The Third World Sun Story

Sputtering on the Launch Pad


It was in mid-2007, that Paul and Lori Carhart, burned out from playing what were essentially cover songs in church worship bands, stepped out of their responsibilities leading worship in their local church, determined to write their own music. Influenced by black gospel, 80s pop, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carrey, Lori was the primary vocalist and played keyboard. Paul, inspired by 80’s New Wave bands that included Duran Duran, The Fixx, U2, INXS and Echo and the Bunnymen, also sang and played bass. Together, they wrote nearly a hundred songs, all the while seeking additional band mates who would also help define their sound and would identify with their songs of faith that often eschewed traditional church and religion. At the time, Paul clarified, “If you listen to our songs, it might seem like we’re somewhat anti-church. We’re not. We’re not against churches or God’s Church. We’re against misuse and abuse of power and of people. Whether it comes from a corporation, a church or even a domestic environment, we’re against it. We still believe in God. And we believe that the relationship is way more important than religion.”


There were a few false starts. But in 2008 Launch Pad’s first solid line-up coalesced. The couple were joined first by Ed Che on guitar and Mike Driml on drums. Ed was a gifted technical player while Mike was more organic in his approach. Together with Paul’s upbeat bass and Lori’s soulful vocals, the foursome formed the first solid line-up of Launch Pad. Lori also remained on keys and Paul still continued to sing, mostly the upbeat songs, while Lori stuck primarily to the slower, more worshipful numbers.


Launch Pad played a few local bars and a farmer’s market in downtown Long Beach before they hit their first real snag. The band had decided to make a demo of four songs. Independently produced by Paul in Apple’s GarageBand, the band recorded Paul and Lori compositions “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Has Beens,” “I’m So Glad” and “All.” Ed recorded his guitar tracks independently on a digital Tascam recorder over a rough mix provided by Paul. The guitar tracks were then integrated into the rest of the mix. The four of them were so pleased with the results that they decided to record more songs in hopes of completing a whole album. However, apparently not everyone in the group was as excited as they seemed. The next song was to be “Real,” another Paul and Lori composition. But when Paul e-mailed Ed the rough mix to be used for the scratch track, Ed never replied. Paul reached out to Ed many times but he never heard back. Ed, it seemed, without any word whatsoever, had left the band.


After roughly a month of no word from Ed, Paul and Lori began the search for a new guitarist. It wasn’t very long before Paul came across Scott Johnson. Scott wasn’t as technically-minded as Ed was but he played with heart and emotion. He immediately meshed with the band and a real chemistry emerged between Paul, Mike and Scott. Dumping Ed’s guitar tracks entirely, they quickly re-recorded guitar tracks for the four demo songs and picked up “Real” where Paul had left it. Then they selected additional songs and continued to record the rest of the first independently produced Launch Pad CD. Lori wasn’t happy with a line of lyrics in “Do You Got The Stones?” so Paul re-wrote it for her. But, other than that, recording the CD was pretty smooth sailing for the group. The twelve-song Plug Into Some Power album featured all Paul and Lori compositions and was released in 2010 mostly online and was available at a few of the band’s shows The album is still available from Amazon.com. During this time, Launch Pad played many downtown Long Beach venues of the time such as Dipiazza’s, Ferns, The Blue CafĂ© and Max Steiners.


This was just the tip of the iceberg, however. The band not only had Paul and Lori’s pre-existing compositions to mine, but were now writing new material together as a band. Scott also brought some of his own compositions in for consideration. His “Shades of Grey” was soon added to the band’s sets. Other songs followed but this period was not without tensions in the band. Lori wanted to retire some of the older songs to make way for new ones and not everyone in the band agreed with her choices. Finally, she put her foot down. She didn’t want to sing “Little Miss Sunshine” anymore. She felt that the lyrics were somewhat cruel. She also wanted to drop “Has Beens.” Both songs were favorites of Mike and Scott. Although Paul didn’t agree with her (both were primarily his songs), he sided with his wife on the matter, thus splitting the band 50/50. This was the beginning of an eventual rift in the band. Mike, hoping to resolve the situation with “Little Miss Sunshine” the same way Paul had done for “Do You Got The Stones?”, worked up an alternate set of lyrics he hoped Lori would be more amenable to. Unfortunately, both Lori and Paul were put off by the attempt and the rift widened. After all, Lori and Paul both considered themselves the founding members of the band and most of the material was theirs. Mike was starting to feel more like a hired gun than part of the band and the couple’s unwillingness to consider his fix, widened the rift further for Mike. Scott, although he agreed with Mike, remained neutral. In 2011, just after recording the last of the drums for the first album, Mike parted ways with Launch Pad. The other instruments on many of the songs were recorded and the CD finished after Mike’s departure. As a result, Mike’s not pictured on the cover of “Plug Into Power,” even though every song features his drums (there is an alternate unused version of the CD cover that did feature a picture that included Mike, but since the CD was releasing around the same time David joined, it was decided to include David so he’d feel some investment in the album. It was not intended as a slight to Mike in any way).


