behind and help evolve humanity via masterful percussive guitar wizardry.
We talked making the DVD, stepping outside the comfort zone, recent shows with Coheed and Cambria, song messages and why Joey respects and appreciates his fans so much.
Hey Joey. How are you today, man? You have been playing for years but what made this the right time to showcase your songs on a solo DVD? It looks great. I love the camera work and switching back and forth to black and white to color.
Though I’ve toured all around the world with my band 3, as a solo artist I’m usually performing in a very localized radius. I just felt it was the right time. I wanted to document what I do and make it available to my fans, especially the ones who’ve never seen me perform live.
How did you know Nevessa Production in Woodstock was the place to create this clearly important milestone for you?
Chase Pierson, the director of the video for “Alien Angel” by 3, had expressed interest in doing a DVD after seeing me perform solo at Harmony Woodstock and various other venues in the area. We talked about doing it several times before we got serious and had a meeting with Chris Andersen, Chase’s partner at the time and owner of Nevessa Studios. They had everything in house to record both video and audio. Chris makes DVDs all the time for everyone from Tori Amos to Todd Rundgren. The studio was just big enough to squeeze 75 of my closest friends in for the live performance so it seemed that it was meant to be.
The insert of the DVD says: “No guitar or vocal overdubs. Bass and electric tones were achieved live through splitting the signal of Joey’s guitar three ways.” Ok, one…this is more evidence that you are a madman on guitar. Two…what made it important to you to really be “risky” and resist overdubbing for such an honest approach? It is awesome.
Anybody can overdub and sound good but what I was really interested in was seeing just how good I could make an honest live performance sound. I felt that if I didn’t have enough faith in myself to live with the live takes then I should probably just give it up. I wanted to see myself, blemishes and all, because honesty is an integral component of my art. The honesty is what can elevate a live performance beyond studio perfection. That having been said, I did play 34 songs that night and I cut 5 of them because they just weren’t up to snuff. But hey 29 out 34 ain’t bad…
That’s awesome. “Bramfatura” was a great way to open the concert, kind of your signature instrumental that a lot of people were first wowed by (from your “newer school” of 00’s fans). It was a great way to invite people into the DVD. Why did you pick this as the show opener?
I didn’t think about it too much. I’ve been playing small local shows in bars for quite some time and “Bram” has become my go to opener. Mostly because in a noisy bar you have to grab people’s attention before you can engage them with a more sensitive song. So I would often raise some eyebrows with the opener and then while I have there attention hit ’em with a powerful but delicate song like “Static.”
How did it feel to see your brother Josh play with Coheed at Radio City Music Hall? After all the shit you guys have been through over the years, you must be thrilled. Also, how was the recent touring with those guys when Three went out with them?
It was of course an incredible night all around. I was really happy for my brother and very proud of the entire Coheed camp. The after party was awesome too. So good to see Kwame and Josh reunited with Claudio and Travis, everybody smiling and hugging. We had an amazing time.
I heard a rumor you might change the band name of Three and hope it isn’t true. Are you still debating this? I was hanging out with Billy Riker and reminiscing about crazy shit and funny stories recently and I forgot to ask him.
Well I asked our fans what we should do. The response was very interesting. 70% of our fans were for changing the name and felt that it was the key to why “3” has never progressed beyond “baby” band status in the industry. We’re tough to find. Then I thought what if we keep the name but release our next record under a bunch of different names for the hell of it, just to see what happens.
Ok, back to the DVD. 29 songs! Were you tired by the end? It is a real comprehensive overview. It is impressive how many of your tunes translate so seamlessly to acoustic.
I was beyond exhausted by the end. I played 34 songs total and some of them twice. Not every song is going to hold up as a solo acoustic piece but I tried to stick with the tunes that had that quality. The songs appear on the DVD in the exact order that I played them.
I was really struck, after all these years seeing you play, watching the DVD…I was struck by the storytelling quality of so many of your songs. I have always loved metaphor and have only written a handful of “story” songs myself. I really enjoyed “Emerald Undertow” on the DVD and also “Blood Lust Tusks.” Do you prefer to tell stories or to be more vague in general?
I never strive to be vague but some of the concepts that come up in my songs are beyond linear logic and more about feeling. These are the tunes that people often ask; “but what does it mean?” I can veer into the abstract rather easily but that doesn’t mean I don’t dabble in the occasional slice of life. I was explaining some of my lyrics to my band mates recently and I was shocked at how little they were able to glean from my poetry. Made me realize that there are probably very few people who’ve been able to get at my metaphorically shrouded meanings. For example: “A song in a box on wheels we have blown, glides on the back of a snake made of stone, through shadows unfolding and clouds fallen slack at the edge of tomorrow and no turning back” Translation: We’re riding in the van (the box on wheels) listening to music, gliding down a windy road through fog and shadow in the wee hours of the morning. I often take the late driving shift, after the gig, when we’re on tour. I also rely on music to keep me alert. Nearly every line has an explanation like this and I’ve always assumed that people would eventually get it.
So, what still makes the Hudson Valley area special to you and a good place to live? You have toured the world.
It’s a special place. I always love coming home. The mountains, the people, the subtle magnetic forces that are unique to this valley. I was born here and I feel a bond with the land. It’s why I take part in events like the recent Anti- Fracking concert at Bearsville. A concert that featured Natalie Merchant, John Medeski, Jack Dejohnette, Amy Helm, Gail Ann Dorsey, Tracy Bonham, Jeremy Bernstein, Marco Benevento, Adam Widolf, Simi Stone and many, many more! I love how deep the talent runs in the Hudson Valley, and when everyone comes together for an important cause.
I liked hearing old songs like “Static” and “Lay Down the Law” on the DVD along with newer cuts. What quality does a tune have to have to stick around in your repertoire?
Well it has to translate live, if it doesn’t then it fades away.
How did it feel getting so much support from fans via Kickstarter for this DVD?
It was probably the biggest boost of confidence I’ve ever gotten in my career. I set my goal at $1500 and ended up raising almost $10,000! It gave me the faith in myself I needed to see this through.
That’s great, man. Lastly, you were recently involved with Paul Green of School Of Rock fame’s local production of Jesus Christ Superstar along with members of Bad Brains, Tracy Bonham and local songstress (and drummer Nate Kelley’s talented vocalist sister) Lindsey Webster. Is this something you ever expected you would one day have done and how fun was it?
Paul asked me to be a part of it, and to be honest at first I thought I’d say no. But then it occurred to me that in order to grow we have to go outside our comfort zones. I’m so glad I did. It was an incredible experience. What a great band and so much vocal talent. I feel like the experience helped me to exercise some inhibitions i didn’t even know were there. I gave it all I had and when the smoke cleared people had nothing but wonderful things to say. It was a deep experience playing Jesus during the crucifixion. I had an emotional hangover for a week after the last show.
Purchase Joey Eppard’s Live DVD here: