Tag Archive: backstage

  1. Charles Wright: Self-Made Poet

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     Charles Wright is the current Poet Laureate of the U.S., but he hasn’t let that title go to his head. Wright still prefers poetry to politics, and most of his friends are poets — a crowd he’s run with since maneuvering his way into the University of Iowa Writing Workshop as a grad student. In the intervening years, Wright has won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book award. When Wright came to campus in November, WKND sat down with him to chat about his career arc, his writing process, and advice for aspiring poets and writers. The following conversation has been condensed.

    Q: So, I was accepted into the University of Iowa high school writers program, but on a total fluke. I hear you have a similar story. For the Yalies aspiring to graduate study: How does one fake their way into graduate school?

    A: Well, I’m not the one to ask that question, because I never got accepted into the school!

    I just showed up having gotten into the [University of Iowa] English department, so my name was down, but I never sent in a manuscript. If I had, I would never have gotten in. So I just signed up for the classes and went to the first workshop. Kept doing that for two years. That’s it. It turned out that I told them that I’ve never gotten in — which didn’t surprise the teachers at all— but each one thought the other one let me in. It was very laissez-faire in those days. Not as structured as it is now. I had more fun in Iowa City than in any other place I’ve ever had in America. I really liked Iowa a lot. Anyway, what kind of a fluke was it for you?

    Q: Well, I live in Iowa City, and I hadn’t applied to the program because I don’t do creative writing, really, but someone had to vacate their spot, so they called the local school and said, “Do you have anyone who you think could do well at this program?”

    A: That’s not a fluke. That’s a good way to get in.

    Q: Was there a teacher who believed in you?

    A: I don’t know if he believed in me, but there is a certain teacher I believed in very much, a guy named Donald Justice, who was my teacher for two years. The other person, who really ran the program, was a man named Paul Engle. But Don did most of the teaching; Paul was always out trying to raise money. Quaker Oats money. Any way he could get money, and Justice was very good to me. You have to understand to me that I had just spent four years in the army, and I arrived in August for September classes. How dumb is that? But I didn’t pay attention in school, and I didn’t know anything about poetry, so I hung on to every word that came out of Donald’s lips. And they were good words, too, because he was a wonderful teacher, a really good poet, and a really bright man.

    Q: I know you spent time in Europe, and it sounds as if that’s where you discovered your love for poetry. And yet a lot of your poems start with you sitting at home, looking out the window. Is it important to travel?

    A: I dunno, it’s fun. Or, it was fun. I hate to travel now, because I’m so old, but I used to love it. I spent six out of my 10 years in my twenties in Italy. The first three were in the army, which is where I was reading and thought I was trying to write poems. I wasn’t. So it was good for me, it was very, very good for me.  I don’t know if it’s good for everybody else. Anything I say is just about me, I don’t pretend to say what’s good or bad for somebody else.

    Q: Do you think you would have found poetry had you not gone to Italy?

    A: That’s a good question. I don’t know, I don’t know. I was interested in writing and worked on the Davidson literary magazine, whose hero was the Yale Record. Isn’t that the name of the magazine, the Yale Record? That was the old one, and we thought it was just the greatest. I tried to read stories, but I couldn’t write stories. I just can’t write narrative. So, I don’t know what I would’ve done … probably gone into journalism. I spent a summer as a reporter at my hometown paper, and I liked it a lot. And I had been accepted at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

    Q: Why did you turn down the spot?

    A: Well, because I thought I could get into the [University of Iowa] writing program. Also, after a while, the idea of looking into people’s windows, or doing whatever it is that journalists have to do, began to pall on me. I’m not a natural speaker, you know. So, I just pulled out. They were very nice. And that’s what got me out of the army, was my acceptance into Columbia. Yeah, I’d have done that or gone into advertising, I’m sure.

    Q: Is there room for more poetry or creative writing classes at American universities? Or are writing workshops a dangerous idea in any way?

    A: That’s a double-barreled question! I guess there’s room for more creative writing. It can’t hurt to learn how to write and learn how to read, and that’s what writing courses do.  And that’s where writing courses should stay. In the undergraduate curriculum. There are too many graduate writing courses. And this is said by someone whose life was saved by one, informed by one. But that was then, this is now. I find it’s mostly a place to stay off the streets, and to network, nowadays. I mean, they all know all that stuff because they’ve been taking the undergraduate courses, where they should be. I was an exceptional case, because I was a history major. I had never done anything, never had a poetry course, much less a writing course.

    Q: Slam poetry, or so-called spoken word poetry, is popular on campus, do you see any relationship between that —?

    A: I’ve never been to one. I see no relation at all. I am totally anchored to the page and the sound that is inherent in the language, as it is written and heard in the mind, not through microphone. I mean made up for the microphone.

    Q: Your poems, for all their intellectual subtlety, are also immediately gratifying. Is it important for them to give a certain satisfaction on the first read?

    A: I hope so, I hope so. But most poetry has to be read a couple of times before you start to see what’s running underneath, you know? I always feel that anything that’s too immediately apprehended is probably not as serious maybe as it should be. That’s probably my fault. But sure, I like people to like my poems. I don’t care if they do, but I like them to.

    Q: Nature pervades your poetry. Do you see any role for activism — either for you personally, or in an artist’s responsibility generally?

    A: I’m not a politically involved. I’m just not. Back in the sixties they used to say, just writing a poem is a political act. Well, maybe it is, maybe it’s not. But I don’t take on political questions as such, or environmental questions, as such — although I think that how I write about the landscape has something to do with how I think the environment should be. But no, I’m not a political poet.

    Q: I read that you retreat annually to a residence in Montana.

    A: Yeah, my wife inherited a place up in the mountains in Montana, we go out every summer, spend 3 months out there. I seem to have gotten a lot of my poems written out there. I’ve been going there since 1967. So, that’s a long time.

    Q: Does solitude enhance your writing process?

    A: It does. I like being alone when I’m writing, although it didn’t always happen that way. When I was younger. You know I taught for 40 years, so I was always involved in that. But solitude is kind of necessary, I don’t mean loneliness, I mean solitude. Where you can get to a place where you can just think about things.

    Q: If you couldn’t be a southerner, would you rather be an Iowan, a Californian, or a native of the northeast?

    A: Well, I don’t want to be an Iowan [chuckles]. There are too many jokes about Iowa! But that’s why I jumped on it and said I’ve had more fun there than any place in this country. But the northeast would be good, I wouldn’t mind that. I’ve stopped teaching now, so it’s all a matter of nothing.

    Q: Is writing difficult?

    A: It is now. It used to be easier when I was younger. It’s very difficult now, because I’ve probably written all the things I could possibly have to say at least five times, in five different directions. I don’t want to do it now. It is difficult, and I guess more difficult for prose writers who have to get caught up in the narrative and the structure that’s long and extended, and characters and all that sort of thing. Lyric poetry is different from that obviously. I mean it’s not easy but it seemed more natural than literature. I never had a spell of a year or two where I couldn’t write. I had six months at one time.

