Three Day Threshold take pride in roots

The undiscovered country
By BARRY THOMPSON  |  January 26, 2009

RECEPTION TO FOLLOW: “Of our first five-song demo that was recorded over 10 years ago, the only song people clapped for was the country song,” recalls Kier Byrnes (second from left).

We now have a non-asshole president, so let us bask in this rare opportunity to proclaim "America! Fuck yeah!" sans self-reproach, and to observe another of our nation's better qualities: our damn respectable musical heritage. Even in Belgium, where they may not appreciate our government's past eight years of foreign policy, they do appreciate Somerville's Three Day Threshold. The calamitous country combo recently completed their second tour on the opposite side of the Atlantic.

"New Year's Eve is very different over there," elucidates Kier Byrnes over munchies at the Alchemist Lounge in Jamaica Plain. "The bars don't open up until 1 am, so people do the countdown with friends and family. We didn't start playing until 4 am. Before that, we spent New Year's Eve with a bunch of old ladies at some random bar. They were having a party and we accidentally walked in on it. They didn't say anything, so we didn't say anything. Next thing we know, they're bringing us tuna-fish sandwiches and champagne, and they taught us how to do a Belgian New Year's Eve kiss, which is a little scary. Then we lit off fireworks together. That's a universal thing that brings people together."

TDT can win the hearts of old ladies with charm (those kisses were of the on-the-cheek variety), but on the strength of their tunes, they've turned US army guys stationed in Honduras, Belgian ravers, and convicts (no shit, they played a Belgian prison, complete with inmates serving as roadies) into aficionados. That's an impressive track record of traversed cultural boundaries for a bunch of dudes in cowboy hats.

"Hats make the man," says bassist John Stump, who's worn a John Deere trucker hat to this interview. "Might not make him well, but they make the man. If you're a man of many hats, you can be a man of many personalities. If you put on the cowboy hat, or the John Deere hat, it makes you more country. If you wear a fedora, a bowler, or a top hat, you're not very country, or maybe you are, depending on how dusty and beat-up it is."

Pshaw! TDT would be way country even if they wore, like, Power Ranger helmets or something. They also retain their Celtic tint, even when they take a break from heavy drinking (as Byrnes forced himself to do post-tour — this was his eighth day on the wagon). Although Byrnes started TDT as a punk project, their traditionalist inclinations were evident. "Of our first five-song demo that was recorded over 10 years ago, the only song people clapped for was the country song," he recalls.

Like many of their neo-Americana contemporaries, TDT found it tricky to get proper booking. Byrnes continues, "We were forced to play the country bars, and we never wanted to do that. We aimed for the rock crowds, 'cause we're all people with rock backgrounds who happen to like country music. We printed up something like 10,000 flyers saying, "Let Three Day Threshold play!", and no one would book us. That Walk the Line movie was years away."

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