Saturday, February 23, 2008

Art Schools Spawn Rock Stars

By Jen Eide



Do you ever wonder what the musical landscape would be like if the members of certain bands had made different college career choices? Sonic Youth, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, or our favorite newcomers MGMT may never have existed. What is it about art schools in particular that seem to launch the careers of aspiring rock bands? Is it the sheer number of creative people being thrown together in a small space? Whatever sparks their formation, the aspiring artists turned musicians who succeed are probably living a much better (though less stable) existence than had they gone on to be graphic designers or performance artists. At least they have a better story to tell their grandchildren.

The Rhode Island School of Design is notable for spawning not one but two legendary bands, the Talking Heads and—more recently—indie darlings Les Savy Fav. Les Savy Fav was formed in 1995 at RISD, they later they relocated to Brooklyn and became well known throughout the music scene for their intensity and for singer Tim Harrington’s unusual stage antics. They have a dedicated but small following that continues to grow as the word spreads. They seem to have influenced other musicians as well—you can hear the genesis of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitar sound (if not style) in Les Savy Fav’s music.

These two bands really have nothing in common aside from their formation at RISD, but these pair of videos are both live performances which feature the use of costume or clothing prominently. Plus, I can continue on with my 1980’s music video binge on YouTube!

Les Savy Fav performs “Patty Lee” on Conan O’Brien. The vocal on this performance is really raw compared to the version on last year's excellent Let's Stay Friends.




Talking Heads “Girlfriend Is Better” from the concert film “Stop Making Sense.” I love this period of the Talking Heads career--David Byrne's stiff, academic delivery is grounded by the unstoppable funk of keyboardist Bernie Worrell. View their catalog here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You go to all the effort to write a post on this topic and you don't mention the myriad British Invasion bands spawned by art school alumni?

Sonic who? The Yeah Yeah what nows? Ever hear of The Beatles? The Rolling Stones?

John Lennon and Keith Richards are both art school dropouts, and they aren't even the only ones from back then, fer chrissakes.