They came. They rocked. They conquered.
The Clearwater band Tres Bien (French for very good) has earned more national exposure than most Tampa Bay bands in recent history. They got to sixth place (out of 60 acts) on the Fox reality show competition, The Next Great American Band. They tour the eastern seaboard with unusual success and earned a 2008 ultimate local band ranking from tbt*.
This past summer, Mikey “B” Bostinto, Cody Wilson, Ryan Metcalf and Michael Crowe, went to Williamsport, Pa., to record their new LP, Meet Your Maker. The town, where Bostinto’s relatives live, felt so much like home to the four just guys just over 20, they decided to relocate there.
Before they leave, they’re going to play a big show with Win Win Winter and Mumpsy at the State Theatre. Doors are 8 p.m. $6 for 21 and older, $7 for the youngins.
I was fortunate to get to visit them at Mikey’s workplace, Pickles Plus, after hours. He and the others talk about how he’s going to miss that place, their new home in Pennsylvania and a fantasy involving Lil’ Wayne and Stephen Malkmus.
Here’s are some excerpts from my recent interview with the fine fellas.
You’re moving to where you recorded the CD, Williamsport, Pa., right?
Mikey: The Little League World Series capital of the world!
What about it made you want to go back?
Mikey: It’s a very cozy town. It helps that I have family up there. So every time we toured we made our way up to Williamsport, took three days off, just relax in the town or in the woods and take a load off. It’s a centralized location. We want to move to New York and Philly, but it’s too expensive. Everybody does it. It would be like jumping into a shark tank.
Ryan: The drive from here to Gainesville is the same as the drive from there to New York City.
Mikey: You find a kind of support in small towns. Eventually, within the next five to 10 years, St. Pete-Tampa-Clearwater’s going to be a booming a metropolis at this rate, but when we were on Next Great American Band, I remember we had so much support from here. Restaurants were putting up banners and all this stuff.
Ryan: It’s funny ’cause all of the other bands (on the reality show) are from L.A., New York, Nashville, Chicago and then Clearwater!
Mikey: We showed them the articles we were getting back home, and one of the bands showed us one that was the size of a business card. They were just another band from Nashville. So many people get overlooked in a big city. It’s just another reason to pick a small town.
Cody: We’re definitely going to miss it here.
Mikey: We’ll be down Christmas, on tour January, February, March.
Cody: The Northeast is more our marketplace. We’re more of a Northeast-sounding band.
Ryan: Yeah, we do really well in Detroit.
Cody: There’s a big rock ‘n’ roll scene in Detroit. We always do awesome there. Our first show there was sold out to 1,300 people. No offense to Tampa. Americana is bigger down here.
Crowe: The problem is that Tampa just markets to itself. Not that many people look at it.
It’s more isolated here …
Mikey: Just enough to be overlooked. Now that I’m old enough to go out to Ybor, I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of artists and creative people in Ybor. It’s really a bittersweet thing. We’ve been down here since were 15 years old. … Our resources are within an arms’ reach up there instead of being thousands of miles away.
Are you going to live in the house where you recorded?
Mikey: No, where we recorded was this place off my aunt and uncle’s house. It was a little cabin my uncle built for him and his hunting buddies. It’s beautiful, solid wood, two stories, tall ceilings and it sounds so good in there. Out house won’t sound as good.
Crowe: Maybe better?
Mikey: We don’t know. We haven’t checked it out yet.
Crowe: We can record in the basement.
So, you’re renting house up there?
Mikey: We’re buying it.
You’re splitting it four ways?
Mikey: Pretty much. It’s four bedroom/three baths.
Cody: You’d pay a lot of money for a house like that here.
Ryan: It’s by a huge cemetery too.
Cody: (makes scared face). My room is in the basement!
Maybe you’ll live on the old part of the cemetery that got built over!
Crowe: Don’t talk about that!
Did you get the solitude you wanted when you went up to Williamsport to record?
Mikey: Definitely, when you don’t have Internet or cell phone reception, girlfriends. Being up there was just us four guys and our equipment. It was a really good chance to focus on us and the music we were making at the moment.
Cody: You could walk 15 minutes and see a deer. We could bring a rifle, but we don’t kill animals. We’re babies when it comes to that. (Points to Ryan) He’s a vegetarian. But it’s fun to shoot guns. I can see why people do it to relieve stress.
Mikey: Dammit, Cody, it’s B to a D! Pow! Pow! Pow!
I listened to a few tracks from the new album. It’s got a fuller sound.
Crowe: Ryan picked up trumpet again, and that was amazing.
Ryan: That was on three tracks, right? And Gary Arturio, our buddy from the Hatch, from the TV show, he took a train in and played violin on three songs.
Cody: I sing on two of those three tracks.
Mikey: We’re going to keep a listing a couple of more tracks and couple more videos from us recording on our MySpace leading up to the show.
Ryan: There’s a track called Strange Sleep. When you hear it, you’re going to be like –
All the guys together: What! This is Tres bien?
Mikey: About halfway through the song, you’re going to have a big lump in your chest and want to release every emotion in your body.
