Harvard Duo on Way to Record Deal

A long-lived Harvard band is rare; a successful Harvard band is rarer. Chester French could well be on its way to being both.

The genre-bending musical duo of David A. “D.A.” Wallach ’07 and Maxwell C. Drummey ’07, a Harvard fixture since the pair’s freshman year, is currently in contract negotiations with Star Trak Entertainment, a subsidiary of Interscope Records, Universal Music Group, and Vivendi SA.

Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo—the core members of producing team the Neptunes and rock group N.E.R.D., who have produced and written songs for such artists as Justin Timberlake—co-founded Star Trak in 2002. In addition to putting out Neptunes records and Pharrell’s solo work, the hip hop-heavy company hosts the likes of rappers Clipse and Slim Thug.

Wallach, who co-writes a column for The Crimson’s magazine, said that he and Drummey fielded offers from many parties—including rappers/producers Kanye West and Jermaine Dupri—before accepting the offer from Star Trak.

Star Trak did not return repeated requests for comment.

“For a good month, we were being flown all over the country,” Wallach said. “We were in touch with divisions of all four major companies, which are Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, Warner Bros., and EMI.”

Wallach said that he and Drummey felt Williams would offer them the greatest liberty in their work.

“You sign with a major label, and they own you,” Wallach said. “They usually like to control as much as possible, but we wanted a situation where we would have the artistic freedom to pursue our own vision of the music.”

The band has changed since its inception. The group began as a five-piece ensemble during Wallach and Drummey’s freshman year and had a different musical focus than it does today, said Wallach.

“We were really influenced by [psychedelic pop group] the Zombies and were listening to a lot of Roy Orbison and British soul music. It was more retro,” Wallach said.

The band also used to focus more on live shows. However, Wallach described the Harvard and Boston gigging scene as stymying for musicians.

“It’s really hard to build a live following in Boston, and especially at Harvard, since people don’t really go into Boston to hear bands,” he said.

Since their sophomore year, the pair has spent their time in the studio, producing their own music while also recording such Harvard artists as classical pianist Nora I. Bartosik ’08.

“You learn how to record other instruments and produce other kinds of music, and I think that’s what we’ve learned to do with our music, which is break a lot of boundaries,” Wallach said.

Bartosik praised Wallach’s talent in the studio.

“He was great. He was very considerate, and I don’t think he’d actually worked on classical music before. He spent a lot of time making sure the microphones were set up correctly and that I was happy with the result,” she said.

Wallach said he and Drummey hope to finish their first album by the spring of 2008 and begin touring by the following fall.

“I think we’re really excited about being in an environment where people don’t see those disciplinary boundaries,” Wallach said. ”I think from album to album, we want to develop the sound and take it to different places.”

—Staff writer Nicholas K. Tabor can be reached at ntabor@fas.harvard.edu.