Inside the Campus Band Establishment

New groups and record label hope to reinvigorate band scene

Forced Premise
Mike Z. Chiu

A “noise pop” band with four Lampoon members: Robert J. Dubbin ’04 (vocals, guitar); Simon Rich (keyboards); Peter O. Nelson ’04 (bass); Nick J. Sylvester ’04 (drums).

Musicians complain that Harvard’s music scene has been stagnant and disorganized for years. Bands form and disband within months, finding no opportunities to play live, win over a fan base or create a lasting product.

“The scene here is near nonexistent,” says Forced Premise drummer Nicholas B. Sylvester ’04. “There’s basically three dudes in tight jeans and T-shirts walking around campus, and they all hate each other.”

But this fall, several new groups have formed to join a few enduring veterans, buoyed further by an effort to establish a new undergraduate record label, Veritas Records, which aims to consolidate Harvard’s scattered bands into a definitive roster.

Veritas founder Daniel J. Zaccagnino ’05 has already assembled a team of established industry professionals and faculty advisors from the Music Department. Now he is waiting for the Harvard administration to approve his plan to run a business on campus. Once he’s through the red tape, Zaccagnino will begin serious talks with bands—what he calls “the fun part.”

“There are plenty of great musicians [at Harvard],” he says. “It’s just that no one knows about them because the music scene is weak and most bands don’t have time to set up shows, record on their own and promote their music.”

Optimistic about mining the campus scene for talent, he intends to represent all styles of music on the Veritas roster.

Multimedia

The States

The States

Blanks.

Blanks.

“That’s what we’re here for,” he says. “[The label] is exactly what Harvard needs to further interest in music on campus.”

Zaccagnino and the Veritas team plan to help bands by promoting their concerts, organizing recording sessions at Quad Sound Studios and releasing CDs to the public. Zaccagnino wants to help fund bands as much as possible, providing them not only with money but a healthy pressure to remain disciplined and focused.

“There will be drafted agreements, not contracts,” he says. “There’ll just be agreements on both sides.”

The first Veritas release, tentatively scheduled to come out in early spring, will be a full length compilation featuring four or five bands, each contributing two songs.

“We’re going to have a huge party, put down 10 kegs and have all the bands play a set,” Zaccagnino says.

Old-Timers

Zaccagnino is optimistic about his project, and with good reason. Though the network of bands at Harvard has not always been visible, the scene this year is full of well-established acts, all of whom are searching for commercial outlets.

Blanks.—last year’s emo-punk freshman phenoms—just opened for the North Mississippi All Stars at Loker Lecture Hall last Saturday. Having established a strong following, the band is retreating from the spotlight this term to rehearse and write new material.

“We want to blow people away,” says guitarist and lead singer Matthew C. Boch ’06. “We want to move ourselves forward. We want to kill our first real gig when we play out.”

“If I’m not in an…important rock band within the next five years, I’ll be very disappointed with my life,” he adds.