    Q: What broke through that block?

    A: I don’t know, a poem I guess. I don’t know. It was so long ago.

    Q: Here are three dreaded words for an interviewee: you once said, “Poetry is our last refuge.” As you get older, do you find it any more or less of a refuge?

    A: Well, when I’m doing it, that’s what I meant. When you’re it, it is a refuge from the world around you. And you’re in the world you created, and I still think it’s a refuge in that sense. Teaching poetry or writing poetry won’t keep you from getting shot on the street. Not that kind of refuge. But it is somewhere you go hide, to a certain extent. It’s a hiding place. Everybody’s gotta have a hiding, some way. You’ll find that.

    Q: Are many of your friends poets?

    A: Most of them are. It just seems to be that way. I once asked Donald Justice, how come all your friends are poets? He said that’s the way it is. Every poet’s best friends are poets, because you see them, you read their work. My best friend is Mark Strand, who was here yesterday. He and a guy named Charles Simić and James Tate are my three best friends, and they’re all poets.

    Q: College students interact primarily with college students. What would you say to your fiction-writing, struggling, undergraduate self that a peer couldn’t have told you?

    A: I would tell myself, get into the library and start reading. That’s how you’re gonna do that. The gaps in my reading, the gaps in my education, were … But that’s the only way you can learn to write, is to read. To see how it’s done. To see how other people do it. Find stuff you like and try to imitate it. Intimate someone else. Imitate someone else. And pretty soon you’re gonna find out that it has rubbed off on you in various ways, and you start fighting your own weight. But unless you read, you’re not gonna really learn what is acceptable, what will be acceptable to those other than yourself, and that you can’t just say, “I’m so lonely.” I’d say go to the library.

    Q: Has anything pleasantly surprised you about your role as poet laureate? I know you were reluctant to take it on.

    A: I’m really surprised, how seriously it’s taken by other people. Not myself, but other people. Of course, it is in the library of congress, and oh, oh, you know, it’s not really anything. It’s an honor to have been asked, and you have to do a lot of traveling, which I hate. But, doesn’t help the poetry. In fact, Charles Simić said the year he was poet laureate, he didn’t write a poem, and he writes 100 poems a year. So, I found that it’s not quite as arduous as I thought it might be, but I’ve just started.

  2. A Teaspoon Full of Folk

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    Recently, WEEKEND sat down with the coolest of cool Tangled Up in Blue side project: The Teaspoons. Set to release their last and latest album this summer, title open for debate but most likely “Teaspoons/EP/thealbum/all my pets are dead,” the group gave WEEKEND a dollop of perspective on the recording process, the pleasure of folk music and the art of collaboration. With Tommy Bazarian ’15, Lauren Tronick ’15, Jenner Fox ’14, and Jacob Paul ’13, Hans Bilger ’16 and Ethan Schneider ’14, the group exudes a grounded, substantive spirit. And, in interview with two of the members, WEEKEND got to hear about the joys of recording, songwriting and going on tour.

    Q. So what’s the story behind your band name, The Teaspoons?

    Tommy Bazarian. Want to do it?

    Lauren Tronick. You can do it.

    TB. So the Teaspoons were founded two summers ago when Lauren, Jenner, Jacob Paul, a former member of the group who just graduated, wanted to go on a summer tour and play some folk music out west — so, we did! And we needed a name and we’re all in Tangled Up in Blue together. Our friend, Rav Shapiro (also a TUIB alum) observed that we, the Teaspoons, were a TUIB side project. He abbreviated that to TSP, so, the Teaspoons. Really a very clear story! And it stuck.

     

    Q. So you all really came together through TUIB?

    LT. Yes. We all met through TUIB and then the band just really happened because we wanted to go on tour and play originals. We played up and down the coast of California and went to the Grand Canyon and Vegas, which was hilarious … and then it kind of stuck when we got back to campus.

    TB. Before our sophomore year, it was really just a bluegrass/folk quartet. Then we added Ethan Schneider and Hans Bilger on drums and bass that spring.

    LT. And then Jacob left, so now it’s just the five of us. But then it was so special because he came back and recorded with us. So, all six of us are on the album. Jacob even also helped produce and plays trumpet.

     

    Q. What are the other most exciting places you guys have performed? 

    TB. California was the only big tour we’ve done.

    LT. We literally were on the Vegas strip and it was nighttime and everyone around us was doing crazy things and we just kind of stopped in the middle of the street and sang, which was really so neat.

    TB. We sang a cappella.

    LT. We also played with this awesome family in Stamford. We do their Christmas parties. The Yale Farm? That’s pretty exotic!

     

    Q. When did you guys perform at the Yale Farm?

    TB. At the pig roast last spring!

    LT. We did Koffee?…

    TB. Lauren and I also played at Chocolate Maya…

    LT. Oh and we did the block party and at the beginning of this year had an awesome show in the backyard of 28 Lynwood, which is kind of our home base because Jenner and Tommy live there and sometimes we rehearse there.

     

    Q. Is there one place on campus where you’d want to perform but haven’t?

    LT. Woolsey!

    TB. Yeah, Woolsey!

    LT. Battell…

     

    Q. What about your dream place to go on tour again?

    LT. Anywhere!

     

    Q. How about your recent recording process? What has that been like?

    TB. We recorded in a very short amount of time. It’s really hard to get everybody together. We decided to block off two days: this past Saturday and Sunday.

    LT. This has basically been two years in the making. We’ve been trying to record for so long and finally at the beginning of the semester we just thought, “All right! We’re doing this. We’re going to raise money and we’re going to have something to record once we’re done. Ethan and Jenner are graduating and I think that’s probably going to be the grand finale for the group. We wanted to celebrate with something concrete that we could keep.

    TB. We did an [Indiegogo fundraiser]. Our amazing friends and family contributed.

    LT. You know how you have to do those promo videos? Ours was fantastically awkward. But so many people donated. It was so unreal.

    TB. We broke our goal and got even more money, which we ended up needing. We ended up using the extra money to book the place we recorded, Dimension Sound Studios in Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts, for two ten-hour days. It was a crazy short timeframe. We were planning to do a six or seven song EP, but we ended up getting thirteen songs totally done in two days. We were also planning on coming back to campus to touch it up and do vocals, but we finished the whole thing. It was crazy! A magical whirlwind of stuff.

    LT. It was one of the best musical experiences I’ve ever had.

     

    Q. What made the recording session particularly special? 

    LT. It’s so rare that you spend ten straight hours intensely focusing on one thing. You spend all this energy but you’re just so focused. You’re just in this headspace that continues for ten hours. It’s also something that you love doing. You just want it to be better and improve and play with everyone. We were all so well rehearsed.

    TB. We just tried to bring the best energy we could. There are a lot of different ways to record. You can do tracking-based recording where everyone records his or her part individually and then you later them. What we tried to do, since we’re a live band and that’s what we’ve always played and we weren’t really used to recording, was do as much as we could live at the same time. The first day we did a lot live since the studio had amazing capabilities to record that. The second day we did a “second wave” of overdubs and violin. Then for the last three hours we did a ton of vocals. It was kind of three “waves” of live performance.

