We must not threepeat 

When you think about it, They Come in Threes singer-songwriter-guitarist Chris McInnis’ first bandmates were chickens – literally. When McInnis first began the project that would become They Come in Threes, he was making bedroom recordings of songs he had written. In the process, one of the chickens in his Southwest Detroit neighborhood made it onto tape as a sort of rhythmic element.

Now that’s a gimmicky way of talking about They Come in Threes’ music, and it’s by no means a continuing mode of operation for the band, but it does highlight the sense of musical adventure that TCI3s brings to the Detroit – and beyond – rock landscape.

McInnis played his tape for an unsuspecting Roe Peterhans and Andy Kemp, who rounded out the lineup with bass (Peterhans) and drums (Kemp, who has recently gone on a drumming hiatus from the band). Thus, They Come in Threes was born and it hasn’t stopped changing yet. The band’s first public gig came on the very same night that a certain hockey team won its first Stanley Cup in more than 40 years, adding a certain buzz to the festivities. After a handful of shows, guitarist Mark Craven joined the fold and they came in fours – all right, all right. Explaining the name, McInnis offers that it’s a reference to the common adage, "Good-bad things come in threes."

Though They Come in Threes uses lovely, classic pop vocal two- and three-part harmonies over the top of intersecting, complementary – and sometimes contradictory – guitar lines, they strive to never repeat. Odd sounds enter the pop mix, not to jar but to remind you that there’s a larger sonic picture being painted here. Checking into a TCI3s show is a sure way to remind yourself just how much pop and rock formulas have trained your ear and how the verse-chorus-verse-bridge-verse-chorus formula has shortened the rock attention span. In short, TCI3s uses rock to both rock and subvert rock.

"Most people want predictable," says Craven. "But why do that when we’re capable of something greater?"

McInnis is more pragmatic about his music: "I like to think, If I heard this, would I think it was cool?

"Playing the same show over and over is boring for both the band and the audience." To that end, They Come in Threes has left a trail of shows that range from classically poppy to free-roaming, non-linear rock explorations, to acoustic sets to drummerless sets and a trail of broken cover songs. "We usually cram to learn the song just before the show" – thus adding an element of surprise to even the band members.

But make no mistake, They Come in Threes can kick it rock style with the best of them. In a scene that’s full of well-known quantities, TCI3s is a welcome misfit.


More by Chris Handyside

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