Student’s Alternative Rock Band Far From Careless About Music

Harvard’s eccentric aspiring rock-star guitarist, Anthony L. Carbone, ’06-’08, and his songwriter partner-in-crime, Evan Gentler, a recent graduate of Oberlin music college, are more focused than any yuppy dreaming of that final Goldman Sachs interview (yes, ’tis the season to be recruited for an I-bank). The duo aim to make their current rock duo Called and Careless, which Carbone somewhat clumsily describes as “progressive grunge alternative rock,” their life.

“The band is my career,” says Carbone. “My major is a tricky story. I’m stuck in economics after long fights with my parents, but I’m switching to VES and will do an extra year.”

But whether it leads him to rags or riches, Carbone’s passions are fixed; as he tells the Crimson, “I’m in it for the music if it leaves me poor and homeless. There’s always a job, but my career and love will always be music.”

While it’s common for an alienated teenager with a guitar to dream of selling out shows at Madison Square Garden, studying at Harvard tends to temper dreams of rock stardom. More young men here have their hopes set on being the next JFK than being the next Mick Jagger, but Carbone’s ambition still burns.

It helps to have the right fuel. Called and Careless’s singer, Evan Gentler, 26, graduated college and came to Boston in August of 2003.

Already aware that music was his passion, he placed an ad in The Boston Phoenix, played with a few different people, and tried out for a number of bands. After Carbone read Gentler’s ad in the Phoenix, they arranged to meet at Au Bon Pain in Harvard Square.

Of their first meeting, Anthony says, “We found that we were a perfect musical and vocal match.”

Since then, the two have been inseparable. Says Evan, “I feel incredibly blessed to have found Anthony. To be on the same page when it comes to art is truly awesome. It almost never happens”

STARDOM, HO!

But in present form, the duo is ill-prepared to barn-storm America with their nu-grunge, if only because they have been unable to put together a permanent band with a drummer and a bassist.

Last year, Carbone and Gentler recorded their debut nine-song album “Painted and Patient” over 200 hours of studio time in Boston. Carbone played all of the instruments.

Of his difficulty in completing the line-up, Evan explains, “It’s been really brutally hard to find people on the same page who are really serious about what we do. Our music is not easy stuff to play and learn. It requires time. New members would have to be able to play it and be on the same page.”

Despite the duo’s faith in the originality of their songwriting, Called and Careless’ music is surprisingly familiar in its sound. Their album, “Painted and Patient,” echoes such progressive metal acts as Incubus, Tool, and the Deftones in guitar sounds, rhythms, and dynamic contrasts.

The album’s stand-out track “Still Life in Dexedrine,” serves up a chilly nu-metal acoustic-rock vibe, and a pleasant circular vocal melody. But most of the album’s songs lack the focused, melodic hooks that have made their influences so successful.

The album starts with a limp minute-long guitar intro, hardly the punch in the face that any over-worked A&R; talent scout would find appealing.

A number of consecutive songs are in the exact same key and tempo, making it difficult to discern one song from the next. Shopping an album like this around, the duo might have difficulty getting signed, let alone selling out arenas anytime soon.

ALIVE AND AMPLIFIED

A recent show at TT the Bear’s in Central Square gave the band a chance to demonstrate their chops in a live setting, but the show’s slapdash nature only undermined this goal.

An under-qualified friend filled in on drums, and a bassist from Berklee School of Music completed the line-up. But the temporary status of two of the players caused the quartet to come off as sloppy and under-rehearsed.

Tellingly, the group’s contrasting fashion styles made it difficult to glean a coherent image from the band. While Evan began the show dressed like a hippie, and stripped down to his bare chest at the show, the bassist dressed like a hardcore punk. “When we met him,” says Anthony, “he didn’t have a mohawk, it was pretty benign hair. But he gave us some weird punk credibility that we wouldn’t have [otherwise].”

The strength of Called and Careless in their present form lies in Gentler’s fittingly gentle, sweet voice, which harkens back to that of Perry Ferrell of Jane’s Addiction. Like Brandon Boyd, Incubus’ imposingly six-packed singer, he has the looks and body made for success; his dueling nipple rings certainly give his otherwise clean-cut look a bit of an edge.

Perhaps Gentler’s stage presence lacks the gravitas to captivate an audience, but this doesn’t concern them. As he says of his on-stage show, “We do try to let the music speak for itself. I certainly don’t do anything special. I stand there and sing. I love all the great frontmen, but I guess that some of that stuff takes away from the music. I just want to go up and give an honest performance.”

HONESTY: THE BEST POLICY?

Will their honesty and ambition bring Called and Careless to where they want to be? Evan and Anthony certainly have a strong musical relationship, and the uncompromising drive to succeed.

While scores of Harvard seniors prepare to devote themselves to the financial security of 80-hour investment workweeks, Called and Careless dream bigger. A bit of self-criticism, musical ingenuity and focused energy could bring their romantic dream one step closer to reality.

But even if that prized record deal remains elusive, and their music remains unappreciated as former classmates enter the ranks of consulting and professional school with glee, Carbone and Gentler seem unlikely to abandon their dreams.

Gentler sums up his life philosophy by saying: “When you meet people who have no passion, that’s scary. I’ve always known what I want to do. I’ll take that any day.”