    LT. I would listen and I would hear what had been recorded so far. It would guitar maybe or drums or bass or sometimes mandolin and then I would either play fiddle over it or sing over it. Sometimes it’s hard to record a song since we’re so used to playing live. It was so funny because say for a song Tommy or Jenner sings, they can’t sing their part while they play guitar, so I would be in a different room singing their songs so they could play along with it.

     

    Q. What are the other differences between live performance and recording? 

    LT. Well, you can hear everyone! It’s so amazing! You think, “Whoa, you play that part?” It’s incredible. You can be a lot more detailed and nit-picky.

     

    Q. After this experience, do you prefer recording or live? 

    LT. I don’t think recording would’ve been so magical and amazing if we hadn’t played so much together live already.

    TB. Recording can be hard when you walk into the studio and start from nothing and try to build it. It’s so much better and different when you’re recording a live band that’s already played so much together. It’s like taming this animal.

    LT. We’re also releasing this album online for free. We’re not going to ask for money. It’s not like we’re trying to promote ourselves. This is kind of the end, so it was really just for us and our friends and family. It was just a different energy. It was more about creating this thing that we were happy about.

    TB. So that’s the plan for now. Dan Cardinal, our engineer, is going to mix and master it at the end of this month or next month. We’ll hopefully put the tracks up online. And they’re free! All thirteen songs are also originals. We even had seven more that got cut.

     

    Q. Who does most of the writing? 

    LT. Mainly Tommy, Jenner and I do the writing. Sometimes we write together. Sometimes we write part of a song and then pass it on to the next person. We’ll have a vague idea and make it more whole as a group. Other times Tommy will have these incredible parts to the trill. It’s so different for every song.

    TB. Lauren, Jenner and I play for the band but Hans is also an amazing songwriter. And we all sing. There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen.

    LT. It’s much easier to get everybody doing anything when live. In an album, you have to pare it down, which we did.

     

    Q. Which song on the album kind of speaks to you the most? 

    LT. It’s different playing it versus what it means as a song. Tommy wrote this song that I love singing because it’s such a challenge for me called “Amity.” I love it.

    TB. I’d say that’s my favorite, too, because it’s so awesome to hear Lauren. I have this vivid memory of watching Lauren record. I was two rooms away and she was in her little singing booth when she did this amazing vocal take at the end of our session. I got such goosebumps.

    LT. Aw! I didn’t know that!

    TB. The other highlight recording moment was I have this song inspired by the California tour. It’s mostly pretty bare bones, just me with the guitar, but then at the end everyone usually just sings along. We wanted the sound of a group of people singing, so we got everyone in the studio signing. So the band, plus Jacob, plus Jacob’s girlfriend, plus the engineer, and then our friend stopped by, and he had a child with him, so Alex and his small cousin are on it. There’s this little kid giggling. Twelve people gathered around this microphone — afterwards we were all so happy.

     

    Q. What is it about folk music that you think makes it so special?

    TB. Before I came to school I never was really into folk music. I was into everything that wasn’t folk and beating around the bush. Then I got here and joined TUIB and saw where all the music I really loved was coming from. I think it’s good to get back to the source. If you listen to this album, though, it’s probably more of a pop/rock album.

    LT. It’s really evolved. It’s so clear, though, that our inspirations come from folk. I think that folk music and TUIB and the Teaspoons has a way of being really simple and raw and there’s no shame in hearing a very clear inspiration from another song because that’s how folk music works. Another kind of sounds like one and it’s this beautiful, giant catalog of collaboration in a way.

     

    Q. When can we catch your next live performance?

    LT. Stay tuned — if you’re around for Commencement we’ll definitely be doing a show and bidding it all farewell.

  3. Jennifer Fleiss ’05: Runway Revolutionary

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    If you’ve ever found yourself buried in a mountain of crumpled clothes and credit card debt, whining about having nothing to wear and maybe downing a bottle of Chardonnay, there’s a good chance Jennifer Fleiss ’05 could be your new best friend and/or the Messiah. (WEEKEND has had more of these moments than we’d like to admit.) Since Rent the Runway’s official launch in 2009, Fleiss and her business partner, Jennifer Hyman, have been eliminating pre-event sartorial angst with their revolutionary “designer-for-less” rental platform. Read on for the Co-Founder and Head of Business Development’s advice for young entrepreneurs, thoughts on why business plans are overrated, and the lunch conversation that started it all. 

     

    Q. You co-founded Rent the Runway in 2008–2009. Tell us a little bit about that experience, and how you arrived at this concept. 

    A. My friend in business school, Jennifer Hyman, came over to me one day and we had a lunchtime conversation about how her sister wanted to purchase a $2,000 Marchesa gown to wear to a wedding. She said that all the dresses in her closet were “dead” to her, because she’d already worn them. … [Hyman] and I realized that this wedding was a very high stakes event for her, and that she wanted something new she could look and feel great in. At the same time, we were also looking at trends like the rise of social media, and talking to women. [It was] by talking to women [that] we kind of evolved the concept of Rent the Runway. We’re big believers in not writing a business plan. For this concept, that meant purchasing dresses at retail price and bringing them to undergraduate college campuses like Yale and Harvard for some of our testing. We tested the different aspects of the concept, to see if women would actually pay to rent a dress.

     

    Q. Have you always had a desire to work in a fashion-related industry, or did Rent the Runway really just emerge from that lunchtime conversation?

    A. I’ve always been very entrepreneurial and wanted to be an entrepreneur. I don’t think of myself as working in fashion. … My actual job function and the majority of what [Rent the Runway] actually does is all business-oriented. We have eight people here who go to fashion shows and live and breathe that, but for the majority of the business there are a lot of other components that are really important.

     

    Q. Now, over five years since its founding, you’re still working with Rent the Runway. How have things changed?

    A. Things are always changing. … In typical startup fashion, there are new challenges every day. We’ve grown very quickly, which is exciting, [but] just managing that growth is a challenge. We’ve implemented things like renting accessories, and we’ve launched products for sale like stockings, underwear and bras, so the styling services that are part of Rent the Runway can give our customers that head-to-toe look. And we now have three retail locations — two in NYC, one in Las Vegas — that allow the customer to actually interact with the brand in a physical setting. We’re constantly listening to consumers’ thinking about what to offer, how we can expand.

     

    Q. Could you tell us a little bit about Rent the Runway’s business strategy?

    A. Never before have women been able to access designer fashion at 10 percent of retail price. When we started, fast fashion was emerging and growing but they didn’t really have an economical way of bringing what was on the runway to the average woman. Many of the ways of accessing fashion were eating away at the value of these amazing designer brands and the quality of their products, which was something we wanted everyone to be able to experience. By changing the price point and using the rental model, we’re able to do that. … We hope it’s an experience that will help our customers make better-informed purchasing decisions in the future — even if they can’t buy these brands now, down the road when they can make a purchase they’ll be more informed. Collaborative consumption has entered many industries, but we’re definitely the core innovator in retail in terms of how you think about your wardrobe.

