British Boy Band Star Hopes for Television Career

Tom P. Lowe ’05 knows how to get himself noticed. Whether touring dining halls to promote his new band or posing for H-Bomb in black leather chaps and red chili pepper lights, the 27-year-old British-born senior is always on, according to his closest friends.

Blockmate Caitlin A. Matson ’05 says that Lowe has mastered the art of “going into any room with any crowd and attracting people to himself.”

Lowe’s boyish giggle offsets the subdued mohawk and slight trace of black eyeliner that betray his rock-star alter ego. When singing in his new band “Tommy and the Tigers,” Lowe’s costume choices range from a pink lounge suit to black leather pants, and his crisp gyrations, coaxing smile, and lusty vocals draw in audiences. Lowe has been playing to the crowd in one form or another for the majority of his conscious life, and he’s not about to stop.

Before coming to Harvard in fall 2001, Lowe had a promising career in British music and theater. He was a member of the boy band “North and South,” which produced a top-10 hit on the British charts. His West End runs as Marius in “Les Miserables” and the Rum Tum Tugger in “Cats” complemented his fiercely independent city lifestyle. But at the age of 23, Lowe found that it was the “perfect (time) to pull the reins and slow down” by switching gears to academia.

As an East Asian Studies concentrator at Harvard, Lowe wrote a thesis on Tang poetry and spent time in China learning Mandarin before working for Let’s Go. His love for the city life—“lights, music, and fun”—was transferred from London to Boston, where he would frequently leave campus to go clubbing and “go missing” for days on end. And though eight performances a week in the West End tempered his passion for professional theater, Lowe jumped at the chance to experiment with the college version.

Lowe played the title roles in Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” and Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George” and explored his feminine side in two of the past four Hasty Pudding Shows as Lilah Kedog and Pocahotness. Lowe’s musical career at Harvard included a stint with the Veritones and guest performances with the Harvard Pops Orchestra in everything from jazz to pop to classical music. “I think he likes just being in front of people,” says Michael T. Drake ’08, drummer for “Tommy and the Tigers.”

Lowe’s most recent musical project—and the one closest to his heart—is “Tommy and the Tigers,” a self-described “dance-rock” band that features Lowe on lead vocals and keyboard, along with lead guitarist T. Josiah Pertz ’05, guitarist Drew R. Bordeaux ’05, and drummer Drake. Last year, Lowe wrote and recorded a solo demo CD of piano-accompanied songs, but he wanted a sound closer to the music that pulsed through the night in London dance clubs.

As Pertz wrote in an e-mail, their first joint performance was an impromptu collaboration during last year’s Arts First Weekend.

“He gets up there and says something like, ‘I didn’t come with a band, but I’d like one for this song. Is there a drummer here? Yes, you, please come on up. A pianist? Please join us. Josiah, could you come up and play guitar?’ We all huddled around on stage and he whispered, ‘Do you know ‘Stand By Me’? Let’s play it in G.’ And we did it.” According to Lowe, the band members “took my music from being a little too cheesy to mature and credible but also accessible.”

The group has since developed what Drake calls a “fusion of funk and boy-band pop and ’80s synth music.” “Tommy and the Tigers” has even forayed into French rap and Chinese/hip-hop fusion. And Lowe is relentless in his efforts to promote his group.

“Tom will perform anytime, anywhere, and he never runs out of energy,” says Pertz, whether this means sneaking into Annenberg to play their hit “The Party is On” or campaigning by e-mail and thefacebook.com to perform in Springfest. If there’s one thing he’s learned in his time at Harvard, it’s the importance of exposure.

Lowe cites J. S. Mill’s On Liberty as his favorite book. According to Lowe, “other philosophers stand for moderation, but [Mill] says no, people should be able to speak their minds, express themselves, be eccentric, stand alone, not necessarily conform.” Likewise, says Lowe, “Harvard allows me to dress however I want, wear my hair however I want, sleep with whomever I want.”

Lowe is confident that “Tommy and the Tigers” will catapult him into rock star status. In the meantime, he’ll be moving to New York to meet with television and film agents in an attempt, he says, to expand his horizons beyond theater.

By next year he plans to snag a role on “Days of Our Lives” and in two, he sees himself playing a British rock star on “The O.C.” or “Desperate Housewives.” In the latter show, Lowe predicts he will take part in “a gay love affair with Teri Hatcher’s boyfriend. He’ll meet me and decide that he is questioning his sexuality. He’ll fall for my British accent.”

In five years, Tom will storm Hollywood with his own version of the Britney Spears classic, “Crossroads.” And by the time he hits 37, and his expired visa forces him to leave the States, Lowe expects he will put his Harvard education to good use by switching careers to “be a Chinese pop star, in Chinese.” After all, previous experience has taught him that “they get really excited when they see a white man who can speak Chinese and sing karaoke.”

—Staff writer Ishani Ganguli can be reached at ganguli@fas.harvard.edu.