Thirdstory on G Train, Pusha T and bringing their genre-bending sound to the masses - Interview
In less than three years, Thirdstory have notched up millions of views with their stunning and intelligently crafted YouTube covers. That's right, YouTube covers. But these ones are genuinely very impressive.
The trio – comprising of Elliott Skinner, Richard Saunders and Ben Lusher – hail from different corners of North America but came together in New York, where they’ve been working on their debut album with Frank Ocean hitmaker Malay.
Trailing the collection is G Train, a track that’s been described as “Fleet Foxes meets No Diggity” that neatly condenses their wide ranging influences – R&B, indie, soul, pop - into just over four minutes. More recently, acclaimed rapper Pusha T has provided a guest verse on the song, putting the group’s profile on the global stage.
Ahead of what is shaping up to be a very promising 2017, we caught up with Ben to get ourselves better acquainted…
As well as your own music, you’ve put out a fair few covers of huge hits, covering a range of sounds. It’s fair to say you’re a pretty ‘genre-bending’ band though, right?
“Oh definitely! The first thing we’re looking at in a song is the melody, for sure. When we first started out, we obviously wanted to pick songs that lots of people knew and were played on the radio. Beyond that, we were just looking for great melodies – that’s what they all have in common across genres.
“My favourite is the one we perform the least these days, it’s a cover of Ariana Grande’s One Last Time. It was actually the inspiration for a lot of our own songs and arrangements for our performances.”
The arrangements in your own songs and covers is pretty complex. How long does it take you to put a song together?
“At this point after three years together it’s a lot easier! Back when we were recording a lot of covers, it would take us three days or so to write an arrangement and a week or two to rehearse it. Although, we did a cover of Hotling Bling which took us about a month to rehearse because we decided to experiment with looping vocals in the live show. It’s something we were really interested in and we’ve carried forward – it’s now a huge part of our show.”
How does all this come into play with your own music, now you’re recording an album? Have you forced yourselves to define your sound a bit more?
“Our tastes are pretty eclectic as a group, but the thing that ties it together are the harmonies and the song writing style. We’ve been writing for as long as we’ve been together, so three years on, we’ve developed a process and what things we have in common and when to criticise each other and step back. I think that’s developed into a distinctive sound whilst keeping things varied – from something hard-hitting or the hip hop side, to an acoustic guitar ballad.”
Does keeping your sound so broad make it harder to please your fans?
“The wide range of sounds and styles is definitely reflected in the crowds we see coming to our shows - it’s something we’re really proud of. There’s also a huge range in ages and background. It’s not something we expected, but it makes us feel good. It makes it feel like we’re succeeding in something that’s both eclectic and cohesive.”
Your new single G Train features Pusha T. How did that happen?
“It happened very recently! It started totally randomly in a studio in downtown Manhattan called Germano studios. There are two rooms there – we were in one with [producer] Malay and Desiigner was in the other with Pusha T. At some point Pusha T comes in and we played him G Train. It was hard to tell if he was into it, but a few months later we reached out to him to see if he’d be interested featuring. It’s a total game-changer for us, we’re totally amazed it’s happened.”
How’s the album coming along and when can we expect it?
“We’re almost there. I think we have two songs to finish and a couple of other to put last minute touches to. Malay has produced pretty much everything at this point. When we first started recording we spent a bit of time in London, L.A… he was the very last person we worked with in L.A. Two hours into the session we realised it was a totally perfect fit. He’s produced some of our favourite songs in recent years, particularly Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange.
“Malay is a true producer in the old school sense of the word – he’s a true musician. He knows music really well and has this really immaculate attention to sound. He’s also a bit of a minimalist – and that aesthetic was a real influence to us. We’re hoping to get it out some time in the first half of 2017.”
Thirdstory's single G Tain and Searching EP are out now. Their debut album follows in 2017.