     

    Q. What does a typical day at the office look like?

    A. We have over 230 employees now, about 80 of which work in our warehouse. … We have so many different departments — there’s fashion, analysis, technology, marketing — we’re touching practically every area of expertise. It’s been a really fun learning opportunity and has enabled me to “live” in a bunch of different areas. Across the business, we’re very focused on retail, and we’re always funneling the customers’ ideas back into evolving existing concepts and services. I currently spend most of my time with brand management, talking to key partners [Rent the Runway] could work with.

     

    Q. What are some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had since beginning Rent the Runway?

    A. One is just when we started the concept, and seeing what an emotional impact our product had on women. And that has continued, with women sending us handwritten notes and photos of them wearing their dresses. Those have always been really memorable for me — it makes us realize that our product is so much more than just a dress.

    A second would have to be the fundraising process, just meeting with VCs [venture capitalists] and having them believe in your idea — and seeing how (often male) VCs identify and relate to a “female” product.

    I would say, as well, talking to all the designers responsible for creating the dresses we carry. Each breakthrough of getting designers excited about our brand has been memorable. It was exciting to have one of those “wins” each time we signed on a new designer. It’s not easy to sign on designers, so getting them to work with you is a success.

    And, finally, our warehouse. We have a 50,000 square foot warehouse right now and we’re moving to a larger one soon. We’ve vertically integrated our own dry cleaning, repairs. … Every time I step into that warehouse and see its work and flow that’s a big achievement; a moment that really wows me.

     

    Q. What’s the best part of working in fashion (or, at least, with a company that participates in the industry)?

    A. It’s definitely a fun and very creative industry. … Going to fashion week and all the shows is always fun and enjoyable, and being able to see the transformative effect that fashion can have on a person, the bounce that it can put in someone’s step or the confidence it can give. I guess the best part is getting to know the creativity behind that.

     

    Q. And the worst part?

    A. It’s a really hard industry to break into. You have to be persistent, and maybe a little bit naive. [In fashion], no doesn’t mean no — it just means “not right now.” Sometimes designers will tell you they don’t want to work with you. You just have to be really persistent and not let them deter you.

     

    Q. What’s next for Rent the Runway?

    A. We’re still just staying very focused on providing these kind of magical experiences for women; letting women access designer brands. We have over 4 million members right now, and we’re just focused on providing better and better experiences and getting even more members.

     

    Q. Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?

    A. In general, I think the concept of testing your idea out and bringing it to a market — making sure that your concept “has legs,” and seeing the different challenges and getting feedback — is key. Putting yourself on a timeline is important too, setting different “milestones” for yourself as a startup. And not being afraid to fail — realizing that each failure has learning opportunities that come with it.

     

    Q. And specifically for young female entrepreneurs?

    A. Often females are a little more realistic, “restrained” with their concept. Encouraging women to think big is really important — to be really aggressive when thinking about how big of a platform their concept could be. Don’t be timid with your concept, because when you’re going to VCs [venture capitalists], they’re looking for the next “billion-dollar idea.” You really need to be able to sell it, to make them believe in your idea.

  4. Lyndsey Scott: The Runway Coder

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    While most people find themselves struggling with one career, Lyndsey Scott has managed to take on three. Not only is she an actress, but Scott has also modeled for Calvin Klein, Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Victoria’s Secret, among other big-name designers. But Scott is more than just a pretty face. The former Computer Science and Theater double major at Amherst College also designs apps for Apple in her spare time. As a female African American actress, model and tech whiz, Scott has defied stereotypes by achieving success in three different industries. Before her talk at Yale on Saturday, she spoke to WEEKEND about the challenges she’s faced in both the modeling and tech worlds, the apps she’s developed, and her status as a triple threat. 

    Q. When did you discover that you were interested in computer programming?

    A. I first did computer programming when I was maybe 13, but at the time, I didn’t realize that it was actually computer programming. In school, all the kids were passing around games between their calculators, and I found out that I had the documentation available to figure out how to make those games on my own. So, I started making those games on the TI-89 calculator for myself.

    Q. And when did you start modeling?

    A. I started modeling a year after college. I was a computer science and theater major, and at Amherst I dove right into acting. I was doing auditions, but about a year into it, I was discovered by my first modeling agency and started modeling full-time from that day forward. I also did acting, but as I became more and more successful with the modeling, I started devoting more of my time to it.

    Q. What influenced you, as a computer science major, to go into acting and modeling instead of software engineering?

    A. I remember my last semester at Amherst, I had this course in compiling. And it was a lot of fun, but there were only three people in that class: me and two other pretty awkward people. I remember thinking that there was no way I could spend my entire life around computer programmers. At the time, I thought there wasn’t much diversity in race, gender and personality types in programming, and I didn’t think I could be in that kind of environment where I was sitting at my computer, programming excessively, around other people who were sitting at their computers, programming excessively and having awkward conversations. I think it’s becoming — and I hope it continues to become — a more diverse profession. I hope that more women, more minorities and all different types of people end up getting involved with programming and technology in general. Although I never saw myself pursuing programming after college, I think one reason I love it so much right now is because I make my own schedule, I’m my own boss and I’m able to do projects that appeal to me. But I do have fun hanging with tech people; I’m having dinner with some tech people tonight. There are also some great companies with things like private chefs and private offices where you can customize your own spaces. They give you all the perks. I thought that programming would be suffocating, but the way Google, Facebook and other companies set up their offices creates an enjoyable and non-stressful environment for programmers.

    Q. At what point after you began modeling did you decide that you wanted to start programming again, as well?

    A. Well, I’d always played around a bit with code, even after college, just for fun. But once I had my first iPhone, I started downloading the apps and realizing that I could actually make my own apps, so I decided to learn how to do Objective C and iOS programming on my own.

    Q. How difficult is it to juggle both of your careers?

    A. It hasn’t been difficult to juggle the careers because I’m able to prioritize. If I’m busy working on an app at a certain time then I’ll limit the amount of modeling I do, and if good modeling jobs come up then I’ll put the app on pause for a bit. I like having that variety, and I haven’t had any problems balancing the two careers because I have so much freedom in both to plan my own schedule.

    Q. Do you ever find yourself enjoying one more than the other?

    A. No actually, not really. I like doing both and I like that I have that privilege to spend my time doing both things. I do enjoy having more professional freedom as a programmer than I do as a model, though. As a model, my face is basically decided by outside sources — by the casting directors, by the agents — it’s easy to feel like you’re losing control when you’re a model. You don’t have any control over the jobs that you get. But as a programmer working for myself, I like having complete control over the work I do. I eventually hope to bring more people on board and work with more programmers, graphic designers, etc., but as of now, I do enjoy the freedom that I am given in computer programming, as opposed to the limitations that the modeling industry places on me.

