New York based trio Thirdstory is a band on the rise. Consisting of Elliot Skinner, Richard Saunders and Ben Lusher, the band was built around harmonies and soulful singing. Having started out on You Tube with covers of artists such as Sam Smith, Tove Lo, Drake and Taylor Swift, they have quickly transitioned into writing and performing their own original material. With over 6 million streams on Spotify to date, the band’s 2016 EP Searching was wildly successful and left their fans wanting more. The band was given the opportunity last year to appear with Chance The Rapper during several performances, including his appearances on SNL, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert. They also toured as back up singers on his 2017 Be Encouraged Tour, which allowed the band to reach a wider audience and grow their fan base significantly. Their debut full-length album entitled Cold Heart, which was produced by legendary producer Malay (Frank Ocean and Zayn), will be released on March 9th. The band recently released an acoustic and an official video for their song Still In Love, which was produced by Grammy award-winning producer Oak Felder (Kehlani & Alessia Cara), with the official video receiving 100,000 views on You Tube in the first three days. With the release of their LP rapidly approaching, Thirdstory will be headed out on a 22 date headlining tour beginning on March 20th. I recently interviewed the band, which you can read below, about the amazing opportunities they’ve had so far, their transition to original songs, their upcoming album and what they are looking forward to on their upcoming tour. You can check out the tour dates below and stay up-to-date with the band at wearethirdstory.com.
March 20th- Phoenix, AZ- Crescent Ballroom
March 21st- San Diego, CA- House Of Blues
March 22nd- Los Angeles, CA- The Belasco Theater
March 24th- San Francisco, CA- Mezzanine
March 26th- Portland, OR- Hawthorne Theatre
March 27th- Seattle, WA- Neumos
March 28th- Vancouver, Canada- Biltmore Cabaret
March 31st- Denver, CO- Marquis Theater
April 2nd- Kansas City, MO- recordBar
April 3rd- St Paul, MN- Amsterdam Bar & Hall
April 4th- Chicago, IL- Thalia Hall
April 6th- Columbus, OH- A and R Music Bar
April 7th- Detroit, MI- The Shelter
April 8th- Toronto, Canada- Velvet Underground
April 11th- Philadelphia, PA- Union Transfer
April 12th- Washington, DC- 9:30 Club
April 13th- Boston, MA- Royale
April 14th- Brooklyn, NY- Brooklyn Steel
April 16th- Nashville, TN- Cannery Ballroom
April 17th- Atlanta, GA- The Loft
April 18th- Charlotte, NC- Visulite Theatre
April 20th- New Orleans, LA- House of Blues New Orleans
The three of you met in New York in 2014. What was it about each other that made you want to form a band together? Was that decision instantaneous?
Richard– Elliot and I met at Rockwood Music Hall in the Lower East Side of New York. We were playing solo sets right next to each other and instantly dug each other’s music. I think part of it was that both of us played music with a soul element to it and we really loved that about the other’s musical style. We just figured that harmonizing and writing together would create some cool stuff. I met Ben at an arts program a few years prior and asked him to come down to New York. I got him in a room with Elliot and myself and instantly there was an energy in the room. I remember the first song we sang…I think it was a Bruno Mars song…I’m trying to think of which song it was…
Elliot- Yeah, when we got together it did kind-of happen immediately. We felt a vibe with each other and knew that we could create something together. We all have different styles, but when we came together and started singing together it just felt like “oh, this works” for some reason.
Did you have any trouble blending all of your different styles together into a cohesive sound or did it happen pretty naturally?
Ben- No, not at all. I think that blending genres was what came naturally to us. I think the things that tied all of our music and all of our musical interests together were vocal harmonies. Across genres, we just love the sound of voices singing together and just soul music..soulful singing. That’s the other thing that marries together all of the other styles that we are into and that we like to perform.
What is it about the three part harmony that you love so much? Did your voices naturally harmonize well together or was it a challenge?
Elliot- I think that when we were singing together, that’s what came most naturally. It took us a while to figure out sonically exactly how we wanted to put our different styles together. We knew that singing was going to be the main part of it because that was what created the magic feeling we had at the very beginning. I think when we finally started working on the sound of the record, on the production and the instruments we were playing, I think it took a while for us and lot of experimenting for us to figure out how to balance our different influences to achieve the sound we wanted.
I read that the three of you have been songwriters you whole lives. What is your songwriting process like and do you find it easy or challenging to write songs together?
Ben- Over the past few years we’ve written songs in a lot of different ways. The way we really started off was just the three of us at our instruments…at a piano or guitar. We really always tried to focus on strong, memorable melodies that we could sing well to, that felt natural and just stuck. That’s always where we started. Since then we’ve written a ton of songs that don’t have as much of that process anymore. We love writing to beats. We love creating textures out of our voices and building songs out of that. A great song really just comes from great melodies.
