For those about to rock, here's Three Years Down.

Whether you're clocking forty hours a week in a gas station or sixty hours kissing corporate ass, there are times when only a double barrel of rock 'n' roll can convince you that you really aren't a walking corpse of your former self. Those are the nights when you need a band to jolt your senses like a car battery. You want your rock hard, fast, and loud enough to bring in the cops, but without any of that precious don't-spill-your-beer-on-the-vintage attitude. Luckily, the Bay Area has its share of rockers bringing down the noise, from the Bottles & Skulls punks to the Hellfire Choir chicks to Oakland's own Three Years Down.

Three Years Down gets its kicks straight up--no pretentiousness, no pretty-boy costumes, and no politics. "Rock is such a primitive thing," says drummer Dave E.C. "It's not like you have to sell it. I'm not in a post-posi-punk-fusion-death-thrash band. That means nothing to me. I play rock 'n' roll. There's no look, no style, no other way of going about it."

With the simplicity of an AC/DC riff--or like Mötley Crüe without all the leather and AquaNet--TYD thrives on keeping rock basic but rowdy. Their efforts come off like a metal band with a punk attitude, played by four guys whose influences run from Randy Rhodes to Prince to Scandinavian rockers Turbonegro. Check out the new TYD album, Snakes Bite (702 Records), and you'll get songs about the band's Canadian shows, sneaking into Kiss concerts, and the nine-to-five grind. This isn't Salman Rushdie set to strings here, it's everyday shit that you don't have to wear Gene Simmons' face paint to relate to. The guys in TYD have been sweating through their black T-shirts for the past seven years, swinging their fists in the air and playing some rabble-rousing DIY rock, and all they ask for in return is a network of other bands and fans who are looking to do the same.

"It's working-class music," says bassist Joe Selby of TYD, slouched in a booth with the rest of the band at George Kay's bar in Oakland. "In the same way as Bob Seger or John Cougar Mellencamp, it's unpretentious entertainment. It's a little bit escapist, a little bit social commentary--but not like that self-conscious college commentary. It's more like, 'God, my job sucks,'" he says with a laugh.

"You spend forty hours a week doing something and it's going to influence you a little," adds guitarist Matthew Seth Kilbourn. "I don't know if that makes us working-class, though," he counters. "I don't know what the fuck that means. It's just rock."

It's just rock, but play it too loud and it can still can get you arrested. On a recent night at Kimo's, TYD got on the wrong side of the noise police, in a scenario fitting for a band that claims to have trouble blending into the crowd. Kimo's is a small gem of a club that's getting harassed for generating the kind of noise bars are supposed to make, but having a band with TYD's energy headline didn't make things any easier for the promoters. The band took to the stage in front of a crowd of two dozen and played like it was Aerosmith's opening act at the Oakland Coliseum. Kilbourn ran his guitar into the crowd like a bull, spewing beer, shoving into people, and jumping off the amps. Selby, E.C., and frontman/guitarist Jason Phillips stuck to the stage, getting the bleary-eyed to their feet by cranking up the rock to volumes that quickly transcended the walls. When the boys with the badges turned up, the sound level went down, which inspired a lone yell to "crank it" from the audience. "That guy was from New York, wasn't he?" asked Selby. "They don't have frightened hippies like they do here." The East Coast fan then turned to the band and yelled, "Knock the fucking granola out of this town."

The Kimo's show is a small cornerstone of the TYD picture, one in which fragmented support for bands and venues keeps the foursome searching for a place in the rock community. "I think the Bay Area suffers from a lack of people wanting to do things together," says Selby. "There's this weird thing where bands compete with each other more than they try to work together. They all play on the same night, so you have three half-assed shows and the audience gets all spread out. Then nobody has a good time, nobody makes any money, and everybody stands around going, 'What happened?'

"I hate to say this, but in San Francisco there's more of an attempt by people to hang out together, and it comes through in things like [organizing around] the Downtown Rehearsal spaces," he adds. "When all those bands were kicked out of there, a good portion of them stayed in touch to help each other find a rehearsal space, trying to keep things going. The East Bay has always seemed to want to do that, but doesn't really know how."

The main East Bay touchstone for TYD seems to be Gilman Street, according to E.C. "We have fun at Gilman," he says. "When you play there, the people are actually part of something. They'll walk up to the stage and check out a band from Iowa they've never seen and if they suck, they'll walk away. But at least the crowd will give them a shot." Selby says Oakland's Port Lite has also been a stalwart TYD supporter.

The rock scene is a sensitive nerve for this foursome, whose members have clocked time in such acts as the Wynona Riders, Filth, the Vagrants, and Toyboat. Although TYD blames the lack of connection between local musicians on favoritism for scenester barflies who get a buzz for having the right hair, Selby is the most aggressive in his aim to expand TYD's circle of influence in the Bay Area and beyond. He is relentless with people, and when he finds someone he wants to work with, he just doesn't give up. He's the pit bull of the bunch, arranging shows and forging relationships between TYD and other like rockers. "That Joe Selby does a hell of a lot to help out other bands," says Sal Canzonieri, frontman of New York's Electric Frankenstein. "He's truly dedicated to the scene and keeping rock 'n' roll alive." LA's Streetwalkin' Cheetahs frontman Frank Meyer agrees, adding, "I proudly wear their shirts at gigs."

Selby's dedication to the rock scene means more than just trading T-shirts. TYD is a strong supporter of the Free the West Memphis Three movement. The "Memphis Three" are Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jesse Misskelley, three young men from West Memphis, Arkansas who are clocking jail time for a murder they claim they did not commit. The HBO documentaries Paradise Lost and Revelations: Paradise Lost Revisited spotlight cracks in the prosecution's case that show these boys might be innocent--or at least that they deserve a new trial, as much of the case against them was allegedly based on coerced testimonies and the fact these boys were social outcasts. The Memphis Three have become the cause célèbre for the rock 'n' roll crowd, with bands like Pearl Jam and the Supersuckers working heartily to give them more exposure. Selby helped organize a Free the West Memphis Three benefit at Pound SF this spring that included members of the Supersuckers, Zen Guerrilla, Bottles & Skulls, the Crosstops, Salem Lights, and Fracas, among others.

"When I was asking bands to play, I introduced it like, 'I'm putting together this benefit for the West Memphis Three. Have you heard of it?'" says Selby. "And I kept getting this response of, 'Oh my God, what can I do to help?' Everyone had the same reaction to the HBO documentary. It was like, if you played in a punk or a rock band, you were probably a misfit in high school, and look at what happened to these [misfits]. If I had been in West Memphis, Arkansas when I was seventeen, I probably would have been hauled in for these murders because I didn't fit in, I didn't respect authority, and I thumbed my nose at the cops because I didn't believe they could do anything to me. And that's what happened to Damien. He believed that being innocent was enough, so he had a total 'fuck you' attitude to the West Memphis police and they went after him." Selby raised $1,300 with the first show. He says he's helping pull together a second benefit at Gilman this fall.

In the meantime, you can still catch the TYD boys slaving for the Man to raise cash for themselves during the day--at warehouses, grocery stores, and tattoo parlors in the East Bay--and singing about it at night. And whether or not that's working-class, the end result is the same. Three Years Down delivers a strong rock buzz for punks who like their music like they like their drinks--no little umbrellas, no plastic monkeys, just the good stuff poured straight up.


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