    Q. Have you faced any challenges in the modeling world as an African-American woman?

    A. Yeah, definitely. With modeling, it’s been very clear. I’ve had success as a model, but I was shocked when I received my first big job, Calvin Klein Exclusive and found out that I was the first black Calvin Klein Exclusive model to get that contract. I was also the only black person in the show. The same went for Prada and a lot of other clients that I’ve worked for, where they’ll only book one or two black girls at a time. I’ve definitely been limited by my race in modeling, and the companies don’t do anything to disguise it either.

    Q. How about in the tech world?

    A. With computer programming, it’s not as overt, but I do think that when you don’t fit the stereotypical programmer mold, people are less likely to take you seriously. I’m confident in my programming skills and normally if I have a conversation with a programmer, they realize that I’m knowledgeable about what I do. But I think that as a woman, as a person of color and as a model too, it makes people perceive me differently.

    Q. Have you discovered any interesting similarities between modeling and computer programming, or are they just two vastly different worlds? 

    A. They’re both creative outlets for me. I love modeling because I love transforming into different characters, but I also love being able to put my coding to use in order to create apps that I enjoy and that other people would enjoy. For example, I have an app [Code Made Cool] coming out next week  that’s “Code.org meets ASOS.” I’ve been talking a lot about Code.org lately because they have an amazing website and a great interface where people can learn how to program by dragging and dropping software code. And I’m also on the cover of this upcoming month’s ASOS magazine. So I decided as a supplement to the magazine release, I would put together a “Code.org meets ASOS” app that young people could use to help them learn programming by dragging and dropping bits of code to make their way through fantasy scenarios with a parodied Ryan Gosling. I’m excited for that to come out in a few days. Having an idea pop into my head and then being able to program it in a few weeks and share it with other people — that sort of creativity is nice to express through programming.

    Q. Can you tell me about some of the other apps you’ve developed?

    A. I have three other apps in the App Store. My first app is called Educate, based on an organization that was founded by a group of Amherst students in order to create a program to mentor Ugandan youths and help them become leaders and entrepreneurs. As of now, Uganda has the world’s youngest population, but it also has one of the largest unemployed populations. I decided to make an app where people could donate directly to the organization Educate, which would then donate this money to the Ugandans, to provide them with the tools they need to build up their country. My second app is iPort, a portfolio app for models and other artists. It’s a fully customizable portfolio that I made to mimic the traditional modeling portfolio book where you can customize the book cover, the background, logo, etc., and flip through the pages like you would a traditional portfolio. But it can be stored on an iPod and allows you to keep multiple portfolios on the same device. I made it specifically for me to have an easy way to keep many portfolios on hand at one time, and be able to share them conveniently through the app. My third app is The Matchmaker, a social networking app where you enter in your profile information, match criteria and personality traits, and if you’re walking down the street and pass by someone who’s compatible with you in love, friendship or business, it alerts you and lets you know that it’s someone you should be talking to. And the last app is the Code Made Cool App, which should be coming out next week.

    Q. It’s interesting that you were able to design an app like iPort, which actually helped you with your modeling career. Do you know other models that utilize the app as well?

    A. I do know other models that use it, but I also know that people all over the world have been using the app for many different purposes that I never expected it to be used for. For example, I’ve heard of people using it for cake making, to show off their different cakes. I also have a meeting with Models.com tomorrow, where we’re going to do an interview and talk about the app. I’ve been trying to arrange a meeting with Models.com for a while, and I’m happy that I’ll finally be able to talk to them, which will hopefully result in more industry people adopting the app and using it as a replacement for the traditional portfolio. In a lot of ways, it’s actually better than the traditional portfolio, especially since I’ll soon be incorporating video into it as well.

    Q. Where do you see yourself in the future? You already touched on this briefly, but do you plan on increasing the amount of programming you do or programming at a larger scale?

    A. In general, I like maintaining the freedom in my life to do things that appeal to me and I’m really fortunate that at this time, I’m able to do modeling, acting and programming in a way that suits my schedule and my interests. I just have to make sure that everything I’m doing now, I’m doing to the best of my abilities.

    Q. Do you have any advice for people looking to go into computer programming? 

    A. With computer programming, Code.org is a great place to get started if you don’t have any coding experience. One, it directs you to many other programming resources and two, it’s a really fun way to get into it. I think they have an Angry Birds game where you can drag and drop code to manipulate the Angry Birds characters while teaching you core programming concepts. A lot of people are afraid of computer programming because the terminology and ideas people use when describing it sound so foreign, but computer science is becoming a part of every single industry. I think it’s important for everyone to have some sort of idea of the science that goes into the technology we use on an everyday basis. So I suggest that people give it a try and see what it is, and I think it’ll surprise them because it’s actually a lot of fun.

    Q. And do you have advice for people looking to go into modeling?

    A. That’s a lot harder. Models are genetic freaks, for the most part. Modeling is something people go into when they have these weird long limbs and long bodies, and are skinny and awkward. And even if you have all these qualities and are one of these genetic freaks, it’s still hard for me to recommend it as a career path because it takes a lot of luck in order to compete in modeling. I see it all the time — the most incredible women who are beautiful and confident in themselves end up sitting at home on their couches all day, and have a terrible time in the business because they’re unable to get jobs. So even if you have all the qualities on the surface that it takes to be a model, there are so many factors outside of yourself that are involved that no matter how hard you work, a great career in modeling isn’t always achievable. I definitely recommend that if you like modeling, you should take pictures and try to create art in this way — through your modeling — but don’t necessarily go into it thinking that it will be a sustainable career.

  5. KATHLEEN CLEAVER: A Black Panther Turned Bulldog

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    Unapologetic in her efforts to abolish systematic injustice, Kathleen Cleaver ’84 LAW ’89 has long been a leader in radical political circles. As a Barnard college student, she became inspired to join in the work of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a youth-dominated initiative that became one of the key civil rights organizations during the 1960’s. In 1967, she met and married Eldridge Cleaver, one of the first leaders of the Black Panther Party.  Attracted to their Black Power ideology, Cleaver then joined the Black Panther ranks and moved to San Francisco, committed to eradicating the injustices that she continued to witness. Targeted by the FBI for their involvement with the Panthers, both Cleavers fled the United States. Eldridge Cleaver fled first to Cuba, which Kathleen thought would be her eventual stopping point. Unforeseen circumstances led them both to Algeria, where they would spend four years in exile, leading the international section of the Black Panther Party. At the age of 32, Cleaver decided to re-enroll as an undergraduate at Yale, with the goal of attending law school upon receiving her degree. At the age of 34, Cleaver attended Yale Law School. Since then, she has dedicated herself to teaching, as a lecturer at Emory Law School, a public policy professor at Sarah Lawrence College and an African-American Studies Professor at Yale College. The exhibit “The Bulldog and Panther: The May Day Rally and Yale” honoring the work of the Black Panthers in New Haven is currently displayed at Sterling Memorial Library and will be up until Friday May 16. She spoke to WEEKEND about growing up in activist communities and navigating elitist spaces. 

    Q. To start off and get a little bit of background on your upbringing, tell me about your family and your life growing up. 

