Interview: 1,2,3 (Pittsburgh)

We’d like to welcome our newest contributor, David with his first piece today! Booking agent by trade, David Priebe, is also a musician, avid writer, artist manager, and adjunct professor of music business in his free time. Or, in other words, he has no free time. Before he did too much, he used to have a regular job , while he tried to do too much on the side. But now he definitely does too much. Friends, family, and clients often wonder where he is. Please don’t tell them. He will return their calls shortly.

My meeting with 1,2,3 almost didn’t happen…again. Unbeknownst to them, I almost stayed on the road with them once. Then, I, rather accidentally, ended up sitting with the dark-minded frontman, Nic, at a diner in Columbus. I wasn’t aware of the band at that point, and I doubt he remembered the encounter either. Finally, despite the fact that they were just in my hometown of Minneapolis a few days before, I still didn’t end up meeting until a week later in the hotel lobby in Austin, Texas during this years South By Southwest festival. The band had played a show at the 7th Street Entry (which I missed) and ended up staying with my good friend, and songwriter, Savannah Smith for the night. Their infamously unreliable tour van was even still parked outside the following morning, when the also untrustworthy tour van of Enemy Planes rolled up with me inside to chauffeur Ms. Smith down to Austin. With near-misses and conflicts abound, it’s just short of miraculous that we were able to connect in the middle of the biggest mess of musical chaos in the universe.

I cheated a little before meeting the band; I asked Savannah for help coming up with interesting topics to chat about as she has known the four members of 1,2,3 for most of their budding career. Her first topic fell completely flat. I had been told that I absolutely had to inquire about a character known as ‘Drunk Moses.’ Nic’s rely was simply, “I don’t know.” After some intense journalistic pressure this was revised to a vague explanation of something that happened at 3am in a hotel after a show…It didn’t take me long to fast forward to an interesting project Nic had recently completed: an EP of lullabies for his new niece, Daisy, entitled Dreamland Pt 1.

Nic’s goal with the project was to create soothing “wombish” sounds that would help lull Daisy into peaceful slumber. It also gave him the opportunity to explore new ideas for children’s songs, and invent his very own fables about life. The project started with only Nic and his own soft cooing, but he eventually called in the rest of the band to help finish the recording. He enjoyed it enough to add “Pt 1” to the name- leaving the door wide open for additional volumes of 1,2,3 fables. I asked him if Daisy had critiqued the music yet he said the baby is “more concerned with being a baby” at this point. The EP, currently only available for free download on the bands Tumblr site, didn’t actually put me to sleep. It’s a surprisingly collected montage of melodies, ambient sounds, and short stories. It feels much more like the soundtrack to a trippy foreign film that a collection of children’s lullabies. However it’s void of any obvious reference to Nic’s favorite songwriting subject- Death.

When I confronted Nic about his fixation with death he admitted it’s “interesting to ponder…it’s the only real true thing in life.” The theme permeates their work. Nic doesn’t have any certainties about what the afterlife hold for him, but the songs he writes seems to be exploring his options. It’s that creative brooding over the unknown that excites Nic. When I switched gears to ask him about some of the interesting things that happen on the road he simply replied, “I don’t find it all the interesting…a lot of scummy situations not worth writing about.” However, it’s that dark creative process keeps him going. IN fact, there are several more songs he’s recorded with 1,2,3 as well as another ten finished and waiting to be recorded themselves, one to be released with a video this summer.

The band invited Savannah and I to their show later that evening at ND with Free Energy and Cults among others. 1,2,3 opened the energetic set with arguably their most popular song, “Work.” Josh’s unique and aggressive drum work drove the band though varied tunes, while Nic’s raw vocals rasped across the changing music unifying the sound. You’d never guess that touring doesn’t excite Nic watching him earnestly sing to the crowd. Whatever pains it took to reach Austin it was clear he was trying to connect with those listening. The rest of the band followed suite, performing with a genuine intensity that carries the set. Despite the lineup, I ducked out after 1,2,3’s last number to rejoin the masses surging in and out of 6th Street.

After another day of being on my feet for ten hours before the nightlife even heated up, I was slowly plotting my way to the strip. Fifteen hundred miles from my bed, my wife, and normal feeling feet, it’s easy to have dark and interesting thoughts waving in and out of the massive din and mob. We all contemplate the inevitable, and for lots of different reasons: fear, curiosity, but mostly because of proximity. It’s a subject we learn about shortly after Daisy’s age, and typically vainly try to avoid; the unpredictable finally to our own little shows. I asked Nic if he was afraid, “No, not at all. I mean, I don’t want to die, but if I’m supposed to go, I’m supposed to go. There’s nothing too terrible on the other side.”

Thoughts?