If “doom folk” is your thing, or you’re just curious about another folkin’ sub-genre, then Three For Silver is a group you should check out. The band is led by bass player and singer Lucas Warford who has an atypical, original approach to playing the bass. He typically uses three custom-made bass guitars, a Contrabasin (an upright bass with the body of a metal washtub), the 5-String Bass Banjo (an electric bass/banjo hybrid) and a 5-String Resonator Bass (modelled after the pre-existing 4-String Resonator Bass).
As for the band itself, Three For Silver have been touring now for roughly five years, delighting audiences, anywhere from living rooms to clubs with a highly idiosyncratic sound you won’t hear anywhere else. The group has a new album called The Way We Burn which continues with their DIY sound and musical approach. We spoke with Lucas to learn more about his ingenious bass playing and how he attains his signature sound. You can purchase The Way We Burn right here.
What one piece of gear do you use to obtain your signature sound in the studio? Lucas Warford: The custom 5-string resonator bass from National, the home built 5-string banjo bass, and the home built contrabasin.
The The Way We Burn album was released on September 1, 2017.
How was this gear used during the recording of your latest album? Warford: Our sound tends to coalesce around whichever bass I choose for a song. We build around the bass.
How do you recreate your album bass tones in your live set? Warford: I don’t, nor do I worry about ever doing that. What happens during recording happens during recording, what happens live is what happens live. Our approach to our songs and our instruments is always evolving way faster than whatever gets recorded. The recordings are snapshots of where we were at the time, but then we always move on.
Do you have a backup for this gear? Warford: Not really, unfortunately. I have a “frankensteined” hollow body fretless 5-string bass tuned EADGC that I can use in a pinch. In the long run, I hope to keep building newer and more refined versions of all these instruments.
How long have you had it, how do you use it, would you ever change it? Warford: The resonator is about two years old, the bass banjo about four, the contrabasin as an idea is about five years old, but I’ve burned through three builds. I use these as my primary form of instrumental expression, part of my own searching for new sounds and styles for bass instruments. Each one requires its own idiosyncratic playing style.
Peep some exclusive pics of Lucas Warford and his custom basses.
The big challenge is not to just slap a regular electric bass neck onto a different body, but to find a true bass expression for these styles of instruments. That has to begin with the physical qualities of the instrument and carry all the way through to how you play it. If you go to the trouble of building a banjo bass, and then just play it like an electric bass, what is the point?
My approach to bass and its expression through the instruments I play is always in flux. These instruments represent the current “state of my art,” but I am always evolving and perfecting my sound. For example, right now, the resonator is totally foundational to what the band is doing, but three years ago it didn’t even exist. Where will we be three years from now?
Give us your best “gear goes wrong” story. Warford: I destroy gear. Any instrument of mine is locked in a death spiral to see how long it can withstand what I do to it. Consequently, there is an endless litany of “Gear Goes Wrong” stories: upright bass bridges collapsing onstage, plywood tops breaking, metal bodies cracking, bass banjo heads ripping in half onstage, pickups falling out of their casings, and of course the endless broken strings.
Any final thoughts or comments on the gear? Warford: I am eternally indebted to the collaborators I’ve had along the way. People who have believed in my vision of new sounds and styles for bass instruments: Jason Workman and the custom shop team at National, Tom Fennalosa, my partner in crime with the contrabasin, Ed Davies, who built the banjo bass from scratch around my ridiculous design, and Keith at 3 Tracks Music (the best music store in Portland, let it be known) who has continuously helped bring my basses back to life as I endlessly beat them to death.
Are you ready to “Get Low?” If the answer is yes, then check out this brand new music video.