After a fruitless search, the brother of one of Lori’s friends offered to sit in on drums just so the band could keep the momentum going. David Rodriguez, who had no prior experience playing drums, eventually became the band’s drummer. He’s pictured with the rest of the band on the cover of “Plug Into Power,” even though he did not play on the CD. David was also a gifted industrial-style guitarist. Lori encouraged him to provide a song, just as Scott had provided “Shades of Grey.” David provided “Memories,” although he declined to sing it (Lori sang it on the album). He also provided a guitar riff for “Purrfect.” Scott, as the band’s guitarist, felt that his turf was being invaded. Before the second CD was finished, Scott had also left Launch Pad. David decided that he would like to take over the guitar position and the hunt was on for a new drummer. But David didn’t work out as the band’s guitarist and by the time the second CD was finished, Launch Pad was back down to just Paul and Lori. Released in 2012, Uncontrolled, independently produced by Paul (although he shared production credit with Lori), features David on drums and Scott on guitar on most songs (all except for “Memories” and “Purrfect”, which both feature David playing drums and guitar).


With David gone, Paul went hat-in-hand to Scott and begged him to come back to Launch Pad. However, before he had left, Scott had started another band with drummer Randy Scott that they called Thunderbone. Scott wished to devote more time to that band and, at the time, didn’t think his marriage could handle him being in both bands. But Paul was persuasive, and after a few weeks, Scott returned to Launch Pad. All said, he was probably only out of the band for roughly a month. It just so happened that it was the same month the Uncontrolled CD artwork was completed and the CD released. As a result, Scott is not pictured in the CD (the cover features only Lori, both Paul and Lori are pictured on the inside). Uncontrolled is still available from Amazon.com.


The band brought in Randy Scott from Scott’s other band, Thunderbone, to temporarily fill in until they could find another drummer. Linda Guy would be their next full-time drummer. With two albums worth of material, they felt it was now time to really get their music out. The band was ready to unleash their brand of rock/worship on the world. Linda remained with the band as they ramped up their live shows. She was a powerful hitter and brought some new ideas to some of the older material. During this time, Lori decided she wanted to get out from behind the keyboards and play a more central role onstage. Linda really liked Lori’s keyboard playing, and asserted that Lori should continue to play keys, which rubbed Lori the wrong way. Lori didn’t like being told what to do. But to be fair, Linda was actually paying Lori’s keyboard playing a compliment. The band played Dipiazza’s, Malone’s, Angel City and various other local venues of the time. The new line-up took some promo pictures but none of them were ever used. Due to schedule conflicts with her work, Linda soon had to leave the band. Randy Scott, by now sort of an honorary Launch Pad member (in addition to previously sitting in as drummer, he had also provided some percussion on on the “Uncontrolled” CD), was brought back in on a sort of open-ended basis to help make good on the band’s commitments including a couple services for Bible Faith Ministries in downtown Long Beach and whatever other shows they picked up.


Such was the band’s line-up on February 6, 2014 when Lori Carhart suffered a catastrophic stroke. She passed away on February 18, leaving behind Paul and their daughter Melody… and the guys in the band.


Everyone in the band was shocked and devastated.


Third World Sun Rises


For the previous couple years, Paul had been writing material that hadn’t made it into the Launch Pad songbook. More and more, Launch Pad had been writing together with no single songwriter. Now, Paul also found himself writing new material in the wake of his loss. Roughly a month after Lori’s passing, Scott visited Paul. The intent was to decide what was going to happen with Launch Pad. Would they take it forward without Lori? Or was it all to die on the vine?


