Music Unchained: Time For Three

December 4, 2017



By Pola Bunster

What do you when the thing you create is all-encompassing and too vibrant to be classified? For the internationally-acclaimed trio, Time For Three, it’s about overlooking labels altogether and going with your gut. Eventually, the goal will become clear and your journey will be all the more satisfying knowing that you got to carve your own path.

For a band whose musical background is founded in something as technically refined as classical music, you’d think it would be hard for Time For Three to break out of the high-end mold the genre has lived in for so long. But that certainly isn’t the case here. They’ve explored the sounds of virtually every genre from bluegrass to rock and even Daft Punk and Kanye West. They’ve traveled the world, cross-pollinating their music with other expressive forms to drive awareness toward socio-political issues like bullying. They’ve even performed live on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars.

Consisting of three equally skilled string instruments: Nick Kendall and Charles Yang on violin, and Ranaan Meyer on double bass, Time For Three has one foot in the past and all five others in the future. They’ve been known to label themselves as a “classically-trained garage band” but when you see their live sets, you know even that witty name doesn’t do them justice. In the past, they’ve been told that having such a large repertoire can be their biggest attribute and their biggest weakness at the same time but that doesn’t stop them from trying new things even if success isn’t 100% confirmed. “Even though we’re playing, at times, very sophisticated music, we’re not approaching it like that” Ranaan said. Classical music is just a genre to hang their hats on, but the rest of the house is filled with other types of music.

It’s not about what each genre sounds like or what separates them, it’s about what sounds connect them and where those sounds can come from. Let’s look at Time For Three for example, a trio with two violins flanking a double bass. Now, the fiddle is an essential basis of country music, and double bass in bluegrass. “These might be sophisticated instruments in the world of classical music, but in America’s roots, these are normal tools for telling the story of our culture” said Meyer. For the guys, bluegrass was a genre they always related to and a gateway sound for what would become their tribe. “It’s what blew open the addiction to classical music.” Without artists like Bela Fleck or genres like Chambergrass gaining notoriety in recent years, Time For Three wouldn’t have such an open space to explore sonically, and they’re totally aware of that.

For an act whose sound is so well fused, it’s no surprise that they’ve come so far riding the coat tales of a strong collaborative spirit. “Time For Three has made a career walking in collaboration” said Meyer, “we write, arrange, improvise, chef, share–gluttony, and when we get to do that with other artists, it’s the root of what makes us who we are.” They’ve worked and performed with some of the biggest names in every genre, but for us locals in Miami, it’s their upcoming show with Nu Deco Ensemble that has us excited.

From December 14th – 16th, Time For Three comes down to Miami for a special world premiere collaboration with Miami’s favorite 21st-century chamber orchestra at The Light Box as the second show of Nu Deco’s third season. The trio might have already come to Miami to perform with New World Symphony, the Miami Symphony Orchestra and other powerful cultural organizations, but this show has been in the works long before our hometown classical heroes even existed. Meeting Jacomo Bairos and Sam Hyken through mutual circles over the years, and with such similar foundations for either outfit, they knew a collaboration was bound to happen. “Jaco and Sam are creating incredible waves in an industry” he said, “because they get to decide how to mold themselves to their collaborations without taking too much time.”

According to Meyer, Time For Three’s usual collaborations come to life at least a year or so after initial songwriting and planning, but with Nu Deco, they decided on their music just after the Thanksgiving holiday and will be ready and limber for their performance next week. As you read this piece, Hyken is arranging their music and working on bringing it to life through the orchestra. For Meyer, each collaboration might be different, but Time For Three keeps the same energy no matter where they are: “Charles, Nick, and I are pretty real no matter what it is, whether playing for small shows whether it’s Carnegie Hall or not, we don’t really change our vibe.”

Another stark similarity between Nu Deco Ensemble and Time For Three would be the ability to present musical poles in unsuspecting ways. By bringing modern sounds into a classical world, they’re able to please tastes on either side of the spectrum. At their successful happy hour series with the Indianapolis Symphony, Time For Three has mastered the ability to help audience members see the other side in a whole different light. From Coldplay fans excited to learn about Beethoven and vise versa. Then, the interest in both worlds is preserved by creating this welcoming, open atmosphere revolving around music. “You have to recognize the importance of expanding your audience base” said Ranaan. “You need this fusion to keep the genre alive and relevant.” And for anyone who’s ever been to a Nu Deco show, you know that’s exactly what they do.

After one fateful night at an after party, Time For Three’s newest member, Charles Yang worked in vocals on a cover of “Stand By Me” and the flood gates have never since closed. Joined by Kendall and Meyer on the harmonies and their respective instruments, the sonic collision is jaw-dropping to say the least. This openness to come together, to grow, and to evolve is exactly what’s at the root of music and most especially, classical music. It’s something you feel as a piece builds to uncertain resolution and it’s definitely something that can really be only understood in person.

Make sure to experience it with us from December 14th – 16th and grab your tickets here.