Early on a Sunday morning, I met with three of the four current members of the undergraduate student band Sargasso: Maria Campos-Saadi, Soledad Tejada and Noah Goodman. They shared their story of forming the band, and the ups and downs of their road, from deciding on a name for their band, to recording their first EP Inlets — available on Spotify — last Spring.
This is going to be cliche, but I am actually curious. Can you tell me the story of how this all started?
M: Noah was in [Timothy Dwight], I was in TD, [and] we were both radio trainees as well. Once we were doing something at the basement of 216. I mentioned that I played bass, and I knew you had a band. And then Noah and Soledad did the training for the TD Studio, and throughout freshmen fall, Noah recorded an EP. For one of the songs, he needed a baseline and drums. He called me, and I played the drums, and I played the bass. And then I did a baseline that he really liked, and he was like, “Damn, I like this girl.”
N: Well, I liked you before that too.
S: He literally called me and was like “Soledad, perfect basses, I found her, she’s great, she can do anything.”
N: And then there was the first iteration of this band, second semester two years ago, and we played one concert. We played one concert, at Morse-Stiles Crescent, opening for Kadzo. The day of that first concert, the band disbanded, because our drummer had a health issue, and he couldn’t play with us anymore. So we didn’t have a drummer, and we were like “OK, we’ll call it.” And I was looking for a drummer for much of the intervening time, eventually found Thomas [Hagen], who was great, great drummer, great guy, we love him, sad that he’s not here. [Hagen couldn’t make the interview]. Then, second semester last year, when Maria got back, we started playing together, and that was the band.
So, tell me about how the response to your music now compares with what you expected at the beginning?
M: We expected it to just be our close friends going to concerts, but people that I don’t know sometimes come up to me and I am like “Wow, this has reached people!”
N: Before these last two weeks, I would’ve said that it’s been really nice. There are people who have told me that they really like it, but mostly they are good friends of mine. These last two concerts, there were a lot of people there, and I didn’t necessarily know all of them, and they were really into it in a surprising way. It’s definitely still very localized to this campus, and within this campus mostly our year, and within our year mostly our friends. So the reach is not that profound, but within that category I think it has made a really nice impression.
S: I think it’s also starting to reach to friends of our friends. In the last two to three weeks we’ve played four concerts. The first one was at Stella Blues on Crown St, which was a little more limiting because it was 21+, but the one after that, which was at our friends’ house we had a lot of people who showed up there who then also showed up at the next gig. I also think that releasing the EP had an impact. We get hearts from people we don’t know on Soundcloud.
M: And do you remember that girl who sent me a message on Facebook, saying “Keep doing it!”
N: The internet is crazy. At this stage, the response we’ve had from the immediate circles that we have access to has been encouraging, and we are pushing the circle into a slightly bigger circle.
S: Also we have some shows coming up on other campuses.
N: We’re going to Wesleyan Oct. 12th and Brown on Oct. 6th. We’re also trying to get a show in New York. But it’s really hard to get shows: You really have to put the effort in.
S: You have to be persistent too. You have to follow up and ask what day, when, how are we going to get there, how much are we going to play, will you give us money to get there?
Do you get paid for gigs?
N: At the [Yale] Farm they paid us. At this stage, we are not expecting money — definitely at a net financial loss on this venture, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
S: An excessive positive emotional profit.
N: In the long-term, if we ever become professionals, I would certainly want to get paid. But I don’t have expectations that that will happen, I have ambitions that that will happen. I hope one day that, maybe not necessarily in this iteration because it’s complicated, we are successful enough to make money.
M: You know what’s funny? I wrote for my school magazine once a plan for my entire life, because people kept asking me what I was going to do with my life: it started with getting into a really nice school, and then trying to study something that’s not that cool because my dad wants it, and then go through an existential crisis, and then start playing base in a band, and now…
S: It’s been happening…
M: And in my plan, there are some great steps after that. [laughter] It ends with me on a beach with Ryan Gosling.
N: We got to make that happen. Get Maria on a beach with Ryan Gosling. We will stop at nothing.
S: That’s Sargasso’s one goal.
I had been wondering actually, how did you decide on your name?
S: We had a talked little bit about it before, floated around some other names…
N: What were the other ones?
S: President Ford …
N: Oh god, that was awful.
M: Party Line …
N: That was also really bad.
M: Yeah. So Soledad was in the Turks & Caicos over the summer after freshman year. And we asked her to list a bunch of stuff she learned there.
S: I head to learn a lot of species names, so I just started listing a bunch of coral names, algae names and put them all in the group chat. And then I found the sargassum species, which is the brown algae that we learned about. And everyone was like “Oh that sounds good, but the end sounds kind of gross.” So we just started putting random vowels at the end.
N: Well, actually, sargassum is the species of seaweed found in the Sargasso Sea. I felt very strongly that Sargasso was a better name than sargassum.
M: It kind of fit in afterwards.
S: Naming the EP was way worse, it took forever. I had this list of water names on my phone, I was asking everyone.
N: I also think that the EP name is really good. Both of the names were kind of hard to come up with, I am terrible at naming things.
S: We also all have very distinct tastes. Even though we all like the same music, in naming things and in aesthetic, it really pushes us to come to a consensus.
Since we are nearing the end, I have two more questions: How does the band thing work with being a student at Yale? And do you see this as part of your future?
M: I don’t know about my future, in any aspect. What do you guys have to say?
S: I am going to talk to how it works with being a student. It is very hard to work around all of our schedules, particularly Thomas’ schedule, I don’t really know how that exists … I think we all really value the time. At the beginning of last semester, we weren’t really pushing for anything like recording or practicing for shows. We still practiced for many hours, and would be fine with it. And Noah has always been really great about pushing us to reach our potential. I think it’s really important to have someone pushing it, because it is really hard here, even if you love it, to make time for it. So it is good to have someone saying it is legitimate, that it is really important. And now that we have have enough traction, we can all be pushing it.
N: I think it’s been really great not being at school, because I have a lot of time and energy to deal with all the things that need to be dealt with the band. Even if I was, it’s still my number one priority. It’s what I want to be doing with my free time. It’s hard, being a student here, but at the same time it’s hard doing anything while being a student.
M: It’s also hard because there is no set path this is leading us towards. Because usually when you do any other extracurricular here, you can see yourself going somewhere specific. So it’s scary in that sense, but it’s just one of the favorite things I do here. I remember telling my parents that my favorite part of last semester was recording our album, and then my dad was like “What are you doing at Yale?” But now that it’s gotten more solid, it feels better saying what I’m doing, because people understand what I am doing.
N: As far as the future, it’s really hard to talk about. I feel that you have to be a little ambitious if you want it to be a deeply serious thing. And I think this band is a serious thing that I care about, in a way that goes beyond — that it’s just fun. I do have ambitions for us, I don’t know what they are, but we are all actively trying to have more people listen to us, and find shows to play, and find time and place to make music. It’s really fun, but it’s a real project. You just have to take it seriously, or no one else is going to take it seriously.
S: Even recording the EP was a push, we recorded it in finals week, and that proved that we had that capacity. So if we keep on believing in our capabilities, hopefully we can progress on the path that is unknown.
Thomas Hagen PC ’20 – Drums, Vocals
Soledad Tejada DC ’20 – Keys, Guitar, Vocals
Maria Campos Saadi BF ’21 – Bass, Vocals
Noah Goodman BF ’21 – Guitar, Keys, Vocals
Eren Kafadar | firstname.lastname@example.org .