Punk, pop, and the future of Third Estate
Third Estate was rehearsing, chiseling out a new tune. Ideas and riffs bounced around. Something began to take shape, but essentially had no words. Then guitarist/singer David Fondiller saw a sign, a flash of inspiration on bassist Ron Ficarro's t-shirt: "No Future."
"I saw it while I was playing the chords for the chorus," says Fondiller. "Then I came up with the melody and the hook."
"No Future" is a bleak punk outlook that has been perhaps romanticized a little since showing up in 1977 as the angry chorus in the Sex Pistols' "God Save The Queen."
However, the 5-year-old Third Estate's future is bright. The trio --- Fondiller, guitar and vocals; Ficarro, bass and vocals; and new drummer Josh Gailor --- released a new album, Ready For A Revolution, in August, and continues to tighten up as it tours and matures. And who would have thought an actual Sex Pistol would be in this Rochester pop/punk band's future?
Despite what you've heard, Glen Matlock was the bassist for the Pistols, not Sid Vicious. Sure, Vicious looked good and gave an honest attempt to pull it off live, but by all accounts he was so strung out he couldn't play. So Matlock --- along with guitarist Chris Spedding --- laid down the music.
Years later Matlock's phone number was spinning on Third Estate's ex-manager's rolodex.
"We sent him a demo we made on our computer," Ficarro says. "We wanted him to come out and produce."
What the hell? It was worth a shot.
Matlock dug the demo and hopped on a plane across the Atlantic.
"We were the first band he came over here to work with," says Ficarro.
Matlock produced and sang on two tracks on Ready For A Revolution, including "No Future Here."
On the other end of the rock spectrum --- the other end --- Third Estate also employed the skills of pop producer Earl Cohen, who had previously worked with Whitney Houston, Pink, Jessica Simpson, and Will Smith.
So you've got Third Estate's punk leanings coupled with Matlock's seasoned status, then you add in the pop fizz. You'd think there would be problems.
"You know, not to get the end result," says Fondiller. "But to accomplish the work?Absolutely."
The band felt some of the pop techniques Cohen introduced would dull the punk edge.
"That's where most of the arguments came in," Fondiller says. "There's a line between where you're applying something new, especially in the vein of reaching as many people possible with something that's honest, and where you're just trying to reach people with something that's not yourself."
But the give-and-take between the band and Cohen yielded positive results. It started with the band's desire to grow.
"I guess it takes a little bit of maturity to take time and make more potent statements," Fondiller says. "So instead of more notes, it's notes that are more important."
So the new Third Estate is...
"Some would say polished," suggests Ficarro. "It's not radical, it's just more developed. It just depends on the honesty for me."
Third Estate has little pretense. Despite the members' grubby, punk leather exterior, Third Estate plays catchy pop/punk with little of the threat or antagonism found in some of its influences.
Fondiller was honest about the origin of "No Future Here" with Matlock when he first came to do pre-production with the band in Ficarro's basement.
"Yeah," he says. "I went right in and told him. It was one of the first things we talked about."
Things might've been different had Ficarro's shirt said "Where's The Beef?" or "I'm With Stupid." Still, If that had sparked a song, Fondiller swears he still would've sung it.
Third Estate plays with guests The Capitols, Almost Tomorrow, and The Rev Friday, December 22, at The Club @ Water Street, 204 North Water Street, 325-5600, 7 p.m. www.waterstreetmusic.com.