We posted awhile back about Pittsburgh band 1,2,3. Sean recently did an interview with the band’s drummer, Josh Sickels.
1,2,3 is like one great big mixed bag of nostalgia. In the musical sense. Their sound is simultaneously familiar and hard to pin down. And really, that’s just how childhood friends and bandmates Josh Sickels and Nic Snyder like it.
The duo formed 1,2,3 only recently, but both grew up in Pittsburgh and befriended each other as “skater kids” in middle school. Sickels, 28 and Snyder, 26 have been in different bands in their 10-plus years of making music. The pair was most notably part of The Takeover UK, a group that Sickels said evolved into a sort of indie-pop hybrid. That music, Sickels says, was fun to play, but eventually left him wanting something different.
And so Sickels followed his longtime friend into a new project that didn’t need — and more accurately didn’t want — labels. Snyder is the songwriting muse half of 1,2,3, while Sickels provides the critical ear and ideas for modifications. Together, the pair make music that borrows as much from the classic as it does the contemporary.
Enter that “mixed bag” mentioned earlier. Or as Sickels called it, “a hodgepodge.”
“It’s kind of like punk-rock soul,” Sickels said of the band’s sound. “Really, it’s pretty hard to describe. But it’s rooted in the classics. Two of Nic’s favorite artists are The Clash and Marvin Gaye. Throw those two things into a blender and you get a pretty crazy mix. And everything Nic does is trying to come from a very genuine and authentic place.”
Sickels and Snyder just returned from playing a handful of shows in London, and then at the enormous Great Escape Festival in Brighton, England. They also played a show on May 18 with one of TWJ’s favorites, Lissie. While 1,2,3 have received plenty of attention from the blogosphere stateside, the band’s new single “Going Away Party” is getting regular airplay on Radio One in the UK.
While they haven’t achieved a high level of acclaim in America, the experience of playing for fans in England was an inspiring one, Sickels said.
“We were kind of unexpectedly well-received and known there,” he said. “Our shows were sold out, and it was just really surprising. Everyone is so interested in finding good new music over there.”
Sickels and Snyder have plans to record an full-length record some time in August, and are set to go into the studio soon to record a new A- and B-side single that will be released in September. The band just released its fourth song, “Going Away Party,” on UK label Chess Club Records.
1,2,3 recently relocated to Los Angeles. But the pair won’t ever be far from its midwestern, blue-collar roots in the Steel City. It’s something that has influenced nearly every part of the band’s sound, Sickels said.
The process for generating a finished song hasn’t really changed at all since Sickels and Snyder began doing it more than a decade ago. Snyder brings his best music to the table, and Sickels provides perspective about which tunes work and which should be scrapped. With no overpowering egos involved, what results from the pair’s collaboration sounds like a band unafraid to straddle genres and creative styles.
First single “Confetti” begins with a lighthearted acoustic intro that evolves into a stomping, fill-the-room jam. And its B-side, “Can’t Bribe God, truly displays Snyder’s vocal appeal and incorporates some awesome keyboard work, and lovely slow-tempo percussion that builds to a 60’s-style, soulful R&B revival.
Play those two songs back-to-back, and you get a hint of the band’s impressive range.
“We only have four recorded songs available to the public, and if you listen to all four of them, none of them sound remotely the same,” Sickels said. “But they all somehow tie together with a coherent melody and vibe and soul to the songs that run like a current through them.”
The diversity of the band’s material is something that comes naturally, Sickels said.
“It’s very easy for us to be different and to be eclectic,” Sickels said. “Because from old blues to jazz all the way up to 2010, we’re influenced by it all. That’s one thing that I’m glad has come across. People say ‘1,2,3 is very familiar, but you can’t put your finger on what they actually sound like. There’s hints and notes of shit from all over the place.
“The tough part is trying to convince people that you are the same band playing all these songs.”
“Going Away Party” is a funky rock romp that incorporates Sickels’ percussion in the form of a hearty drumbeat, some handclaps and what sounds like bongos. And then there’s Snyder’s excellent, grimy guitar work and wonderful, attitude-filled croon.
Lend an ear to all three of these songs. Because they all kick ass.
“Can’t Bribe God” By 1,2,3 (From Confetti single, out now on Ooh La La)