Toquerville native Eli Wrankle is not your typical college student. A classically trained violinist, the sophomore music major comes from a family of artists. Their encouragement and love of music led Eli to become one of the founding members of a band that has played professionally in England, Scotland, and all over the western United States.
The band, 3hattrio (three hat trio), was created when Eli was just 15 years old. The group was established when his family held a small recital to raise funds for Eli's high school orchestra. After the recital, family friends and veteran musicians Greg Istock and Hal Cannon asked if Eli wanted to “jam”. He had never played music that way before but it changed his life.
“I fell in love with the freedom and creativity of improvisation,” said Eli. “I could literally do whatever I wanted.” When they finished he asked for more. The group was born purely out of friendship, localness, and musical chemistry.
The 3hattrio plays American Desert Music. Their aim is to create a new music which responds to the natural world of their sacred homeland near Zion National Park in Utah. They also strive to acknowledge the cultural traditions of generations of people who have worked and lived on the deserts of the American southwest. The subject matter of the songs is often desert oriented, sometimes not. Mostly, they express the desert experientially from a daily-ness of watching light off distant mesas and hearing the way sound plays off sheer sandstone cliffs.
Their first album, Year One, was hailed by Baxter Black as a “profundo Gregorian sagebrush chant.” Since then they released a two more albums to critical acclaim, Dark Desert Night and Solitaire. They made their European debut at Celtic Connections, the largest winter music festival in the world.
Along with Eli’s violin, the band includes Hal Cannon who is a singer and plays banjo and guitar. He is also a cowboy music scholar. Greg Istock plays acoustic bass and foot percussion. He has a Caribbean music background and sings in a haunting and soulful style.
“Being a university student while balancing a professional band has definitely been a struggle,” said Eli. “Missing classes to go on a weekend tour, fitting in rehearsals between assignments and work, and even taking a full semester off to travel to Europe, has been stressful. But as soon as I get up on stage to perform, it makes it all worth it.”
This summer, the group will appear at the 2018 Tønder Festival in Denmark as part of their summer tour, beginning June 9 and running till the end of August.