Crowe: I’m really excited about diversifying.
Ryan: Note to any movie in production: This song would be great for a very dramatic climax in the story.
Crowe: At 1 minute and 19 seconds. It’s a very short song. It’s right in the middle of the record, like an intermission.
Metcalf: It goes for the super-dramatic crescendo.
I still can hear that core ’60s backbone in the record.
Mikey: It’s always going to sound like us, but we’re maturing as songwriters. Of course, you get influenced by things as you get older. You have new experiences.
You were really young when you wrote the songs on Captured in Colour?
Cody: We were 18 when we wrote them and released the record when were 19, 20. … I find myself to be a liberal guy, but when it comes to songs and listening to music, I used to be so conservative.
Ryan: We’d get so concerned over every little thing we did.
Cody: But I found myself loosening up and getting out there.
Crowe: We didn’t want to release anything we couldn’t do live, but we got over that. There are so many great songs out there that have never been played live.
Ryan: We can play more than half the record live.
When did the decision happen?
Ryan: We planned on moving two years ago.
Mikey: We were going to move to New York and thought Philly would be cheaper. On Captured in Colour, there’s a track called Nosebleed City about moving to New York.
Crowe: It started when Island Records were looking at us while we were on tour. They said, “You have a lot of energy but you have some songwriting to do, that we needed more hooks.” It was like we wanted to be that band in New York City. We wanted to be the Strokes, but we grew into ourselves and realized that’s not us. … They were trying to shape our songwriting and change us and they didn’t even sign us.
Cody: It’s okay. The major labels aren’t doing so great anyway. … The most money Island spent on us was buying us a Motown records compilation. Which I have to admit was pretty cool.
Mikey: And they got us the Ghostface Killah record when it came out.
Cody: They said, (affecting snooty voice) “We want you to be somewhere between those two.”
Mikey: Yo, word up to Ghostface! My dog.
Cody: The guy who does our art, Glenn Cunningham, he’s a huge Lil Wayne fan.
It’s best to listen to him inebriated. It’s comical. What, you just turned into a tiger and you’re wearing a jumpsuit. That’s how gangster I am? It’s just kind of out there and bizarre and people get into it. Stephen Malkmus (of Pavement) and Lil’ Wayne should work together.
Crowe: That would be a weird collabo.
Cody: That would be a great collabo.
What new stuff are you guys into?
Crowe: We were really big into Mando Diao until their new record came out, but it’s pretty good.
Cody: They’re huge in Europe but they get nothing over here. They’re on their fourth record now. It’s so strange but we’ve followed them the whole time and saw their quality go down and their fan base go up.
Crowe: Isn’t it always like that?
Ryan: Is that what (the song) Oi Oi is about?
Cody: Oi Oi pretty much kills punk rock.
Mikey: I’ve been finding bands that broke up but never got a chance to make it, like Sovus Radio from Atlanta.
You do a weird time thing with Oi Oi. It has a different flow.Ryan: The time signature is kind of weird.
Mikey: It’s 6/4. Then it goes to a waltz thing.
Crowe: We had to convince ourselves to release that song.
Cody: It’s a fun song to play. The angular stuff in it correlates with the feeling of the lyrics, trying to fit in and trying to be an oddball out. … You can look deep into anything or you can take it for face value.
Mikey: Or it’s the next Coke commercial song!
The weird contradiction of punk is that there’s a standard to it. There are standard-bearers, like the Ramones, but the whole thing about punk was to say fuck the standard-bearers.
Crowe: Yeah, exactly.
Cody: That’s what Oi Oi is about.
Ryan: We’re not a bandwagon band. That’s why we decided to go to Williamsport, to find a place to be ourselves.
Cody: Still close enough to do what we need to do – actually, more central.
I think when you’re younger you have preconceived notions of what you’re going to be like, the themes, the look, but you realize that’s not even real. You just settle into your skin and who you are and become comfortable with that.
Ryan: It’s so lame that it’s funny, but if I don’t see Cody one day, he’ll be like ‘I haven’t seen you in so long – how’ve you been?’ And you’re all happy and then you realize it’s just been one day. People are like, ‘Are you going to be okay living together?’ Are you kidding? In LA, we didn’t have individual rooms. We were fine. I shacked up with Crowe and these two (Mikey and Cody) who I like to call the snorers …
You guys grew up together as friends, right?
Cody: Oh, yeah. We all went to high school together.
Ryan: Mikey was in my hardcore band.
Cody: The first time I ever played anything live was in the (Clearwater High) high school auditorium was with you guys.
Mikey: That pop-punk band that we made?
Cody: Red Light Taxi and Rookie – it was a play off all the pop-punk to make fun of all the kids I went to school with, which was pretty lame.
Ryan: There were actually good songs.
Cody: I actually enjoyed it.
You guys have a community of musicians here that you’ll miss, right? Like the guys in Win Win Winter?
Cody: They’re our bar buddies.
Crowe: I’ve known (Brian) Schanck (guitarist for Win Win Winter) since I was 3.