    A. I was born in Texas and also lived in Alabama and North Carolina. My parents were both college-educated and civil rights activists in their own right, so I grew up in an environment that contributed to my own consciousness of justice. As a child, I grew up traveling with my parents because my father was in the Foreign Service. I knew the South because I had lived there, but did not have ties to the rest of the United States. I lived in India, the Philippines and West Africa. My father’s work was designing projects to elevate peasant farmers, projects dependent on the support of the country. When the president of the Philippines was killed, support for the project was withdrawn and we had to move. Being abroad I was able to see firsthand and understand that no necessity existed for the white supremacist regime that existed in the United States.

    Q. You mention that your parents were civil rights activists themselves. How did that impact your own decision to enter the movement?

    A. Well, first, my mother was a schoolteacher and protested segregated schools during the pre-Brown era, but this was in the 1930s before World War II and before there was hysteria surrounding possible involvement in communist movements. Activity eventually shifted to younger people.

    In 1963, I saw high school girls my age protesting against the denial of the right to vote for blacks in Georgia. They were getting arrested for their nonviolent demonstrations and went to jail singing Freedom songs. I was so inspired by their bravery; they attracted me to the idea of nonviolent resistance and following up the resistance of the students who did sit-ins at lunch counters, protesting the denial of the right to be seated at lunch counters.  Back then you could shop in the five- and ten-cent stores, and order food to go, but not sit down at the counter and eat it. Students challenged the system, and sat down in the seats anyway, in a series of actions across the South. They became the basis of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), the organization I eventually joined in 1966.

    SNCC is difficult to capture in history because it did not have a ‘figurehead’ to write about, but gained the highest respect from activists, from black youth, from the students across the country. Do you know about James Forman?

    Q. No, I don’t think I know who he is.

    A. Exactly. He was the executive director of SNCC, but that organization functioned on a different plane to the one which the news media understood. It ran differently. It was a movement of people generating mass mobilization, but there was no figurehead. Being a leader under this arrangement has a different type of commitment — one for all, all for one — the stakes were higher, anyone might get shot, or arrested, or injured. You could be killed.

    Q. You were in Algeria for four years. Can you talk a little about your experience there?

    A.Eldridge was a fugitive, which is why we were there in the first place. We were leading the international section of the Black Panther Party, leading solidarity committees. Algeria was one of the only places in Africa with extensive access to the press. It was an outpost and facilitator of solidarity for the Black Panther Party.

    Q. How have you navigated elitist spaces (Yale, Yale Law) and manipulated them for the empowerment of your community?

    A. My experience at Yale probably did not mold me as it might have done an 18-year-old; I came to Yale when I was 36. I had more ties to the faculty than a typical undergraduate student might, and I also had more ties to the local community since my two children were attending New Haven public school while I went to college. Yale was a different place when I was here: there was more a carryover from the politics of the ’70s. Income inequality was not as extreme as it is today. Today the students seem to be either from more wealthy or far below wealth, [there aren’t] as many middle class kids as there used to be.

    It was the ’80s, when Reagan announced he was a candidate for President he did it in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Why did he do that, when he was the Governor of California?  What had happened in Philadelphia, Mississippi — it was the murder of the three civil rights workers — Andrew Goodman, James Cheney and Mickey Schwerner. To announce his candidacy there was to align himself with the white supremacist attitudes of Philadelphia, Mississippi. He took an anti-civil rights stance.  I wanted to finish my college education so I could apply to law school, I wanted to do what I had seen Charles Garry — the San Francisco attorney who defended the Black Panthers — do. He was a brilliant, charismatic and highly effective criminal defense attorney. I wanted to know what he knew, and I came to Yale to be able to finish my B.A. and enroll in law school, which I did at Yale.

    Q. For those interested in furthering the causes that you and the Panthers had worked towards advancing, what advice would you give? Do you think that it’s possible to have a movement like that re-emerge? 

    A. I am not sure if such a movement could happen during this time. The Black Panthers were a product of their time. During the emergence of the Panthers, the Vietnam War was happening, and that caused great social unrest. It is hard to start a movement when everyone involved is either imprisoned or has been assassinated. The Panthers have been demonized. I am not sure if there are enough young people who would be aware enough to start such an initiative. Young people today are not being educated in public schools. The prison industrial complex is trapping them. These things happen in waves, so we’ll just have to wait. But I’d like to end on a positive note: I would like to see a day in which the political climate of intimidation and repression dissolves into one rectifying injustice and enhancing social well-being.

  6. Buzzwords with backing

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    If you chat with Matt Brimer ’09, Jake Schwartz ’00 and Brad Hargreaves ’08 for a bit, you’re likely to hear some business jargon. Reference might be made to the “digital ecosystem” — networking, itself jargon, might become “connectivity.” But given the way General Assembly has taken off since the trio founded it in 2011, it seems there just might be something behind all that mumbo jumbo. General Assembly, or “GA,” as its three founders call it, is a New York educator and incubator for other tech start-ups. From simply providing the physical space and amenities necessary for start-ups to grow — office space, in other words — General Assembly has expanded to offer a host of courses for aspiring entrepreneurs at locations across the globe, winning over $4 million in seed funding and a spot among Forbes’ “Top 30 Under 30” in the process. The company reports that 96 percent of students enrolled in the most immersive programs go on to find jobs within three months. WEEKEND gave the three Yalies behind GA a call to find out how they made it all happen.

    Q. Jake Schwartz was quoted in a Yahoo! News article about you guys saying that in today’s job market, it’s not enough to “write and think and figure out what you need to do.” How does what you learn at General Assembly relate to traditional higher education?

    Brad: We look at General Assembly as a complement to liberal arts education, not as a replacement. Liberal arts has an incredibly important role in the American education system, and that’s not one we’re looking to replace, but 98 percent of our current and previous students already have a college degree. Our audience is not coming to GA as an alternative to traditional education. Many of these are students who went to really good schools. I’m sure we could find Yale alums who have been through our program. It’s really students who are looking for a very specific skill set, whether they want to become a user experience designer, they want to become a web developer, they want to get into digital marketing: Those are the profiles of the students we’re seeing.

    Jake: I almost think of [GA] like the last mile. I loved my Yale experience. It was a great education, but I didn’t come out with any way to just create economic value for my employer. So I really had to hustle and leverage whatever else I could find to even get someone to hire me. If you want to go off the beaten path, you need to be able to hit the ground running. All these companies aren’t just looking for people who are smart — they’re looking for people who can do things.

    Q. How did Yale prepare you guys for what you are doing now?

    Brad: When I look at what I’m doing today, the biggest thing that Yale provided me is connections to my co-founders. Matt and I have known each other since he was a freshman at college and I was a sophomore. Matt met Jake through a Yale alumni event. The connectivity that Yale provides is incredibly important. Part of what we are trying to do at General Assembly is not just take the educational content and deliver it but also deliver that connectivity and that brand imprimatur that you get from going to an institution like Yale.

