The Intrinsics, a Harvard-based soul band started two years ago by Rachel S. Horn ’14 and Ethan I. Simon ’16 will be opening for Yardfest on April 24th. The band will play alongside another Harvard opening act, Black Tie Affair, after winning “Battle for Yardfest” on March 27th. As our campus community gears up for what is likely to be a crazy weekend with a Jessie J concert followed immediately by Visitas and a series of house (and freshman!!) formals, Flyby caught up with one of our opening acts to hear about their experience as a band and what they want Crimson readers to know:
Flyby: So who is in the band?
The Intrinsics: We’re a whole variety of years, and not all of us are students at Harvard. Our band leader is Ethan Simon ’16 who plays keys, our lead singer is Nadia Urrea ’17, Jeremy Sabath (currently on leave from Harvard) sings and plays the trombone, Ben Sobel ’15 plays tenor sax, John Tournas ’16 plays alto baritone sax, Alex Graff ’17 plays the guitar (“Alex is effortlessly the best musician I’ve ever heard” says Sabath), Mateo Gold plays drums and is class of ’15 at Berklee along with Jordan Lagana (bass) and Tree Palmedo (trumpet).
Flyby: What type of music do you play?
Jeremy Sabbath: We are primarily a soul music band, so we focus on the classic sounds of Southern soul with motown, R&B with influences from James Brown, Otis Redding, and Etta James. We love the music we play, and the idea is for our body of work to be unequivocally fun music. Sometimes, we choose a new song because someone texts the group chat and says, “I’d love to play this,” and that’s how we choose what to learn next.
Flyby: What is it like to be in this group of people?
Mateo Gold: We’ve been in this band for two school years, and sometimes it feels like ten years, because it’s like a relationship. We go through times when it’s really rough and also times where it’s really, really fun. At the beginning of this school year, we had a four-month long rough patch where we were like, ‘we don’t like this.’ And we were honestly pretty close to breaking up. But I think we’ve stuck through with it because we all fundamentally love the music that we play when we’re together.
Flyby: The Intrinsics have released three new songs recently, with five originals. (You can find them here). What is the songwriting process like?
Ethan Simon: Well, Rachel (one of the other original founders of my band), was my writing partner, and so I was working on this tune, and then I emailed her and got some feedback, and I’ve been working on it for about a year. I think Tree writes songs to write songs - ours are both not about anyone in particularly. Ben went through a really rough breakup, so his song, “I’m Stepping Out,” is a little angrier. But overall we want the songs we write to be unpretentious and fun to listen to it.
Nadia Urrea: They just feel good when you play them, like a lot of our songs. And don’t let them fool you, it’s not easy to write music.
Flyby: What is your favorite part of working with these group of people?
Ethan Simon: I think it’s been cool for me because if you ask our typical audience member if they like the type of music that we play, most of them won’t say “soul” is something they typically listen to. But no matter what event we play at, people love it and dance. Like at Battle for Yardfest, no one on their own would have chosen soul music, but there is something innate to the human experience about the way that it sounds. Everyone understands it. And from our side, everyone in the band wants our music to be fun and very good. Having this type of music in our life is important to all of us.
Flyby: What do you hope for as the future of the band?
The Intrinsics: We’d really love to be able to bring our music to more people, and take our band (although we love the Harvard fanbase) to clubs in Boston, for example, and out of a single college market. One of our band values is to be valued for what we do, and it would be amazing for us to play more frequently at places where people love our music and come just to hear our sounds.