It’s been 12 months since Tool tribute band Third Eye announced the departure of their previous frontman and news of their brief hiatus while they searched for a new lead singer.
Praised for not only the musical likeness of Tool but also for their re-creation of Tool’s live show which they have perfected over the past four years, it was clear the band weren’t going to settle for just anyone.
“We were never going to settle,” explains guitarist and founding member Elliot Steele. “It was always a case of if it takes a while, even if we have to take a year off, we’d rather find the right guy than settle for someone who’s going to be subpar, especially after having worked so hard to establish ourselves.”
The band wanted to find someone that not only had the vocal ability but could pull off the songs like Tool’s Maynard James Keenan, who has proved himself to be one of music’s most talented and dynamic vocalists.
“The thing that really trips up people trying to sing Maynard can be getting his timing correct because of his drop-ins. A lot of people used to singing come in and start on the one with their vocals, but Maynard has this habit of dropping in at weird places. The trick is trying to get your head around that and also managing to pull off the dynamic and the nuanced parts within the actual vocals.”
After a few rounds of auditions bringing little luck, three months ago the band finally found their man in Cameron McKay.
“He was actually the final guy we auditioned,” Steele laughs. “I think it was meant to be. We’ve got great musical chemistry, there’s a lot of faith and trust and we’re going to come out the other side tighter.”
With Third Eye battling uncertainties prior to finding McKay, the band’s hiatus wasn’t about disconnecting and taking a break from the music. Instead, Third Eye was looking to longevity, devoting their time off the stage to further evolve their live show, which is renowned for their use of breathtaking lighting and laser effects, visual displays incorporating video clips and other Tool related artwork to create a fully immersive Tool inspired experience.
“It gave us a chance to go back and watch footage from old shows and tours and see what we’ve been doing at particular shows, and then looking at what Tool has been doing and seeing what we haven’t incorporated yet.”
“We’ve gone back and definitely integrated some new stuff in there for people that are familiar with our show, and we’ll hopefully blow away people who haven’t seen it at all.”
While it has been a while since Tool has headed down under with new material – and having not released an album in 13 years, you can’t blame them – Third Eye still manages to give audiences the full Tool experience time and time again.
“We’re lucky with Tool. We’re never short on stuff to play – it always ends up with us cutting songs out of the set list. We always try to cram as much into it as we can. They’ve just got such an extensive back catalogue and each album has its own distinct sound,” Steele explains. “We have performed a majority of their current catalogue, with the exception of maybe, four or five songs I’d say.”
It’s no surprise then that the band play long sets where they can take the time to delve into Tool’s back catalogue of lengthier tracks, giving diehard fans the chance to see the songs they love that they mightn’t usually see performed live.
“We like to have those two-hour and a half sets so we can delve into their catalogue and pull some of that music that you don’t normally see them perform,” Steele says. “Tool don’t come out very often and the most you get out of a set from them is ten tracks. When you’ve got a catalogue of whatever they’ve got, about 65 songs, it’s challenging, so I think that longer set time is important for us. It sets us apart from other tribute shows; that we’ll come out and try to perform from the entire catalogue.”
With their lineup now complete and 12 months of preparation, Third Eye will be bringing the new and improved Tool experience to Karova Lounge in Ballarat for the first time in two years, along with a first time gig at Corner Hotel in Melbourne and a stint at Geelong’s Barwon Club in July and August this year.
“We’re so keen to get back down to Ballarat, we can’t wait of it,” Steele beams. “Well, we can’t wait to play everywhere, but Ballarat is a particular favourite for us. We get a great reception down there, it sold out last time. It’s just a great; they love their drinks down there and it’s a great venue as well; there’s nothing like a venue where there’s sweat dripping from the ceiling on you while you’re playing,” he laughs.
“We’re grateful we’re getting an opportunity to go back and play there again before those close the doors.”
While there’s an ever so slight possibility that Tool’s forthcoming fifth album (and currently one of the most widely anticipated metal LP’s) won’t live up to the hype, we can guarantee that Third Eye will go above and beyond any expectations you have for the live tribute show, giving audiences the same experience they would get if they were seeing the actual band.
“We’re just four massive Tool fans as well, we’re out there enjoying performing the songs as much as people are enjoying hearing them,” Steele says. “It’s not a show where you experience wasted people starting fights or anything like that. There’s just so much love in the air. You’ll see people out in the crowd with random arms around each other and singing. The music speaks for itself,” Steele continues. “It reaches out and touches so many people. It’s amazing how it’s just brought people together.”
When & Where: Karova Lounge, Ballarat – July 20, Corner Hotel, Melbourne – July 27 & Barwon Club, Geelong – August 3.