Third Class makes new album more accessible

By John Benson

A positive first impression is what local rock act Third Class — Lee Boyle (vocals, guitar, keyboard, drums), Pepe Parish (vocals, bass, keyboard, drums) and Jack Boyle (vocals, bass, keyboard, guitar, drums) — is looking to make among listeners with its new “The Red Wheelbarrow.”

Formerly billed as a progressive-experimental pop band somewhere between They Might Be Giants and Frank Zappa, this East Palestine trio is hoping its new effort is more of an inclusive affair.

“The 11 new songs were written in the last two years, and the band agrees the album is a stronger effort than the last one, as far as accessibility goes,” said Lee, a 2002 East Palestine High School graduate. “Not that we’re all trying to be bubble-gum pop or anything, but I think people when they hear this, will know whether or not this sucks. They’ll instantly know whether or not they like it as opposed to religiously converting them after 10 listens.”

Named after a poem by beat poet William Carlos Williams, “The Red Wheelbarrow,” which is a follow-up to the act’s 2007 CD “Chloe’s Epitaph is Chloe,” includes the single “Party in Your House,” the jazz-influenced “Nursery” and the twangy “Ellison’s Harlem.” In fact, it’s the latter track that Lee uses to define the band’s recent musical evolution.

“If anything, we’ve embraced some country mentality about our small-town area a little more,” Lee said. “It’s taken us 20 years to do so because people around our area have ruined country for us. They ruined it because of pop country like Tim McGraw. Recently, all three members of the band have gotten into a band like Wilco, which took country and did a fun thing with it. So you’ll notice a lot more honky tonk and twang influences on this album with the piano and guitar on certain tracks.”

Lee, who was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize regarding a published poem, views the group’s maturation from experimental to poppy as inevitable.

“Really, that’s the only place we had left to go,” Lee said. “When a band starts out experimental, they eventually get more accessible. Like the Beatles started out poppy and became more experimental toward the end of their career, we started out more experimental and had no other direction for us to go but to be a little bit more poppy. It’s something we hadn’t explored yet, so it seemed natural.”

The threesome is about to find out if its fans agree with the new direction at its upcoming “The Red Wheelbarrow” release show Saturday at Cedars. In talking to Lee, there seems to be a feeling that for the first time the act has a CD that could potentially attract a larger audience to expand its regional following.

“If there is any album, this is it,” Lee said. “If it doesn’t, we won’t be disappointed. Our objective has always been to just get the album into as many hands as possible and, if anything, this is the accessible album that will get people to understand.”