Journey with Infinite Third | An Interview with Billy Mays III
Using guitar textures, beatboxing and other rhythmic samples from a looper and a wide variety of guitar pedals, the St. Petersburg-based artist creates eclectic soundscapes all on his own, conveying a relaxing ambient vibe that could be categorized (although he doesn’t like the boundaries of one genre) as post-rock. His slow build-ups can become quite droning and powerful or grungy and dissonant.
Known in everyday life as Billy Mays III — and, yes, he’s the son of Billy Mays Jr., the late infomercial guru — he has attracted notable media attention the past few years, appearing on local radio shows such as WMNF’s Grand National Championships among many others.
Mays met up with Creative Pinellas at Black Crow Coffee Company in the Old Northeast neighborhood of St. Petersburg to parse out the intangible wonders of his music. As a spoon disrupted the perfectly drawn heart on my cappuccino foam, Mays began to explain why he chose the name Infinite Third.
It’s natural to assume that Infinite Third relates to musical intervals or perhaps something spiritual in nature.
“It’s sort of meant to double as both,” Mays explained. “Although the musical reference is not specific, a lot of people bring it up, a third interval, a minor ‘sad’ sound.”
A more obvious reference comes to mind, such as the tertiary suffix after his name. He also revealed his tattoos, the symbol of infinity on his right inner wrist and a Roman III numeral on the left wrist, both facing the palm, both the same lettering and tone of green.
The tattoos, he said, resonated and existed before the bands, “It’s like my human self, and my infinite self or whatever that means, you know!” Billy said.
Billy Mays III put out his first album in 2009, but didn’t start playing live until a year later, doing livestreams from home. He encountered ups and downs around how exactly to perform his innovative sound on stage, striving not to let it get lost as background music. He slowly perfected his pulsing rhythms and primal electronics and accepted requests from coffee shops and bars, etc.
Prior to that, Billy Mays III was a big part of the St. Pete noise scene that germinated in places like Venture Compound. And having the freedom of staging “noise” shows help him develop his current freeform sound, which is still very improvisational — but also enticing.
Mays also has a second musical project called Mouth Council. It involves getting the audience or other people participating in the mix, normally in a circle. People share the microphone. Mays directs the experience, processing all the raw voices.
“It’s even more improvisational”, he said, and random “because you never know what the other people are going to do”. It’s free vocal expression. “I look at it as a band with infinite members and I’m just the facilitator,” he said. “We do it every month at The Loft; they call it final Friday.”
“The main point is to get rid of the audience/performer mindset and make it more interactive”, he adds.
Impressively, Mays has also found time to publish a poetry book while changing the blueprint of his live set. Impersonal Verses is the title. Full of intense lines, some vague in nature but mostly emotional, Mays’ sense of musicianship really comes through in the rhythm of the poetry.
Mays said that his sound keeps on progressing, and that his new long awaited album Channel(s), is scheduled for late 2017 and will have a unique feel; more otherworldly and contemplative than previous compositions. Some might find it a perfect soundtrack for meditation or Yoga.
Back to the present and Mays’ next few gigs: Instead of playing the traditional 30-minute concerts, his new ambient instillation series will comprise immersive guitar sessions performed in interesting local spaces (more info at InfiniteThird.com).
A meditative experience, with an intimate display of his improvisational textural harmonies, Mays channels the energy of each space. He has already booked about 20 different venues between February and March, and the list keeps growing. Over the summer, Mays has plans to take this ambient installation series touring around the northeast coast of the U.S.
“Instead of waiting to be invited to play in an art show, I’m going to be the art show,” Mays said with a chuckle.
“There’s a certain level of excitement that comes with every show”, he said. “To reference a quote that my Dad used to say; the nerves are good, and are a reminder that you are alive.”