The McMinnville, Ore., pop-rock sibling trio combat ticking clocks, ringing phones, clicking pens, popping gum and tapping fingernails in small cramped office in the Regular Routine building. It makes the carpeted cubicles in “Office Space’s” fictitious Initech look prestigious and inviting.
Once the chorus of obnoxious office sounds crescendo, Joshua Humlie (keys, drums, vocals), Bethany Blanchard (bass, vocals) and Manny Humlie (guitar, vocals) quickly throw papers, break coffee cups and toss computer monitors in revolt. They represent a recurring fantasy for those wanting to combat corporate drudgery.
“We got so many messages from people being like, ‘I want to destroy my office now,’” said Blanchard with a laugh. “It was very fun to film by the way.”
We Three collaborated with their management team and Fortem Films to record the video and hire actors to play their listless co-workers trapped in a never-ending nine-to-five. “We were all a part of it, but they definitely led the charge and got everything together,” said Joshua Humlie, who participated in the video’s filming for three days with his siblings.
While the video pokes fun at corporate life, “Machine” thematically tackles a serious undertone about being in a relationship with a self-destructive person.
It features harmonious hums mixed with swift acoustic strums and a dancy bass drumbeat to echo the couple’s volatile relationship – “Cigarettes in the ashtray/And sleeping through the afternoon/Still don’t wanna stay at your place/Cause you always think/I leave too soon.”
The track also features the iconic line, “We’re All Messed up – but It’s Ok,” which doubles as the name of the trio’s emotionally-charged pop-rock EP.
“The first song that was written for it that we knew was going to be on the record was ‘Machine.’ The line that wasn’t even necessarily that prominent was ‘We’re All Messed up – but It’s Ok,’ and once we actually stepped back and kind of thought about what that line meant, it was like, ‘Oh shoot, this is actually a fairly profound line,’ I think it should be the name of the EP. I felt like that was the springboard into ‘OK, we have a theme here,’ we should just continue and go all the way,” Manny Humlie said.
‘We’re all Messed up – but It’s OK’
Released in September via Palawan Productions, “We’re All Messed up – but It’s Ok” poignantly addresses suicide, anxiety, depression, drug addiction and alcoholism across five heartfelt tracks. We Three takes listeners on emotional journey inside the minds of people who experience these troubling situations first-hand and vicariously through family and friends.
“Most of them I would say are actual experiences that I have personally been through, but obviously ‘Sara,’ the one about suicide, was a subject that the thought of someone being in that spot has always freaked me out,” Manny Humlie said.
“And so I think it was putting myself in their shoes a little bit just because I feel very strongly about that specific spot, but I haven’t necessarily been exactly where ‘Sara’ was.”
As a haunting track, “Sara” serves as a startling reminder for people to recognize and address others who are contemplating suicide. In a sense, “Sara” sonically resembles the character of Hannah Baker in the controversial Netflix series and Jay Asher novel, “Thirteen Reasons Why.”
“Sara” opens with ragged breathing and rap-filled plea for help – “Little Sara you’re a diamond in the rough/And I know that you don’t hear this all enough/And I’m sure that’s why your wrists have tons of cuts/And I’m sure that’s why you think you’re not enough.”
Raps quickly transition to emotional harmonies that become a chorus of sorrowful hums to reflect Sara’s immense pain – “On your 19th birthday you thought that you were done/Tons of people in your home/But it only felt like one/Cause your brain can only think about the waiting loaded gun.”
With a provocative track like “Sara,” We Three received appreciative responses from fans on social media. “Our fans would screen shot ‘Sara’ in particular and post it all over their Instagram stories and in their caption they would just say, ‘Whether you know me well or you don’t, just know that I’m somebody you can talk to if you’re struggling with anything, feel free to reach out,’” Blanchard said.
“Everybody in their own words started checking in on their friends a little more, which I think songs like that, stories like that, they remind you to do that, so I feel like the song ended up being just a really strong reminder for people just to continue to check in on people and ask how they’re doing.”
From McMinnville to 2020
Despite the dark subject matter they tackle, We Three come from a close-knit musical family in McMinnville, Ore., an hour southwest of Portland. Their parents played in bands and introduced Joshua, Bethany and Manny to mixed tapes filled with Tower of Power, Chicago, Van Halen, Journey, Styx and Earth, Wind & Fire.
While growing up, the We Three siblings learned a host of different instruments and played local venues around McMinnville. They started playing covers after watching family and friends perform them for years. Those covers soon led to the trio to write their own songs and form We Three in 2012.
“A song was written that kind of made us go, ‘Oh, this could be taken more seriously,’ and it was the fact that songwriting solidified that we could do more,” Joshua Humlie said.
Songwriting and recording also brought a sense of ownership to We Three, who came up with their band moniker and started playing original music at gigs. By May 2018, the siblings appeared on the 13th season of “America’s Got Talent” and moved the judges with “Heaven’s Not Too Far,” a touching tribute to their mother who passed away from cancer in January 2016.
“That was a whirlwind of an experience. They reached out to us almost two years ago and asked us to send them a video,” Blanchard said. “After they said yes, they flew us out to L.A. The auditioning process was very, very quick.”
We Three spent three months on the talent show competition before releasing their self-titled debut last December. “America’s Got Talent” allowed the trio to build a dedicated fan base and hone their catchy, emotional pop-rock sound.
“The one element we try to keep in our sound is the rock element. I think the reason is because live rock comes across better,” Manny Humlie said. “Sometimes I’ve seen pop artists go out with a record that sounds awesome, but then sometimes it doesn’t translate live. Even if our records do sound really poppy, our live element is gonna have that rock.”
We Three will have a chance to share their rock-oriented live sound when they tour Germany, Austria, the U.K., and Switzerland next spring. They also will transfer new sound to their sophomore full-length album, which is currently being recorded.
“It’s becoming a little bit more refined, and it’s becoming a little bit more poppy, and we’re using sounds in trying to stay current,” Manny Humlie said. “Normally, we would have been a little scared of it, but we’re just going for it and trying to see what happens.”