Paul played Scott some of the songs he had written on his own and Scott was enthusiastic. There seemed to be no question that the two would continue playing music together. Randy would not be joining them. But it was still undecided as to whether they would be Launch Pad or whether it would be something else. The two of them started jamming in The Underground (the basement at the Carhart house) and pounded out “Hostage” over the course of an hour. The song revolves around a grungy guitar riff provided by Scott and an upbeat bass line from Paul. Paul wrote the lyrics pertaining to those (like Randy, but not specifically Randy) who weren’t enthused with what they were doing in the wake of Lori’s passing. While they were breaking for lunch, Paul decided to stop by the music store to upgrade the band’s PA system. While there, Scott got a call from Mike Driml, Launch Pad’s former drummer from the original line-up. The two of them had re-connected following Lori’s funeral. Scott told Mike what he and Paul were doing and Mike was intrigued. Paul didn’t really believe Mike would come back. But a week later, the three of them were back in The Underground. With the addition of Mike’s drums, “Hostage,” the first Third World Sun song, was completed. So too was the essence of their new sound solidified.


Third World Sun was born in all but name.


Paul, Scott and Mike were excited to get back out and play. For Paul, it was therapy and playing helped fill the void that was left by Lori’s absence. Rather than write a whole new batch of songs, and so the band could get back out as quickly as possible, it was decided that they could revive some songs from Launch Pad for the new project.


Reviving Launch Pad songs begged the question: Should they continue as Launch Pad or should they start over with a new name? There were benefits to continuing as Launch Pad. Many years had been put into building the Launch Pad name and brand. However, as Mike put it, “No matter what we call it, without Lori, it’s going to be different.” That statement marked the defining moment. Mike was right. It was all too-clear in the way “Hostage” had turned out. This new endeavor was going to be different. Anyone who was a fan of Launch Pad would not find much similarity in this new group. Lori’s soulful, brooding vocals were gone, replaced by Paul’s thinner strains. The stripped down trio also found themselves playing faster and, without the keyboards and Lori’s pop influence, they had an edgier vibe and more upbeat sound. So for these many reasons, they decided to change their name and start anew.


Launch Pad had never really been at home anywhere they had played. It had been a struggle for Lori in particular that they never really found a home audience. They weren’t churchy enough for most church environments but they were too spiritual and not hard-edged enough for most bars and clubs in the primarily punk downtown Long Beach scene. Paul expected the new band to resolve that situation. And he expected to learn from the previous band’s challenges. Their music would rock the clubs and their message would be part of the music. And the band’s music would revolve around the chemistry between Paul, Scott and Mike. They would rehearse until they were tight enough to compete with other bands on the scene and they would get a reputation for being good foremost, above and beyond whatever message their music brought with it.


Each band member submitted potential names that included Jam Sandwich (or even the shorter Jamitch), Lords of Chords, A Crust Between Us, The Paunch Lads (a humorous twist on the previous band’s name), Tri-Pod Dog (Paul’s favorite from his high school days), Collateral Jammage, Paramortal and Third World Sons (one of Scott’s submissions). Some of the names were not much more than jokes but everyone seemed to think Third World Sons had the most potential. It just didn’t totally sit well with everyone. After all, none of them were the sons of a third world country, which was what the name seemed to imply. Mike suggested changing “Sons” to “Sun” which made the name more abstract and less specifically about the band’s members. All three liked it. But what did it mean? Paul floated the idea that the sun over a third world country was a bit harsh and shined brightly. Both were attributes the band mates felt defined the new band. They intended to shine a light on things that needed to be said. And they might sometimes come across as a bit harsh.


They had a new name. Paul designed an eclipse-like logo that was quickly adopted by the band. Now, besides “Hostage,” they just had to figure out what they were going to play.


