Straight outta Kent, melodic brutalist duo 3D are coming for you – and they’re coming for you at your local pub. This is your first and final warning
First there were a couple of videos on YouTube. A synth duo playing in a pub somewhere in the darkest interior of Kent. The sound coming out of the machines certainly hits the spot: satisfyingly crunchy; powerful; melodically satisfying but unpredictable. It’s the work of someone who has listened deeply, and wants to create a catchy and appealing synthpop sheen, but has imbued it with something deeply unsettling, like a choking pall of dark smoke hanging over a post-riot London suburb.
The band are called 3D. The synth player is wearing a military cap and his name is Dean Clarke. And then there’s the vocalist, Thomas Kelly. Tall, slender, regularly possessed by intense physical spasms, he sings in a baritone that wavers between Phil Oakey and Matt Johnson, but occasionally morphs into a choked scream like Gabi Delgado from DAF. Sometimes bearded, often photographed topless, he’s a kind of ultra-animated Vivian Stanshall of the electronic pop scene. Funny, yes. Also quite frightening and very charismatic. A star-in-waiting.
“I’m a performance artist wearing a singer’s hat,” says Thomas. “My job as frontman is to ensure that there is no fence-sitting at our gigs. I want your absolute attention. I cannot tolerate indifference or complacency and it is my mission to destroy it.”
Certainly in one of the YouTube clips, a couple in the audience decide not to sit on the fence. Or indeed to stay sat in their seats. They’re driven out by the intensity of 3D, scuttling past the camera exuding discomfort and disapproval in equal measure. Has his performance style ever landed Thomas in trouble?
“Ripped clothing, dry cleaning bills, busted knuckles, kneecap impact injury, spinal damage, whiplash – every heavy metal fan knows how I feel – bruising, cuts… normal stuff. The songs I write are highly personal, emotionally charged and sometimes autobiographical. It costs me to sing certain songs about bereavement, loss and love.”
What’s with this performing in pubs and the like? Do 3D have a “play anywhere” philosophy? Like an electronic Fugazi?
“Absolutely,” says Dean. “As most electronic bands will tell you, locally we are surrounded by a sea of indie rock, alt rock, country, folk. They all pitch up and do their stuff and get off. But we can do that too. We can set up quickly and play anywhere. We prove it can be done. Bringing electronic music to the masses. It shocks people. Thomas shocks people. Good. Job done. Our live set is different every time. We are different every time. The lyrics are often different every time! Connecting with an audience is everything to us. Whenever and wherever.”
The pair are based in the Medway town of Rochester, but it was an encounter with New Yorkers Xeno & Oaklander that gave Dean and Thomas the impetus to become a hard-gigging electronic proposition.
“When I saw Xeno & Oaklander support John Foxx And The Maths at XOYO, they set up in front of us, played an awesome set and then disassembled and got off,” says Dean. “That was a light bulb moment for me. And now that’s what we do.”
3D made their recording debut with an EP, ‘I Wanna Riot’, earlier this year. It was a DAF-style banger, replete with a suitably shredding vocal performance and a press release featuring “stakeholder promises”: “We subvert your modern lives. We overdrive our filters so you don’t have to. We bitcrush our audience. Every time.”
They’ve just released a second EP, ‘Ugly Nature’, the lead track of which delivers on that promise with huge swirls of trancey, boiling synths and a lyric that’s as hilarious as it is seedy: “Oh! In the future!” howls Thomas, before outlining some sort of technological masturbation process and its aftermath. Another cut, ‘City@Night’, is considerably less frenetic, hinting at the duo’s ability to deliver an emotional punch and revealing a canvas that borrows from John Foxx’s icily majestic tones. Following on from ‘Ugly Nature’, they have what they describe as a “more mellow” EP in the works, plus an album and a single called ‘MedWave’.
“It’s our love letter to forgotten towns searching for a new reason to exist,” says Dean.
And they will no doubt be playing it in the most inappropriate drinking holes in the most forgotten places they can find.
3D: spreading the electronic gospel, one pub at a time.
The ‘Ugly Nature’ EP is available on 3D