As the self-described “world’s first classically trained garage band,” Time for Three has performed in just about every venue imaginable, from classical music halls fronting full orchestras, to rock clubs and bars, to sports arenas. Last year, the string trio played on the aircraft carrier Intrepid in New York City.
But the toughest audience the band has faced in its decade-plus of existence has to be middle-school students.
“We’ve been really fortunate to get a good response from pretty much everywhere we’ve played, except for maybe a couple of middle schools,” double bassist Ranaan Meyer said recently from his new home in Cherry Hill, N.J. (the trio met as students at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute for Music).
“To me, playing at a middle school is actually more nerve-racking than playing the stage at Carnegie Hall. Those kids, you’ve gotta prove everything to; they’re not messing around.”
Time for Three
Where: The Egg, Empire State Plaza, Albany
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
How Much: $29.50
More Info: 473-1845, www.theegg.org
Still, the band — also featuring violinists Zachary De Pue and Nicolas Kendall — has amassed about 800 hours performing in front of students, by Meyer’s count. When it came time for the group to record its first music video for their song “Stronger,” they took inspiration from the middle-school setting — portraying a young fan of theirs who is bullied throughout the video, but eventually wins over his school by performing the song on violin at a talent show.
‘You can’ message
“That video is so cool for us, because it really stands for almost everything we believe in as artists,” Meyer said. “We really want to give a message, and that message is, ‘You can.’ You should follow your dreams, as long as it’s ethical and it doesn’t hurt everyone — that’s a big message for us.”
The video hit close to home for the band — many of the incidents depicted in it were lifted directly from the band members’ own personal experiences in school.
“Zach says he wasn’t really bullied at all, but Nick and I were to an extent, for different reasons,” Meyer said. “I think all of us found music to be something to really fit in with, and something that was a challenge and a passion but also gave us a place to hang our hats in different ways.”
In many ways, the band still doesn’t fit in, with debate in classical music circles as to whether they’re a pop group, a classical ensemble or something else altogether.
But at this point, the band’s audiences on tour are usually much friendlier. The trio recently spent a week in Indianapolis, where they’ve had a residency with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for four years now. This week, they began their own tour of the Northeast, which includes a stop at The Egg on Saturday night. The band will also host a workshop, or “informance,” at the venue on the same day, at 4:30.
Relishing a challenge
The trio is still touring behind “3 Fervent Travelers,” their live album from 2010. It’s their third album and first for independent label Entertainment One Music. However, audiences can expect new music. The group recently recorded an as-yet-untitled studio album, from which “Stronger” was drawn.
For a band used to the energy of live performance, recording in the studio is a matter of capturing that passion without an audience providing feedback. But it’s a challenge that Meyer relishes.
“I’ve always tried to turn it on no matter what — it’s not like I’m thinking to myself, ‘If I mess this up I get another chance,’ ” Meyer said. “I’m trying to do it at that moment, so I’m always turned on. . . . We maybe could get warmed up for two or three tracks, and on the fourth take, ‘OK, now it’s the real deal, let’s really focus.’ But I’d just as soon turn it on right away. I’m not a pitcher warming up before he takes the mound — it’s music, so you just try to emote right away.”
Figuring out the ins and outs
Meyer is the band’s main composer, having written seven of the 11 tracks found on “3 Fervent Travelers.” For the new album, he only composed two pieces. This time out, the band decided to focus on “mash-ups” — pieces in which the band combines a modern pop song with an often related classical composition.
“For instance, we do Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ with Igor Stravinsky’s ‘Firebird Suite,’ ” Meyer said. “It’s really cool and it’s been a lot of fun.”
Although the album has been completely recorded already, the band is still figuring out how to best approach the release.
“We don’t know when it’s coming out and we don’t have a title,” Meyer said. “We’re still figuring out all the ins and outs of the timing, and exactly the right sound for the album. So much goes into these things from a production standpoint, and, to get it right, a lot of times it gets delayed. We’re not sitting on it, but there’s a lot of discussion on what to do.”
Shaking things up
In the meantime, the band has plenty on its plate to keep it busy. The band recently finished its first tour of Asia and is preparing to debut a new concerto from composer William Bolcom later in the year that will combine musical and theatrical improvisation.
“Bolcom wrote this piece that is basically getting the entire orchestra, conductor, audience and Time for Three to all improvise at the same time, combined with theatrical techniques from [Chicago-based comedy group] Second City,” Meyer said. “We’ve rehearsed it for some observers and got some really cool feedback, so we’re hoping that will shake some things up in the orchestral world.”