From the beginning you guys have had so many amazing opportunities, from touring with Tori Kelly and Chance The Rapper and meeting and learning from Sam Smith’s people. Have you guys found it hard to adjust to such a rapid level of success?
Elliot- I think it’s a balance really. We’ve put in a lot of hard work and we’ve all done the shows that nobody shows up to, or that we’re playing and nobody’s listening. It’s been a really crazy experience every time we meet these new people that we’ve been fans of and getting to work with people that we really respect artistically. It’s always been such an honor, and we like to face every new experience. We still have the perspective though of putting in all of that work, and it’s really humbling, looking up to all of the people we’re working with.
You guys started out doing covers on You Tube but have recently started writing your own original material. You released an EP last year of original songs and will be releasing your debut full length on March 9th. Have you found it difficult to transition from being a You Tube act to creating your own original sound or do you feel that things have just naturally progressed in that direction?
Richard- Yeah, we basically look at it as the natural progression of things. We started out doing covers because we felt like that was a good medium with which to explore our artistry together. From the beginning all three of us had been writing music since before we started a group together. We always knew that we wanted to form the group as an artistic collective of very different artists coming together and creating something that none of us would create on our own. From the beginning we always knew that we wanted to do original music. It was just a matter of time.
Elliot– As far as getting people to pay attention to the original music, that’s another thing (laughs). I think it has been a transition over the past few years of trying to combine what people love about the You Tube covers, that organic feel of us singing together, and trying to put that it our original music.
You guys will be releasing your debut full-length album on March 9th. The theme of the album seems to be one of love and heartbreak. Did you have that theme in mind when you wrote the album or is that just the direction that the songs took as you were writing them?
Ben- I think that those were just the topics, the topics of love and heartbreak specifically…after writing together for a while, those seem to be the topics that we all gravitated towards, that all three of us could relate to. After a while, certain ideas and phrases kept coming up that we knew applied to each of our lives individually and so those were just the topics that we were able to write lyrics about. They were drawn from real experiences.
Do the three of you have a favorite song on the album?
Richard- I think it’s different for each of us. My personal favorite is Goodbye My Friend. I love the lyrics and the overall vibe. It was also the first song that we ever created with Malay!
I imagine it was pretty amazing to work with Malay!
Richard- Oh yeah, it was amazing.
Elliot– Yeah, he brought out exactly what we wanted to create sonically with our different styles and putting them together. He was really on the same page as us with how to create what we were going for and the organic sounds and atmospheric energy in harmonies. He understood where we were coming from. It was a really good experience.
You guys released an acoustic and an official video for the song Still In Love from the upcoming album. Was it always your intention to release your video in two parts, so to speak, with parts of the story in each video?
Ben- When it comes to the two versions of Still In Love and the two videos that basically was just because we couldn’t pick between the two versions. We had this version of the song that our fans had heard before. We once performed Still In Love on Facebook Live, way before it was recorded, and our fans really loved it. We wanted to give them a version that was acoustic like that, but in the process of recording our album, we also worked on another version of with an amazing producer named Oak. We really loved that version, as well. When it came to deciding what we wanted to give to fans before the album comes out, it was very difficult to decide between the two versions. We knew we wanted to put out Still In Love in some form, so we eventually just decided that we wanted to do something unconventional and give our fans two different versions of the song. It was never really pre-planned.
Your acoustic video features Eryn Allen Kane, an emerging singer-songwriter in the Detroit music scene. How did you meet and come to collaborate with her?
Ben- When we first started working on our album, in 2015, we were meeting with lots of different producers and writers, one of which was Nate Fox. He is a member of The Social Experiment, which is the collective of producers and artists that includes Chance The Rapper and some other amazing musicians. He actually, at the end of our recording session, played us a video of Eryn that totally blew us away. Her vocals and songwriting are amazing. We just reached out to her on Twitter and told her ‘hey we’re fans and we love what you do and would love to meet you someday”. She responded and said that she liked what we were doing too and we ended up meeting up with her in Chicago when we were there on tour. Soon after that she came to New York and we started working on the music together.
She’s amazing and has a really beautiful voice that works really well with your voices.
Ben- Thank you. Yeah, she’s amazing!
Elliot- She’s just incredible! She’s one of the best singers and artists and people that we’ve met.
Do you think you will work with her again in the future?
The band- Definitely! Yes.
You guys are kicking off a 22 city tour on March 20th. What are you looking forward to the most?
Richard- Always when we go on tour it’s an amazing experience, seeing the people who listen to our music in person. I remember our very first headlining tour really re-energized us, in terms of finishing the album. I’m just excited to create that energy in all of the rooms we’re about to perform in!
It sounds like it will be a really fun tour!
Elliot- I’m very excited to also…we’ve been playing some of these songs that are on the record for a while at our live shows. We’re going to try to do some re-arranging and some experimenting with the tour this time. After people listen to the album they will get a different experience watching the live show.
Thanks you guys so much for talking with me!
The band- Thank you!
Interview by Emily May