No matter when you read this, it is likely that 3rd Day Syndrome recently raised the roof off yet another London club. Their crowd — a mixture of hipsters, rappers, club kids, emo-lytes, and characters yet undefined — mirrors the unique amalgamation of styles in their performance.
Stef Maingot, the band’s founder and bassist, explains it this way, “London is a melting pot of so many different cultures that one thing’s bound to rub off on another. There are some great bands from the east of London that are throwing everything in the mixing pot.”
3rd Day Syndrome is one of those bands. In addition to their galvanizing concert performances, the band has cultivated a rabid following that continues to spread throughout online communities the world over, including portals like MySpace, Facebook, and Live Space. A syndrome, indeed.
Michael Tyrell and Stef Maingot
Creating their moniker during a studio session that transpired after a three-day bender, 3rd Day Syndrome originated from a loosely associated network of musicians. Maingot had written and produced tracks for a few singers, including Michael Tyrell. Trying out the songs in front of an audience one night validated the pair’s creative interplay. He recalls, “We had this chemistry when went on stage for the first time. Michael just seemed like a superstar. I was standing behind him playing guitar at the time and I was just thinking, ‘This could be quite special.'” Adding Simon Bashurun on guitar, Scott Bellchambers on drums, and Andy Keegan on trumpet (yes, trumpet!), the nucleus of 3rd Day Syndrome was officially born in 2004.
Actually, the trumpet figures prominently in the band’s musical DNA and sets them apart from other bands vying to break through the London music scene. Initially, 3rd Day Syndrome worked more in the vein of “chill” music with “lots of guitar picking”. The influences of Mandrill, the Commodores, and Earth, Wind & Fire ultimately became central to the band’s current sound. The riff on one of their key tracks, “Fat Girls Fighting” (a tune about the weaponry of self-empowerment), laid the foundation for a blistering brass section. Maingot says, “It just brought the whole thing up a level so we experimented with doing it live and everyone seemed to respond to it. We found it gave (the song) more energy than it already had. Every time the trumpet starts playing, the crowd goes mad! Trumpet does seem to lift the songs to another level. There aren’t many people that are doing it. Not many bands I know have a trumpet player.”
The voice of Michael Tyrell is another 3rd Day Syndrome mark of distinction. Blessed with exceptional range, Tyrell’s voice is said to recall Prince and Michael Jackson, though he clearly has his own signature. His swoop up into an unknown stratosphere during the break on “Fat Girls Fighting” is only one of his many gifts.
Maingot’s ardent praise of about the band’s lead vocalist is credible: “His range is phenomenal. I produce all the tracks and the problems we have keeping his range compressed are unbelievable. He did start off doing the normal R&B stuff and just realized that really wasn’t for him. He’s a bit edgier than that. He needed the hybrid that we’re doing. It really suits his voice and it’s comfortable artistically. He’s not comfortable being an R&B singer. He doesn’t want to be a Mario or a Ne-Yo, though he probably could carry those songs off. If he was seen by a big enough audience, there would be no question about his talent and the talent of the band.”
Michael Tyrell sings
That talent, in fact, recently caught the ears and eyes of Microsoft. XFM radio personality Marsha Shandur, one of the band’s earliest champions, included “Fat Girls Fighting” in her podcast and soon enough invited 3rd Day Syndrome to sign up for Microsoft’s Windows Live Sessions Unsigned competition. Hundreds of unsigned bands across the U.K. were placed in different “chart”/genre categories and the winning band walked away with a hefty sum of money. How did 3rd Day Syndrome fare?
“There was a chart where kids would download our music,” Maingot explains. “At the end of the run, we were in the top three of this particular chart so we went through to the next round of the competition. We were invited to play quite a big show supporting a band called Boy Kill Boy. Three of the bands had to play on the night supporting Boy Kill Boy and the best band walked away with a check for 10,000 pounds. We did it!” The prize money for winning in the “Best Indie/Alternative/Acoustic” category fueled additional recording sessions and a music video for “Fat Girls Fighting”, not to mention tons of free publicity. It’s a reward for a band that’s worked tirelessly to establish a defined identity.
With newfound recognition, though, comes the danger of pigeonholing. The “black rock” movement in the U.S., which embraces black artists who challenge assumptions about race and identity in popular music, is something Maingot is hesitant to align with from across the pond. He says, “I worry about things like that, whether they inhibit the growth of that kind of alternative music. We’re just a good band and that’s the way we see it. We don’t really want to be in a corner. I want to be playing festivals with the Foo Fighters and Coldplay. We’re artists and we expect to compete on the mains stages with everybody.”
Their concert set indicates that 3rd Day Syndrome doesn’t really fit into anycorner. In addition to original compositions like “Daddy Says”, “Games We Play”, and “Give Me Some More”, the band works the crowd into a frenzy with covers of James Brown’s “Cold Sweat” and “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes, even adding a trumpet riff and breakbeat to the latter. “At the end of the set, because we’re all multi-instrumentalists, sometimes we get up and we swap instruments”, Maingot explains. “I’ll pass my bass to the guitarist. The guitarist will get on the bass. I’ll get on the drums. The drummer might get up and rap or sing.” The vociferous response from the audience to the band’s high-energy interaction explains why there isn’t really much demand for ballads, though “Hopes and Dreams” (available on their EP) stands on par with the best of their upbeat material. Maingot says, “We just try and keep it moving and put on a show. When (the audience) comes to the shows, they know they’re not going to stand there and just look at us play. They’re going to have to interact as well.”
What’s missing from the equation is a record label, but that’s not necessarily a priority for 3rd Day Syndrome at the moment. Their “One Million Fans” initiative, which aims to unite one million listeners in support of the band, may not necessarily be the traditional route, but online success stories like Lily Allen and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah prove that new models are constantly being invented to achieve what major labels seem to have abandoned — focused and consistent promotion of talent. Whether a physical release will couple a digital release has not been decided.
“Obviously, I’d love to do a physical release, but the funding for that for an independent outfit is quite difficult,” Maingot admits, continuing, “Digitally, we can get our music onto iTunes for 20 pounds, but I’m not really expecting to make massive returns off of record sales. I think those days are long gone. Since we started in 2004, the whole industry’s completely changed. You can achieve so much more being independent and pushing and making all the moves on your own than you can if you’re signed to a label. We’ve worked really hard to establish our sound, and I don’t think I’d be that comfortable about changing it completely since it’s taken us so long to develop this unique blend of different influences.”
How 3rd Day Syndrome intends to make an impact without the muscle of a major label is to lodge a hit on the U.K. charts through text downloads. “That just puts our mark on the industry and we can say, ‘Look, we’re there,'” Maingot explains. Meanwhile, they’re intent on exploiting online distribution to get the music out, with the release of a new digital EP, The Catalyst, hitting iTunes, eMusic, and other sites on November 5. Bringing their sound stateside is also a definite goal for the band, and a supporting slot with a high profile outfit that complements their sound just might be the key. “We just need to find the right act that believes in us and will give us the opportunity. It’s every London band’s dream to get some kind of recognition in the States,” Maingot says. Until that opportunity presents itself — and not without the perseverance that has brought the band this far — 3rd Day Syndrome will continue to infect listeners with their bold and boisterous blend of funk, rock, and soul.