    Matt: I also think Yale provided a certain sense of magic to our undergraduate experience. When we think about what we’re creating at General Assembly, being able to surprise and delight and provide serendipity is important, because I think that’s what creates long-term success: when you can create very memorable but also impactful experiences for people. When we think about what learning means at GA, a lot of our experience originates from Yale.

    Jake: When I got out, I experienced firsthand the major letdown of getting into the real world and realizing that there were a million people just like me. Yale has this way of building you up to think that you’re special, and then I had that very long, hard letdown that, in a lot of ways, is what inspired me to start GA. I had a great experience at Yale in many ways, my best friends are from there, and I think Yale did a really great job with the way it approaches this idea of a big idea with a bunch of little details that make up the big idea. The interplay and the tension between those two levels of thought is really the same way I still think about strategy and tactics in a start-up, in a business.

    Q. That same Yahoo article had Jake saying that there was a sort of stigma in American education around purely vocational training. How do you guys hope to change that?

    Brad: It’s really about delivering a lot of the non-educational value that has traditionally been associated with, say, Ivy league schools — for instance, providing a strong alumni network and incredibly high job placement rates. Obviously, education and skills are a big part of it, but for us it’s really skills plus community equals opportunity, and that has not traditionally been part of the vocational school value proposition. That’s one of the ways we think what we’re doing is unique.

    Q. One of the things that makes GA stand out is its connections to the established tech industry: You have guys from Facebook and Google teaching classes, and then when people complete your class, you’re able to launch them off into the tech world. How have you guys managed that level of integration?

    Matt: In many ways, General Assembly began in a very community-oriented, grassroots way. It began with a series of conversations and ideas between myself, Brad and Jake, and a number of the members of the tech and start-up community in New York City. A lot of it was about not only getting interested but also involved, getting people who we wanted involved in our greater vision. A lot of it is about being out there in the community, going to events, creating goodwill, facilitating introductions and favors for other people in the tech community so that we can get great karma around us. Doing those favors eventually comes back to us. It’s about playing an active and participatory role in the communities we are in.

    Jake: A lot of that is that we’ve now been around for three years, and we’ve worked really, really hard. That’s the other thing: There are no shortcuts — there was no magic bullet that got us there other than hustle. We all went to as many events as we could, we met everybody, we probably gave hundreds of tours of the space before we launched the original GA. It was through all of that and having a mission and a set of values that people believe in, that allowed us to have that presence today. We’re still working on it — it’s not something that ever stops.

    Q. How daunting is it to start a company from scratch? What does it feel like when you realize, “This is going to work”?

    Jake: It’s the wildest ride of your life. It’s hard to describe. A friend of mine describes starting a business as one of the most psychedelic experiences in life because your reality is constantly shifting around you. I always liked that.

    Q. When someone walks into GA with an idea for a start-up, can you tell if they have what it takes to make their idea work?

    Jake: A lot of people think it’s about the quality of the idea, and they get very defensive about the idea, and one of the things that can help me know if an entrepreneur is going to be successful is how un-defensive and eager for all sorts of feedback they are. A good entrepreneur knows it’s not the idea — it’s the ability to get it done that matters, and they look for any kind of feedback or gaps or holes or vulnerabilities in how they’re thinking. Whereas somebody who is a little defensive and a little closed off to that, they may think that means they have a strong vision, but typically what it means is that they’re not open to the data that the world is providing, that could help them make their idea stronger.

    Q. Any brief, pithy advice you guys would give to a Yale student who wanted to found a start-up, tech or otherwise?

    Brad: I would say, failure is OK. Failure can be a learning experience. The start-up that Brad and I founded before General Assembly, it was in the social gaming space. We ran that for a couple years, and it never ended up working out in the long term. But the failure and the lessons learned from that company really allowed us to create General Assembly and allowed us to be a lot more successful the second time around. The first company you start as a Yale student very well might not work out, but getting that experience — getting that education — is absolutely paramount for being successful in the future.

    Jake: Well, I would say there’s no time like the present, right? Just do it. But I think, more importantly, don’t think that just because you’re smart you’ve got something to add. It’s going to take hard work and constant learning to really be a valuable member of a start-up team.

    Q. And maybe a class at GA to boot?

    Jake: Of course.

  7. Nearer, My Panda

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    Nero, My Panda is a student band at Yale that’s been together since the spring of 2012. Its members: drummer Andrew Goble ’15, guitarist and live vocalist Paul Hinkes ’15 , vocalist and lyricist Elliah Heifetz ’15, and keyboardist and lyricist Max Gordon ’15, just released their EP this Thursday. The band gathered in Heifetz’s home to talk about the year-and-a-half-long trajectory that has led them to this new release—starting with their crazy, esoteric band name.

     

    Q: First things first. Where did you guys get the band name?

    Elliah Heifetz: I was writing a paper on this painting in the art gallery for Nemirov’s class freshman year called “Hero and Leander.” I was talking to Max about the paper for some reason, and we really liked the name of the painting. We were just messing around with it and being stupid, and then came up with “Nero, My Panda.” It had nothing to do with the actual painting.

     

    Q: Had the band already formed by then?

    Max Gordon: That was spring of our freshman year. Elliah and I were regularly writing songs together. So I guess it was a project but we didn’t call it a band.

     

    Q: And then how did the others get involved?

    Paul Hinkes: I’m in the same singing group as Max … and we were hanging out one night, sort of swapping songs, talking, and I expressed my interest. Max also said that the band was still in need of a drummer. I was lucky enough to have been freshman year suitemates with Andrew, who I knew was a very talented drummer. We had our first rehearsal in the last month of our freshman year. The band was pretty much together by then.

    E.H.: Our first show was the fall of last year — parents’ weekend in the Baker’s Dozen house’s basement. And that was when we also put out our first demos.

     

    Q: Are you affiliated with a cappella?

    Andrew Goble: I’m not. My association is very vague. But the others are.

    M.G.: Paul and I are in the Baker’s Dozen.

    E.H.: And I’m in the Duke’s Men.

     

    Q: Do you think your style as a band has been influenced by a cappella?

    E.H.: Well, when we play live it helps that three of us sing regularly. If there are any parts of the song that need extra singers, we have just the guys in the group do them. We don’t need to seek outside singers.

    M.G.: We like harmonies.

     

    Q: What would you describe as your band’s sound?

    E.H.: Um, [laughs] pop music. We listen to a lot of Katy Perry, a lot of punk music too, and rock music, also a lot of ’60s classic old-school pop. It’s just girl American pop music with a wink, because we want everyone to have a good time.

     

    Q: I listened to your guys’ single, “I Just Want to Sleep in My Own Bed,” on your website. It sounded very smooth and well produced. How did you guys get that level of quality?

    M.G.: So, we’re working with a producer in the city, the Jedi Master. That’s what he goes by; Jeff Jones is his actual name.

     

    Q: How did you meet Jones?

    M.G.: I worked for him as an audio engineer the summer after my freshman year, and we’ve just developed a good working relationship since then.

     

    Q: Who composes the songs?

    M.G: Elliah and I write the songs. But in terms of recording, in terms of putting it all together, we’re all playing different parts.

