Interview with Three Man Cannon | By Doug Nunnally
The punk scene can be like an inescapable home town at times. Sure, it’s great and rewarding with some of the best fans in the world, but there’s also only so much you can do while still sticking around. Some people are perfectly content hanging there for years and can make a huge success of themselves with it, much like that hometown. For others with lofty ambitions, it can be stifling, especially as your aspirations and influences continue to grow as the years roll on.
That’s just the scenario Three Man Cannon have found themselves in. This scrappy group of Pennsylvania musicians built a solid reputation for themselves on the punk scene since debuting around the start of the decade, but in each year since, they’ve found themselves progressing further and further away from that true punk sound. On their latest release, Will I Know You Then (out now on Lame-O Records), the divide between their current sound and punk beginnings has never been wider with a sound much more rooted in indie rock with sparse, supporting elements of folk and post-punk.
“We just want to make music we like,” Matt Schimelfenig revealed. The vocalist was quick to point out how the band never really fit into the confines of a typical “punk” band, but more rooted themselves within the ideals and concepts of the community around it. “We all grew up around that scene so we just adopted that mentality with the band. Everything is pretty much DIY so that aspect is punk, but musically, not so much.”
Despite the band’s long list of musical inspirations, Schimelfenig put more of the band’s drifting sound on the idea of having a band with four strong songwriters and seeing what happens when that is run through the filter of a unified band, something the rest of the band quickly agreed with. “I really enjoy playing with other people and working together as a unit,” member Pat Brier admitted. “You’re all being critical with ideas to try and make it good. Hopefully better than you first imagined.”
It’s not an uncommon process, but what was uncommon was hearing Schimelfenig and Brier, alongside Dennis Mishko and Spenser Hogans, discuss how different the songs sound at first glance.
“The demos would be recognizable, but different,” Hogans divulged before Mishko quickly chimed in. “Believe it or not, the album is actually more stripped down than the demos themselves because we really just attack the core of each song and ignore whatever else somebody used, like Matt and his synthesizers.”
This approach seems to work for the band: a bare, almost raw sound forming from a fully realized and intricate demo. The approach has not only helped the band make a name for themselves out of the scene they were so indoctrinated in, but it’s also helped them escape the shadow of Tigers Jaw, another Pennsylvania band who at one time shared members with the band. For years, the comparisons were endless with shows even being marketed as “Ex-Tigers Jaw” despite the fact that the bands started simultaneously. But now, finally, the band has begun to distance themselves as much from Tigers Jaw as they have from the punk scene, something Mishko was more than happy to see.
“Now, especially in the past year or so, that kind of separation is becoming wider. There are people who probably saw us or checked us out because of the connection, but we’re getting a lot less of that now. Nothing personal against them, but I’m happy about it because people are starting to recognize what we really are: our own band with our own unique sound.”