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Breaking the Sound Barrier

Audrey De Smith and the Elegant Touch

By Kaija-leena Romero, Contributing Writer

The group is called “Audrey de Smith and the Elegant Touch” and their lair is as enigmatic as their name. Beanbags are littered with odd electronic equipment, and one wall is adorned with an abstract contraption of small black blocks and string.

Alexander L. Pasternack ’05, who is also a Crimson editor, counts his fingers three times to get the number of band members right. Seven, he finally decides: Audrey de Smith, himself, Yan Xuan ’05, Neil G. Ellingson ’05, Eric P. Wehrenberg-Klee ’05 and Timothy H. Wong ’05.

The number probably isn’t important. Everything about this band is subject to fluctuate or move without prior notice: the musicians, the instruments and, most recently, their billing in Harvard Yard between two a capella groups for Arts First weekend.

“We just didn’t think it was fair to them or fair to us, to have that transition,” Pasternack says.

It’s difficult to describe the sound of a group whose influences include indie rock and underground hip-hop, whose vast array of instruments include the melodica and African drums. Their eccentric personalities and musical talents, ranging from classical to jazz, go together surprisingly well.

“We’ve kind of de facto adopted a style of music that seems to fit all of us, but it’s still not a very defined genre,” Xuan says.

Pasternack says their sound has evolved as more instruments and equipment (whether bought, borrowed or stolen) became available.

“There was a time when we were hanging around making low-fi, kind of quiet music,” he says. “Then we moved towards something a little heaver, a little more serious, kind of high school.”

“Once we got the amp we got louder,” Xuan says.

Winthrop House authorities weren’t too pleased with the change from their “kumbaya folk music” to the harder edged sound, and the group was relegated to the practice rooms. But even there, they are occasionally shut down when they overpower the sound-proof walls, and long for a space that is compatible with their needs

Audrey de Smith and the Elegant Touch were founded last winter by Audrey de Smith, an art student in New York City. Described by fellow band mates as a “real belle” and an “amazing singer,” she envisioned the band after meeting several members at a party in Soho. Her vocal talents are integral to the band’s sound, while the other members are “basically her backup,” Pasternack says.

De Smith’s tendency to take up residence in New York and Paris has made it difficult for the full band to rehearse together. But the Arts First show this Saturday in Loker Commons will allow interested fans a chance to see the elusive Ms. de Smith.

“There’s a phenomenal amount of talent at Harvard. That’s something that nobody can deny,” Xuan says. “What seems to be lacking is the amount of things that are being done that are new.”

It seems the Elegant Touch will have no problem carving out a niche for themselves.

“We’re ready to take on anyone, any band that wants to bring a ruckus, we’re ready to take down,” Pasternack says. “Or collaborate if necessary.”

—Audrey de Smith and the Elegant Touch will perform on the Harvard Yard Stage at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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