Mike Jacobs’ ’95 first band at Yale was named Bingham Streaks.
“We used to run around Old Campus in our bathrobes yelling ‘Bingham streaks!'” Jacobs said.
As one could probably infer from their signature ritual, playing music at Yale was not an endeavor filled with any particular glory.
“It was not cool to be a rock star,” Jacobs said. “There was no admiration to be had — the crowds never got above 25 people.”
Jacobs graduated from Yale in three years and took a job at a high-powered consulting firm in New York. But despite the inauspicious beginnings of his music career at Yale, Jacobs decided to trade in his pinstripes for a pair of tinted shades. In 1998, Jacobs said, he gave up his nearly six-figure salary to pursue his dream of becoming a full-fledged rock star.
And he was not alone. Along with Jacobs, Devon Copley ’95 and Django Haskins ’95 have recently taken the plunge into the murky depths of the New York music world — and each says he’d never go back.
From finance to fame
Jacobs founded Evil Jake, his current band, two months ago. Last month, Jacobs said, the band’s songs were downloaded 20,000 times from mp3.com.
Ryan Hegg ’96, whom Jacobs calls Evil Jake’s “biggest fan,” said that even in the often depressing world of the Yale music scene, Jacobs stood out as someone who wanted to do more with his music than bang out his frustrations.
“There were a lot of bands at Yale, and his band, and him in particular, seemed interested in actually being able to play their instruments,” Hegg said.
Jacobs majored in economics at Yale, believing that this background would be valuable in whatever career he choose. He said his knowledge of business has served him well.
“Anything from David Swensen’s portfolio management class to a [Robert] Shiller finance class, it’s about running a business — marketing and finance and revenues and cash flow,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said getting the word out about his band is one of the biggest challenges of his chosen career.
“For young bands, the Internet has been a godsend in making it possible for almost everybody in this country to instantly access your music,” Jacobs said. “The downside, what hasn’t changed, is that you still have to get everybody to want to access your music.”
A musician’s fate
Django Haskins was named after Django Reinhardt, a famous jazz guitarist of the ’30s and ’40s. He says that having a musician’s name and becoming a musician himself was not a random accident.
“My parents were musicians also,” Haskins said. “It wasn’t exactly a coincidence.”
Haskins said he knew he wanted to be a musician ever since he was a little kid. He had his first paying gig when he was 12 years old and has been playing music ever since.
Haskins said he was drawn to Yale partially because of the music scene. He sang with the Duke’s Men and started a band called Earl’s Comfort Station, which recorded a CD at nearby Bar None Studios.
Haskins traveled to China after graduation, where he continued to perform. He said he learned a lot about playing music, and especially about songwriting, while in China.
“I’ve always played my own songs,” Haskins said, “[In China] my audience would be people from all over the world, Koreans and Germans and Chinese, so having good lyrics, which was always how my songs stand out, didn’t really help anymore. That taught me about if you take the lyrics away, what makes a song work with an audience.”
When asked if he has any advice for Yalies considering a career in music, Haskins said you first have to make sure you really want to do it. He said that his parents had no misconceptions about how hard a rock star’s life could be. When he was 14, Haskins said, and began thinking he might want to be a musician, his parents sat him down with a friend of theirs — “Tina Turner’s sax player, or something.”
“The advice I was given [was], ‘If you can look yourself in the mirror and say to yourself that there is anything else in the world that you would be as happy doing, you should do that,” Haskins said. “It’s a difficult way of life.”
Like Jacobs, Devon Copley used his Yale education to secure a solid base of marketable skills. He said he triple-majored in psychology, theater studies and computer science, which came in handy when he decided to start a Web design company three years ago.
Copley said he is one of the luckiest people he knows. Weeks after he sold his Internet business, the company went bankrupt in last year’s technology bust.
Thus, though Copley had moved to New York in order to play music, his leap into the life of a full-time musician was caused more by circumstance than by will.
“It was sort of a last-copter-out-of-Saigon deal,” Copley wrote in an e-mail. “[Before that], I had been trying to keep a band [The Pasties] going as well as a business — but since last summer, I’ve been able to devote all my time to music and it’s f—— fantastic.”
The Pasties released their debut album last month, and the band is now working on a couple of television and film soundtrack deals, Copley said.
Copley said he wishes to return to the sticky stage on York Street some day, where he performed his senior year.
“I sang at Toad’s with ‘The Rhythm Method’,” Copley said, “and I swore to myself that I would be on that stage again.”
“The Blue Ball”
Jacobs characterizes the relationships among Copley, Haskins and himself as “kind of incestuous” in a musical sense.
Not only did Jacobs and Copley play in the Pasties together, but Jacobs complains good-naturedly that at Yale, Haskins stole his drummer from Bingham Streaks. Last year, the three musicians came together again once again in a Yale alumni bands charity concert called The Blue Ball– in which 95 percent of the packed audience consisted of Yale alumni — to raise $2,600 for the Center for Arts Education in New York City.
Judy Weiss, the director of communications at the center, said the center was grateful for the money raised at the concert, which will go toward sustaining arts education in New York City public schools.
As for their plans for the future, Jacobs, Copley and Haskins all plan to continue to pursue their musical careers. Copley is looking forward to upcoming tours with the Pasties in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.; Haskins will continue playing with his band “Django & the Regulars” as well as performing solo. Jacobs is riding high on his newfound success and plans to release Evil Jake’s CD in about a month and a half.
Come spring, Old Campus residents might have to watch out for freshmen inspired by Jacobs’ dubious Bingham escapades and the theme of his new CD — Jacobs has decided to call his new album “Music to Strip By.”