Some of the song choices were obvious. Paul focused on reviving the ones he had sang in Launch Pad. “Has Beens” (once retired by Lori), “Bring It On,” “Live Life,” “Fall On Me” and “Do You Got The Stones?” easily made the cut. “All” was also an easy choice, with Scott taking on the opening vocal part that Lori used to sing. “Don’t Hold Back,” which had been recorded with Launch Pad as a slow worship number with 80’s-style keyboards found new life as a Beatles-meets-Ramones punk-pop number. Then they turned their attention to other Launch Pad songs that Lori used to sing. “We Know There’s More, Caida, “Real,” and “Vino” were selected to live on as part of Third World Sun’s catalog. Paul also introduced the band to a song he had written for Launch Pad but had never been introduced to the band called “Up And Away” and another one, primarily written by Lori but never given the band treatment was also selected, called “T-Shirt Generation.” The latter featured a segment of U2’s “Bad” as the chorus. Rounding things out were the new songs, “Jump Gig,” was a song Mike had suggested that Paul wrote humorous lyrics for about a band that takes over other bands gigs. The words were applied to a jam they’d all worked up one practice. Because the idea for the song was Mike’s it seemed fitting to include a drum solo in “Jump Gig” and, just to be shocking, they put it right about where the first first should start. Scott’s “Shades of Grey” also made the transition from the old band. Perhaps the band’s only downer, “Lori’s Gone,” was written primarily by Paul just a few days after Lori’s passing. “Lori’s Gone” has become the band’s tribute song to Lori. When he was writing it, Paul thought he was writing it for Lori. But he later came to understand that he was writing it for himself… and for the others in the band. “In a way,” Paul says, “it’s for anyone who ever lost anyone. The lyrics specifically do not mention death. So it could just as easily be about a break up or a divorce.” These days, Paul tends to shy away from playing it live, but the other guys still appreciate it and it is occasionally included in their sets. In all, including “Hostage,” they had a pool of seventeen songs from which to build their sets, depending on the venue. All of the band members agreed that it was good to have Lori’s music live on. In that way, her spirit could sort of continue forward with them even though she was no longer present.


Besides Lori’s absence and the band’s overall style, there were to be other differences between Launch Pad and Third World Sun. First of all, Paul no longer considered the band to be “his” the way Lori and he had with Launch Pad. Initially, he considered he and Scott to be founding members. But Mike was onboard only a week later. So was he NOT a founding member by just a week? Therefore, it was soon decided and agreed upon that all three of them would be equals in the group. To solidify that view, Paul suggested that all songs bear all of their names equally. The exceptions would be songs that Lori also worked on. For those songs, her name would also be included. David Rodriguez (Mike’s Launch Pad drummer successor) is also credited on “Caida” because Paul doesn’t think he would have written the bass line the way it is had it not been for David’s contributions, even though Mike’s drumming on the song in the Third World Sun version is nowhere close to what David played (the song bears Mike’s name as well). As far as the band was concerned, including a credit for Lori on songs she had contributed to was only the right thing to do. And the guys in the band, especially Paul, was glad that her music would live on.


It soon became evident, just as it had been true in Launch Pad, that they needed a representation of what they sounded like if they wanted to book gigs. First they used a Zoom recorder to record a rehearsal. Paul called the resulting tracks a bootleg but they were recorded and sanctioned by the band so “bootleg” was a misnomer. The bootleg included all seventeen tracks with some vocal overdubs done by Paul in Apple’s Logic. But it was quickly decided that the recordings did not do the music justice. It was time to make the first Third World Sun album.


Over half of the songs were ones they had been doing together for a long time. So they used Mike’s Zoom R-16 multi-track to digitally capture the drums in multiple isolated tracks. They also captured a live bass guitar track, a live guitar track and scratch vocal tracks. Paul brought the tracks for each song into Logic. The scratch vocal tracks were used to line up where the vocals went but were otherwise discarded. With only a couple exceptions, almost all of the live bass tracks were retained because they meshed tightly with Mike’s drums and they didn’t want to lose that energy and tight live dynamic. Paul did record fretless bass for “Vino,” which he rarely plays live because he doesn’t like to waste set time switching instruments. Much of Scott’s guitar tracks were used as well, although most songs were bolstered with additional guitar tracks. Paul, a huge fan of Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s production techniques, double-tracked most of the vocals in the style of the Beatles and Beach Boys. Paul’s 80’s New Wave sensibilities informed some of the guitar effects as well as the layering of guitars (The Smiths’ Johnny Marr is an influence on his guitar layering). No keyboards were used. Paul sang most of the lead vocals and laid down most of the harmonies on the album, bringing Scott and Mike both in to add to the vocal texture. As is the case live, Scott sang lead vocals on “Shades of Grey” and the first half of “All.” All seventeen songs were recorded for the CD.


