Hey there, Wesleyan students. How does it feel to attend The [unofficial] Hippest University in America? “What’s that?” you say. “Who says?” you ask. Well, dear reader, the New Musical Express (NME), the UK’s most influential music magazine, says. We were bestowed with our new [unofficial] title in an article in the Oct. 17th issue of NME that profiled our fair University as a hotbed for exciting new bands. I called up the article’s author, Hardeep Phull, to find out how Wes became big in England.
Rob Wohl (RW): How did you even become aware of us?
Hardeep Phull (HP): It was not so much a case of two plus two equals four, as two plus two plus two plus two plus two equals ten. Obviously, MGMT came first, and I had some idea that they went to some school I’d never heard of. But over twelve months, I kept hearing that name over and over again and I realized I was listening to a lot of Wesleyan alums. I kept hearing about this band Boy Crisis, and then Amazing Baby.
At the NME and in the UK music press in general, I think there’s this need to find a “scene” to cover. It’s just the way we work.
RW: I guess I’ve never really heard of a university acting like a music scene before. Is this a rare phenomenon?
HP: There are a lot of great examples of that. St. Martin’s College of Art [in London], I think, is beyond legendary in the UK. So much happened during the year of punk there, but it attracts a lot of kids interested in music and art and it continues to produce people and bands who go on to get noticed. I’m not sure if there are any U.S. equivalents. I guess NYU…But I think it’s definitely more common in the UK.
RW: A lot of the bands you featured are still pretty under-the-radar here. I haven’t really heard much about Boy Crisis or Amazing Baby outside the context of Wesleyan. Are they already getting serious attention overseas?
HP: Historically, with all due respect to the American press, there’s been an open-minded aspect in the UK press, where we’ll pick up on something new. Amazing Baby just played the NME showcase at CMJ in New York, and they’re about to get their second feature in the magazine. Boy Crisis just got their first feature, as did Bear Hands. They’re all in Europe now.
I think that’s our job, to see what’s bubbling under the radar in the U.S. It’s not uncommon for a band in the U.S. who nobody knows about to go to the UK and get big. It’s happened for decades, as far back as Hendrix, and more recent examples include The Strokes and The White Stripes. And I think it’s still happening.
I wrote an article about Boy Crisis over the summer when they were first getting a manager. Say what you want about NME, but we picked up on the new stuff pretty quickly