When a current Yale graduate student, a biology professor, a clinical psychologist, a Yale School of Music alumnus and a talented “townie” come together to make music, all conceptions of the typical band fly out the window. Scientist music has never sounded so good.
The Secret Ink, who identify themselves as an “ethereal pop band with strings,” have been on the music scene for less than four years, but their melodic sound — which combines indie rock and pop with classical instruments — has only recently caught the city’s attention. This year, Jennifer Morgan (voice and bass), Linnea Weiss (cello), Netta Hadari (violin), Doug Slawin (guitar and voice) and Richard D’Albis (drums and gong) released their self-titled album, which is already earning praise from various underground music magazines.
The Secret Ink’s music has been described as “endearing” (Venus Magazine) and “graceful” (Providence Phoenix), and after listening to the album, one can see why. The mixture of melodic pop songs, lyrical instrumental pieces and experimental tracks makes for a unique experience — the album resembles an anthology of poems, each with its own mood, yet unified with the others to form a concise, if multi-layered, whole. The intensity of the emotional charge and the pervasive innovation more than compensates for the 38 minutes running time.
The birthplace of The Secret Ink’s songs is no less remarkable. The band’s recording studio happens to be the oldest printing factory in the United States, and also the place where Yale prints its diplomas. The factory is known to be located within New Haven, but the band refuses to divulge its exact whereabouts. Hence, the name of the quintet.
The band’s connection with the Elm City is based on more than the location of their sound studio, though. The band members described New Haven as a supportive environment for local music.
”A lot of the bands help each other out and introduce each other to club owners,” Slawin said.
Yale’s influence on The Secret Ink is equally significant. While the town provides the environment, the University appears to have lent its philosophy to the band. Hadari, a Yale alumnus, reflected on the richness of his school years, saying he appreciated the opportunity to take both graduate and undergraduate courses.
”The curriculum is quite flexible, so you can do as much or as little as you want,” he said. “You also have wonderful colleagues that you can collaborate with,” Hadari said.
In fact, the Yale spirit is apparent in the band’s passion for learning.
”We’re the most overeducated band in rock ’n’ roll,” Slawin said.
A review of The Secret Ink’s joint resume justifies his claim. Morgan is a visiting assistant professor from biology at Bowdoin College. Weiss is a graduate student at Yale’s Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. Slawin, who has a master’s in clinical psychology, works for a nonprofit mental-health agency in Connecticut. Hadari, an alumnus of the Yale School of Music, teaches at Fairfield University.
Science and art are rarely spoken about in the same breath, but the band manages to meld the two perfectly. According to Weiss, maintaining the balance is based on mutual understanding and commitment.
”We try to strike a balance between the responsibilities of reality and the band,” Slawin said.
Judging by the two shows they have coming up, they’ve been quite successful in maintaining this equilibrium. As The Secret Ink Web site reports, the band is doing an On Air Performance for WNHC 88.7, on Sept. 24. Their next live concert will take place Sept. 29 in Wallingford, Conn. Although the band isn’t headlining this show, they don’t seem too concerned — after all, they have gratifying day jobs. In fact, they were offered their own six-week European tour in the spring, but will most likely be forced to decline on account of their busy schedules. As far as long-term goals go, the band members said the most important thing on their minds is staying together.
”My greatest hope and expectation is to continue making great music with fun people,” Weiss said.