Third World Sun’s first gig was a return to Angel City in Bellflower, where Lori’s funeral wake had taken place. The flyer for the show featured a photo that had been taken years prior for Launch Pad by James Carhart, Paul’s brother, but with Lori cropped out of it. Paul felt guilty about the crop, but they had no other pictures of the band at the time. After that, they began to book various local venues and played steadily throughout the remainder of 2014 and supplemented the cropped photo with live pictures shot by Paul and Lori’s pre-teen daughter, Melody, at some of their all-ages shows. Around this time, guitarist Scott Johnson started going by the stage name Scotty Zero, a name he had been using in his other band, Thunderbone. Mike also decided to use a stage name and began going by Biff Wellington. Not to be left out, Paul shortened his name for the stage to merely Carhart.


As 2015 rolled around, Third World Sun gear became available, mostly in the form of stickers and the popular mini-button as well as very limited shirts and caps. In early 2015, Third World Sun participated in a benefit show at Dipiazza’s for Jamie Ballantyne, a single mother who had died of carbon monoxide poisoning and had left behind a little girl, a situation that resonated with Paul. The band continues to play benefit shows when they can, “I like that we can be about something,” Paul says. “There’s not a lot of ways you can help others as a band. Playing a benefit is one way so we do that when we can.” The band continued to play local shows throughout 2015, including some prominent outdoor venues such as GobbleGasm at Recreation Park in Long Beach and the Light at the Lighthouse Christian Music festival in San Pedro. They played popular hang-outs like The Nugget and Ferns and became fixtures at Angel City, Rebel Bite and the Blacklight District Rock & Roll Lounge. Even though they had finished the initial recording for their first CD, during the mastering process, Third World Sun continued to write new songs and revive a few old Launch Pad songs. In mid-2015, the band wrote “Playing By Ear” together in The Underground. Shortly after that, they added “Sister Mary’s House,” one of Scott’s compositions to their sets. They also began playing revivals of Launch Pad songs, “Little Miss Sunshine” (but Paul was never completely pleased with how the chorus worked without Lori’s harmonies) and “The Haunted Church” as well as padding longer sets with covers of Radiohead’s “Creep,” The Church’s “Under The Milky Way,” The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary,” U2’s “One,” AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds” and an amped up version of The Doors classic “People Are Strange.”


In late November 2015, through Scott, the band scored a residency at The Blacklight District Rock & Roll Lounge, playing every Wednesday night at 8 pm (with only a few pre-emptions for touring bands coming through). For the second year in a row, Third World Sun closed out the old and rang in the New Year at Angel City in Bellflower. Their first show of 2016 was a day gig, also at The Blacklight.


Also in 2015, Scott left Thunderbone behind to focus his efforts on Third World Sun. He also endured the end of his marriage, which had been a bit rocky for the past few years. This made for some tough times for Scott. But, through all the loss and pain, the members of Third World Sun became better friends and continued to be strong and steadfast in their faith and belief that their music can and will make a difference in the world.


A few days before Christmas, 2015, the self-titled independently produced Third World Sun CD released digitally (Available at Amazon.com. Also available on iTunes). The cover features the circular eclipse logo the band had been using since mid-2014 on a black background. Initially, all of the songs were available for purchase individually except for “T-Shirt Generation,” which the band considers a bonus track (“T-Shirt Generation has since also become available as an individual track). On January 19, 2016, copies of the physical CD arrived and was first available at their January 20 show at The Blacklight.