    E.H.: The first songs we did we recorded first and then played live, but, with these songs, Max and I wrote them and then we played them live and then we recorded them. Playing them live with the band really informed what sounds worked and what we wanted to put on the record.

    P.H.: The single “I Just Wanna Sleep in My Own Bed” was, in its first iteration, played live. We played it in Brooklyn over the summer. It was a much grittier, much less clean song than the final product. Live performances really informed the recorded version.

     

    Q: What venues have you played in?

    A.G.: Mostly New Haven ones. Last year we played BDs, SigEp, Spring Fling. I feel like we played everywhere last summer. This fall we played at the BDs again.

    P.H.: We’ve had some crazy gigs too. We played at Jack Wills’ clothing store over on York. They reached out to us, and wanted us to play there.

    M.G.: We got some nice clothes from that.

     

    Q: Did you guys ever find it difficult to find venues?

    A.G.: I think one great advantage is that I’m president of SigEp so that’s a space I have. And those two guys live in the BD house, that’s a space we use, which isn’t that big. But I think an important thing is being willing to play in weird spaces. It ends up being a lot more fun. Even in the BD house we had it packed and there were 50 people who couldn’t fit in. It was just a fun atmosphere to play in.

    P.H.: There’s something incredible about being in a room with 100 people that’s meant for 25 and being so hot that you have to wipe your guitars down. We talked about being influenced by 60’s pop. A lot of these bands got their start playing in the small — incredibly small — spaces that are not necessarily fit for a rock band to play in.

    M.G.: And the nice thing is that everyone that’s staying there really wants to hear you play. (laughs) They’re overcoming a lot to listen to you play. When you’re in this big open space you can come because you have nothing to do, but these people know every single word. It feels like you’re just at a party and providing entertainment that everyone’s totally focused on.

     

    Q: It sounds like you guys have gotten a lot of experience doing live shows, and now you’re doing the EP. What do you see as the next step in your trajectory as a band?

    M.G.: We love making music that people can dance to, that people can have fun listening to, and we want as many people to enjoy that as possible.

    E.H.: Getting as many people to have fun is really the goal.

    A.G.: There are a lot of goals probably, but in terms of the day-to-day, the hope is of creating that experience, and I think if we’re good, if we do that correctly, the opportunities of showcasing our music to more people are there.

     

    Q: Are there any difficulties or obstacles that you’ve encountered in being a band at Yale? How do you let people know about your shows?

    E.H.: A lot of it is just making a Facebook event. If we put it on at a certain time of night, everyone’s going to go on their computers and everyone’s going be on Facebook and people are going see it. Another way is, if we’re [performing at] a house that has a party on, people are going to go there anyway for the party. It’s just taking advantage of that and trying to make the party our show — trying to game the system of being a college band.

    A.G.: I think our vibe as a band has lent itself well to big crowds, because it kind of feels like a collaborative experience. We’re feeding off their energy — we’re not playing with our heads down, like we’re recording. For the most part, I think the people who come to our first concerts are likely to come to our second and third concerts, and that has helped a lot in trying to create something that’s fun instead of something that’s more for us than for them.

    M.G.: There’s no point in making something if someone isn’t going to enjoy listening to it. I think that drives a lot of what we do, both in the literal music that we make and in how we present it. It’s all meant to be enjoyable, to be fun, to be exciting, and I think that if you can’t hit those, then I don’t see much point.

     

    Q: You guys are an eclectic-sounding bunch. Do you each have specific genres or styles that you identify with?

    P.H.: (nods to Andrew) Weezer.

    A.G.: I love alt-rock and classic rock and I just like how they are drum-wise. That and hip-hop for me come to the forefront. The drums’ purpose is to serve up the other parts of the music. If I tried to make every song a résumé of what I can do on the drum set, nobody would be happy except for maybe me. I think some hip-hop does that really well, where even the beat works with the rhythm of the rapper, as do some of my favorite rock bands, like Weezer. I learned to play the drums listening to their songs. They’re so easy and yet there’s so much detail as to why they’re doing each thing and why it works with the music.

    P.H.: My taste’s a little less refined. I don’t have a specific genre I truly identify with. I love when a form is done well, whether that be hood stuff, or you know, on the far end, Katy Perry. One of our favorite songs right now is “Timber” [the new Pitbull song featuring Ke$ha]. It’s an amazing song. Elliah and I are getting into this hard-rock band called Japandroids. They’re so good, they’re so different. Whatever the model is, when it’s done well I’ll want to listen to it.

    E.H.: I would say the one genre I try not to listen to is country pop.

    P.H.: I love country pop.

    M.G.: I think “Prism” [the new Katy Perry album] is fucking amazing.

    E.H.: The song “Birthday” on “Prism” is one of the best songs to come out of the past four years.

    P.H: Headline, headline!

     

    Q: Andrew, you mentioned that you were a high-school musician. What’d you play?

    A.G.: I played a lot of jazz, which was probably the most inspiring thing. Jazz is all about fitting in. It helps when I’m playing live, knowing how to create something that meshes and presents a uniform sound.

     

    Q: Were the rest of you previously in bands?

    P.H.: All of us were.

    M.G.: Just a high school band.

    A.G.: I wish I was in a high school band.

    P.H.: My high school band was pretty shitty. We dressed up as ridiculous as we could and covered top 40 songs.

    E.H.: I was in a really classic high school band. We listened to a lot of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin — a lot of guitar riffing and shredding.

     

    Q: How have you evolved since then?

    P.H.: I think there’s a real desire in the group to be a cohesive unit. Our songs our two-and-a-half minutes. There’s no need to spend 45 seconds on a guitar solo. It’s just the song, polished. Here’s the package and we’re very confident with it.

    E.H.: It’s not about us. It’s not about the person doing the guitar solo or showing off on his instrument. We’re playing for people to listen to it.

    P.H.: The best possible thing is for the song to end and for people to want it to continue.

     

    Q: How have you grown as a band?

    P.H.: There’s a great feeling of having done our songs so many times before and getting to do them again.

    E.H.: When things start to become inside jokes and traditions, you know you’ve existed long enough and hung out long enough that you’ve become what people call a band. I think that’s the biggest growth — from freshman year to being people who know each other and hang out.

    M.G.: Yeah, we definitely shit on each other a lot more now.

    A.G.: It’s nice to have someone fuck something up and for Max to be like, “You fucked that up” and for the person not to take that harshly. It’s good that we communicate on a very open level.

    M.G.: We definitely have a more refined set of musical references that we can refer to, and that makes communication between all of us in rehearsals or when recording that much more efficient and that much more effective.

    P.H.: And now when Max makes weird noises Goble knows what to play on the drum.

    M.G.: I was making noise that I think a drum makes [Max makes a “boom boom shhh” sound] and Goble says, “Max, that’s not what I do.” But now —

    A.G.: Now he does the same thing but I translate. Sometimes he’ll say noises that just aren’t made by the drum. Usually I can guess what drum he’s looking for but sometimes … (laughs). We’re not as lost in translation as we were before.