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Striking a Chord

“Playing the music is the easy part,” James Licato ’25, Strictly Platonic’s guitarist, says as he waves his bandmate’s drumsticks in the air. 

Yale’s band scene is brimming with talent—there are at least eight unique bands, whose members are involved with formal organizations like Yale Symphony Orchestra, a cappella, jazz groups, and musical theater. I spoke to members of six bands for this piece, traversing underground practice rooms, butteries, and even Bass Cafe. Each person I talked to mentioned another group to meet. “I think I know an inordinate number of other people that are in bands,” said Morris Raskin ’26, guitarist of red40, a newly-formed indie-rock cover band.

One name kept coming up: Strictly Platonic. After winning Battle of the Bands to secure a spot on Yale’s Spring Fling lineup their first year in 2022, the six-person band gained campus-wide recognition. 

Strictly Platonic for FUSE Magazine. Images courtesy of Anaiis Rios-Kasoga.
Strictly Platonic for FUSE Magazine. Images courtesy of Anaiis Rios-Kasoga.

At the beginning of rehearsal, the Silliman practice room bursts into action. Keith Bruce ’25 scurries around the cramped room to prepare sound wires and equipment. Hugo Lehrach ’26 laughs about something that happened that day then segues into a drum solo. The three guitarists William Min ’25, Declan Finn ’26, and Licato show riffs to each other, while Audrey Hempel ’25 stands in the center of it all, warming up her voice. 

Hempel and Bruce recall their origins: a math class friendship and scrappy recruitment poster with the question “Do you want to be in a band?” printed in Comic Sans. 

“I would describe ourselves as… anti-establishment,” Bruce quips, regarding the freedom of starting a band. They’ve since grown more established; they held two open auditions and have played countless campus gigs together (AEPi, Block Party, Harvard-Yale party). They even recently broke out of the backyard scene to perform at Bowery Electric, a dance club in New York City. 

The members of Strictly Platonic are aware of their campus stardom yet remain humble. “I think people saw us, and they were like… THEY can do that?” Bruce jokes, as his bandmates dissolve into laughter.

Image of FLANNEL courtesy of Ben Weiss.

Hempel acted as pseudo-manager in Strictly Platonic’s early days, securing gigs and promoting the band. Now they’re signed with 17o1, Yale’s recently relaunched student record label. Jackson Downey ’25, Head of Label Affairs, told me that all six artists they’ve signed—two bands and four solo acts—get their own manager, artist, designer, and music producer. 

According to Downey, 17o1 was “a reaction to an increasing desire for live music among students.” They want to be part of the solution: “We just want to pour as much as we can into the music scene as a whole, and try to lift as many bands up as we can.”

Competition in the Yale music scene is a complicated topic. Opportunities such as frat gigs and Battle of the Bands can bottleneck the path to popularity, and securing them sometimes requires more than just skill: connections, timing, a palatable setlist. 

Metalhead buddies Evan Branham ’24 and T Scarborough ’23 formed 3PM Noise Complaint (3PMNC) in 2022. They specialized in pop-punk hits from their childhood and cartoon theme songs. 

As we talked, Scarborough launched into accounts of 3PMNC’s antics—they would throw out Scooby Snacks to the crowd when they played the Scooby Doo theme song—while Branham showed me a clip of him playing a hilariously broken recorder riff from Green Day’s “Time of Your Life.”

Image of FLANNEL courtesy of Ben Weiss.

But 3PMNC wasn’t for everyone. On a campus teeming with preppy sweaters and Adidas Sambas, Scarborough sports a lumberjack beard. Next to him, Branham wears a green plaid button-up and distressed jeans. They’ve perfected the rockstar off duty look. The two recall struggling to sell their metalcore and grunge experience to frats and, most devastatingly, the Spring Fling committee.

All members, except for Branham, graduated last year and 3PMNC officially disbanded. 

Image of FLANNEL courtesy of Ben Weiss.

“We knew that 3 PM Noize Complaint was never going to be a thing again, like it was the end of an era,” Scarborough said. 

Branham agreed: “It lived a happy life.”

Graduation cycles mean that the legacy of a band fades after they leave campus, only lingering through word of mouth. Megan Briggs ’23 wasn’t surprised that I hadn’t heard of Sargasso, the hottest band in her day. In Strictly Platonic’s first year, the only band that had stuck it out through the pandemic was CØAST. Seldom Street and 3PMNC both recall how the only bands that existed when they started playing were Strictly Platonic and another group, Tired of Tuesdays. 

Though the bands themselves leave, their shared dream sustains the cycle. Upcoming groups are inspired by their predecessors—they want to be on the same stages. 

FLANNEL is a group formed last November by four first-years. After seeing Strictly Platonic’s performance at the 17o1 launch concert, they felt reassured and invigorated in their dreams of starting a band at Yale.

The members of FLANNEL do not take themselves too seriously. “It’s kind of a weird, oxymoronic seriousness,” Charlie Patton ’27, the drummer, said. “We’re playing Wet Dream by Wet Leg, but there’s this air of like, yeah, we all care…we want to do it right.” Before they had even played their first gig, they were already entertaining the idea of merch: flannel for their fans, or “fannel”–a term Patton coined.

Images of FLANNEL courtesy of Ben Weiss.
Images of FLANNEL courtesy of Ben Weiss.

Both red40 (like the dye) and FLANNEL (three love flannels, the fourth doesn’t) underwent a long phase of entertaining various names. red40 was originally Twin XL, then Chicken Noodle Soot, then SOUP. They settled on red40 before their first show, a comedy gig. FLANNEL was originally the Polar Primals (à la Arctic Monkeys) then Mind, Colon, The Gap. 

Images of FLANNEL courtesy of Ben Weiss.

Born out of a first-year music seminar, FLANNEL has been jamming together in the Timothy Dwight practice room ever since. So far, their only audience has been janitors who walk by the room and “have clapped a couple times,” Lee recalls. But they have big dreams: they want to play at the WYBC On the Moon show, at a frat, and in the TD courtyard (they’re not sure—would anyone show up?). Patton said he’s been “sharpening his drumsticks” for Battle of the Bands, though due to a lack of amps and mics, he’s been using a lighter touch: pencils, forks, knives.  

Images of FLANNEL courtesy of Ben Weiss.

FLANNEL joins the growing lineage of student bands at Yale—groups seeking a freeform outlet for musical expression and pushing each other to the next stage.

Strictly Platonic is cooking up their next album and reflecting on long-term goals now that their senior year is in sight. 3PMNC’s Branham plans to join the U.S. Navy after graduation before pursuing full-time music production. red40 seeks new opportunities to show off their radiance. And in the Trumbull practice room, FLANNEL plans their debut setlist.

– Tina Li is a freshman in Pierson College.

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