In February of the same year, the aforementioned tough times took their toll on Scott. At this time, Charles McNeil came on board as guitarist. His audition consisted of Paul and Mike throwing some of the less guitar-driven songs at Charles and just seeing how well he could follow along. Although his interpretation of the songs differed greatly from Scott’s, Charles impressed both Paul and Mike with his ability to keep up and fit in. For their second rehearsal together, the trio started working through the songs from the debut CD. They made their way through about half of the songs when Mike said, “We need to get Scott back in here. If we can mesh both guitar styles, this is going to sound awesome.” Paul agreed. After a brief phone conversation with Paul, detailing the new addition to the line-up, Scott returned to the band the next day, energized and ready to continue with the band. On Saturday, March 6, 2016, Third World Sun became a four-piece band, integrating for the first time Charles’ subtle guitar texturing with Scott’s bright energy on the band’s existing songs. Determined not to lose the momentum they had previously built up, Third World Sun lost no time in hitting the stage again. Charles didn’t want to be the only one without a stage name, so he adopted the name, Mr. Charles. The band’s first gig with the new line-up was Wednesday, March 9, 2016 at the Blacklight District Lounge in Long Beach followed quickly by a return to Angel City on Friday, March 11. From there, they resumed their Wednesday night residency at the Blacklight and began booking shows into the summer of 2016. On May 11, they added “This Is The Place,” a former Launch Pad song to their set at The Blacklight, which was the last night of their residency due to schedule conflicts.


Following that show, the band took a month off from playing live to write and work on new material. On May 21, they started working on “Find Me” and revived, again, “Little Miss Sunshine.” This time, Paul focused on the vocal delivery in the chorus to improve it and make it work better without Lori’s harmonies. The first time through, he sings it the way he did in the Launch Pad version and the second and subsequent times, he sings Lori’s harmony as the melody over the same chords.


On May 28, the band added the anti-love song, “Get Away From Me,” toying with a reggae vibe and “Enter The Maw” which is a metal-like piece about consumerism and the disposability of life. They also worked on one of Charles McNeil’s original compositions, “My Own Way.” During this time, the band started looking for a manager to help better cultivate a following that they could take from show to show. Their first step was in placing a series of Craigslist ads.


In June 2016, Third World Sun returned to playing live, hitting the St. Maria Goretti Carnival for the second time (they had previously played there in 2014, shortly after forming) and in July they branched out to Burbank for the first time, supporting Ebinezer (out of Tempe, AZ) at Jimmy’s Place. This is the first time Third World Sun had strayed from the Downtown Long Beach scene.

On July 30, Third World Sun returned to Rebel Bite in downtown Long Beach and impressed the newly appointed person who books the bands. After a short discussion, the band proposed taking on a new residency, this time alternating Saturday nights (the 2nd and the 4th) at Rebel Bite. Starting on August 27, 2016, Third World Sun would take over Rebel Bite, playing two sets. Second Saturdays of each month also coincide with the local Art Walk, which the band street teams with flyers to bring people from there over to Rebel Bite. Also, on August 10, Third World Sun returned to The Blacklight District Lounge for the first time since May, where they had served their first 6 month residency. At their September 10th Rebel Bite show, the band added The Beatles' Let It Be and Coldplay's Yellow to their second set of the night. 

In October, Third World Sun played their last residency show at Rebel Bite and turned their attention to writing new material. In November, the band collaborated on Enter The Maw and Find Me. Scott brought Love Letters, Falling Down and Velvet Glove to the table. Biff sprearhead Criminal, which he also sings from behind the drums. And Paul brought a new worship song, There Is A Name to the table. These songs would eventually be added to others that had been written here and there since the first CD was recorded to form the basis for the second CD. 

On New Year's Eve, 2016, Third World Sun returned to Angel City in Bellflower to close out the year for the third year in a row. Despite several technical issues that night, Enter The Maw was played for the first time to a great response. On January 28, Third World Sun returned to Angel City. In addition to Enter The Maw being re-introduced to the set, Find Me was also debuted. Additional new songs will be peppered throughout the band's shows in the early part of 2017.

As 2017 opened, Charles McNeil chose to step away from the band for scheduling reasons. The break was amenable and the band is still friendly with Mr. Charles.
 


Third World Sun continues to play the local Long Beach music scene as they grow their following. The band is currently writing and preparing material that they plan to debut throughout early 2017 that will ultimately appear on a second album. 


Third World Sun is:

Carhart: Vocals & Bass; Scotty Zero: Guitar & Vocals; Biff Wellington: Drums & Vocals.



Book Third World Sun via phone or text: 562-331-0603 or via e-mail: writeme@paulcarhart.com

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