Thirdstory joke about being the unofficial Taylor Swift cover band, but they say the goal for their music is to maintain soul and an authentic approach. The group, made up of Richard Saunders, Elliott Skinner, and Ben Lusher, was behind the now-viral cover of Sam Smith’s “I’m Not the Only One,” which they released back in December — and now they’re seeing if they can cop Taylor Swift’s “Style.”
“I think the main concern through all of this is that we want to keep the quality really high — only work with the best possible people that we can,” said Saunders, whose musical background took root in Simsbury, Connecticut, where he performed as part of another cover band: his family’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack tribute act. The guys of Thirdstory met at a YoungArts Foundation event in New York much later — a year ago, roughly — and since then, Thirdstory have been recording stripped-down covers, usually filmed outdoors with a minimalist, acoustic set, to show off their inventive vocal arrangements and r&b-inspired approach to pop. Lusher, who originally hails from Bermuda, said this soulful, jazzy take on “Style” was inspired by early-Nineties pop music.
“We actually tried ‘Blank Space,’ ” Saunders joked, “but I think we relate to the lyrics of ‘Style’ more.” (Coincidentally, Swift revealed that “Style” was written a year ago today.) Lusher said the group reinvents songs by starting with an “instrumental or groove” for the song, and then they rearrange it from the bottom up. With Sam Smith and Swift covers under their belt, they’re turning their main focus toward writing enough originals to release an EP. They’ve been doing some studio work with Jon Batiste and Sam Smith’s pianist, Ruben James, who reached out to them after they released their cover of “I’m Not the Only One.” One of their newest originals is about being in an unlabeled relationship and trying to figure out whether it’s serious or casual.
“When we are writing we also want to sing about things that are specific to our generation,” Saunders says about the unnamed song. “And with relationships like that — not really knowing what it is — it’s kind of a millennial thing.”
Thirdstory will be heading to Los Angeles and London in the next few months to work on their originals, but in the meantime, they’re still trying to have fun with covers like “Style.”
“I think I keep it light and fun,” says Skinner. “Even in the process of songwriting, we always want to come from a very genuine place. When we put the music out there, I don’t think we’ll have a lot of effects on our voices. I think it’s going to be as genuine as possible, and I think that kind of gets the authentic vibe out there.”
Thirdstory continue their ongoing residency at the Rockwood Music Hall February 20.