13 07 2013

New music writing from Ignas Bautrenas!

“It’s important to have goals and dreams,” Alec Stephens III tells me, the lead singer and frontman of the soulful and funky Bushwick music collective I AM THE THIRD, “and to me it kind of speaks to the music that we create, which is positive, but real. Stuff that people struggling could relate to, people hustling could relate to, people striving could relate to… Celebrating where you are and where you want to go – that’s what our music is to me.” Minutes ago I AM THE THIRD successfully headlined the show at Rockwood Music Hall, a two-space venue located on one of the many dimly lit streets of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It’s not an easy task for a local music collective – that isn’t even local to the area they are playing – to bring a big crowd for the show that begins less than an hour to midnight on a Sunday, but I AM THE THIRD did just that and the band couldn’t be happier with the big turn-out. It’s now long past midnight and we are standing outside the venue in the breeze too cold for April. Constantly interrupted by the local homeless we are chatting about the essence that makes I AM THE THIRD the band that it is today.


“A lot of people ask me what genre of music we play, and I could never quite pinpoint it. The sound that we create comes from many different musical inspirations,” bassist Kat Melen shares. “However different, those inspirations are blending together really well at this point,” adds keyboardist Brandon Bujnowski. “We’ve been together for two years now and all of our different styles and backgrounds that we come from are turning into one thing that is I AM THE THIRD. We have ‘the sound’ now that we all understand and respect.”

“Prince pioneered the Minneapolis sound,” Kat laughs, ”so I guess we’re pioneering the Bushwick sound.”

We all laugh along, but she is right. It’s difficult to accurately describe the band’s sound. Although deeply rooted in soul, funk, R&B, and indie rock, the music that I AM THE THIRD creates is nothing like any of the mentioned genres. It’s an original explosion of telepathic energy within a large group of people. The musicians are then able to radiate that same energy onto the crowd and pull everyone around them into their own positivity ritual. A tight rhythmic section, consisting of the drummer Steve Rays, percussionist LS Bell, and bassist Kat Melen, provides an ever-present tribal spirit. Brandon Bujnowski’s quick and playful touch on keys dances along to the beat, while Dan Victor’s guitar ties the whole wild rhythm together. As the soulful voice of Alec Stephens III soars over the music you can imagine the risky harmonies falling apart at any second, but they never do. The musicians feel exactly where they are all going with their music and they hit it just right.

“Groove Machine” live performance from Rockwood


“I come from an acting background,” Alec tells me, “but when I moved to Brooklyn I was inspired by the music scene there. Soon enough I wanted to be a part of it.”

“First time I met Alec,” Dan recalls, “he was the MC at a newly formed Potion Collective open mic. He would introduce the bands that went on to play.”

A lot of musicians of I AM THE THIRD met in one way or another through these Potion Collective open mic nights, but Alec was the catalyst that put the band together. “He really has a vision and we let him guide that vision,” Dan explains. “We all come from different backgrounds musically and we all contribute our own personal touch. We create music that truly is a blend. We’re inspired and we’re trying to attain a certain level of being, a connection with people.”


“What does your name mean?” I ask them.

“When I was putting a band together I wanted to put my own personal stamp on it, but I didn’t want it to be a ‘Dave Matthews Band,’” Alec tells me. “I wanted the project to have an actual name, but I wanted that name to mean something very personal to me. I am Alec Stephens III, so growing up ‘the third’ became something important to me, kind of an identifying point. But looking further than just myself what I AM THE THIRD means to me now is always doing your best even if your best is not good enough for some. Everybody wants to be the number one at what they’re doing, but in our commercial culture of number ones if you’re not the number one – then get out of here! Although for some being the third best is not good enough, others would kill to be in that place. Our message is to always aim for the stars, but remember and appreciate what you have here and now.”

Music video for “Stand”


We talk for a bit about the songwriting process, but it seems that writing songs in their own unique style comes quite naturally to them. “Dan and Brandon are very prolific songwriters,” Alec tells me, “so they both contribute greatly. I bring lyrics and melodies and then we all get together and write. It’s just that simple. The whole band is very collaborative.”

At this point the band is approached by a large security guard and told to go and secure their gear because the venue they played just closed its doors for the night.

“A lot of material we performed tonight is going to be on the new album,” Dan says, revealing the band’s plans for the future before we say goodnight, shake hands, and part ways. “We will tour a lot this summer, get the new music out there, and once we’re done we will come back and make the record.”

So I guess we will be hearing a lot more of I AM THE THIRD. Creative, friendly, and real, this group of people crafted something truly unique that each of them should be (and are) proud of. Two years of playing music together had resulted in their latest EP “Kill the Kittens,” which is up for sale on iTunes, and with the new album in the works the band is more enthusiastic than ever.

Ignas Bautrenas is a short story writer and journalist born in Vilnius, Lithuania who currently lives in Astoria, NY. He attended Hunter College from 2004-2009 and graduated with a BA in English. Ignas currently writes for sugarnthunder.com, manomuzika.lt, 15min.lt and other publications.

Want more?

Like I AM THE THIRD on Facebook, check out their website, and their EP.



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