For most, the thought of live music on campus evokes concert halls packed by the Yale Symphony Orchestra on Halloween, or a swoon-worthy Valentine’s performance by any of the bountiful, freshman-feeding a capella groups. But traditionally, original music by Yale students has flown under the radar, rarely producing more interest than the small, curious flock that migrates past the stray undergrad artist playing the early bird slot at Spring Fling every year.
But despite the unheard din of student rock bands on campus, Lady Lovelace and the Calculator Death Machine recently made one of the most impressive stabs at success to date — by getting away from Yale. The trio obsessively toured Connecticut and New York over the summer, averaging at least one show per week, and won over audiences with their unique brand of free jazz folk rock. Multi-instrumentalist David Kant ’09, drummer Charysse Redwood ’08 and bassist/sampler Ted Gordon ’08 used to dwell in the caves of residential cabaret ghettos and cramped frat slums, but once they made a break from Yale at the end of the spring ’08 semester, they quickly accrued a considerable portfolio of national press, from the blogosphere peanut gallery to lengthy features in dead-tree rags like Performer magazine. Not bad for a quick and passionate summer fling.
“We didn’t really have any goals, we just wanted to play,” Kant recalled of his early Calhoun rehearsals with Redwood last fall. The two jammed nearly every day for two months before finally beginning to write songs together, which led to an album recorded over the winter in the Timothy Dwight Hit Factory studio. The resulting work, “Music For Two Musicians,” is a mélange of Kant’s frantic sax flourishes, arcing guitar figures and back porch croon, given plenty of breathing room by Redwood’s sharp, airy jazz beats. The record made an effective calling card for venues, and their unhinged live performances — augmented by Gordon’s gritty, glitchy tape loops and found sounds — earned an overture from Manic Productions, a local booking and promotions company.
While Kant has one semester remaining at Yale, Redwood graduated last spring and has moved back to California, thus ending the band’s remarkably short and productive run. And while the University brought these musicians together, they aren’t about to thank Yale for the experience.
“Being a Yale band inhibited us, if anything,” Kant revealed. “The students are pretty receptive, but I think it just needs to be organized and publicized better. There needs to be a group to manage it.”
Though still far from a sea change, the tide has shown signs of turning in recent semesters: the nascent, student-run These Kids Are Putting On A Show group now regularly organizes bills featuring Yale bands and like-minded out-of-towners; fresh management at WYBC-AM is making a concerted effort to break the station’s long silence on campus; and YaleMusicScene.Com appeared last spring to help unify and promote student rock bands.
“I have faith in Yale’s bands,” Gordon offered hopefully. “Students just have to take the initiative and try to coax as much out of mother Yale as possible.”