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While Ezra Furman and the Harpoons have risen from their on-campus beginnings to become a promising band on the national rock scene, the Tufts seniors in the band remain true to their roots.
Medford/Somerville, Mass. [04.16.08] For four Tufts seniors, this May means more than saying goodbye to friends and professors. It means leaving behind the dorm rooms and practice rooms where they've written and played music for the past four years-and hitting the road for a U.S. tour.
Those four seniors-Adam Abrutyn, Ezra Furman, Job Mukkada and Jahn Sood-comprise Ezra Furman and the Harpoons, a band they formed in the spring of 2006 after playing music both together and separately for their freshman and sophomore years. Since then, the band-which has a penchant for whaling motifs-has been on a meteoric ascent. They gave gone from the popular on-campus venue Oxfam Café to a national tour in the summer of 2006 that landed them a record deal to a performance at the major music industry showcase South by Southwest this March in Austin, Texas.
"Banging Down the Doors," their 2007 full-length debut on the Chicago-based Minty Fresh label (they independently recorded an album in 2006, "Beat Beat Beat," that they refer to as their "demo" album), has received positive reviews from music critics and bloggers alike. The band has been covered in major media outlets ranging from Time Out New York to NPR, as well as music magazines such as Spin, Paste and Fader. The acclaim, however, hasn't distracted the band from its main goal of writing and performing quality songs.
"I have dreams and ambitions of more rock and roll glory, but it doesn't involve more reviews or record sales or being on Conan O'Brien or something," says Furman, the lead singer and main songwriter for the band. True to his English major background, Furman half-jokingly refers to the Harpoons as "the great American novel-of bands.""I'm just hoping to make better and better shows and better and better albums. The good response has given me a little bit of faith, a little bit of encouragement."
The furious folk of Furman and his bandmates has garnered comparisons to the Violent Femmes, Jeff Buckley, even legendary songsmiths Bob Dylan and Lou Reed-the latter of whom the band played with at South by Southwest in what they call the highlight of their Austin experience.
The band got their start playing on-campus events at Tufts venues like the Oxfam Café, which frequently hosts shows by up and coming bands. The support of their friends and classmates has been critical for the group.
"There's a group of kids who are very enthusiastic and come to all our shows," says guitarist Sood, who is majoring in international relations. "That means a lot to us."
"Tufts kids," adds Furman. "The die-hards."
Mukkada, a psychology major and bassist who grew up in a small Iowa town where he could not find many musically kindred spirits, was grateful to come to Tufts and discover his future bandmates. "Coming to college and meeting these guys, it's a lot of fun to share music with other people and play with them and bounce ideas."
"You sit in your basement and you're playing for yourself for like 15 years. By the time you get to college, you want to play for people," says drummer Abrutyn, an economics major. "I think about that a lot when we're playing shows. I'm still not used to that. I'm used to just banging away by myself. It's a nice surprise every time."
After graduation, the band will go where they feel the most at home-on the road for a national tour, banging down the doors toward rock and roll glory.
Profile and multimedia production by Georgiana Cohen, Office of Web Communications. Photos by Alonso Nichols for University Photography.
An occasionally tongue-in-cheek documentary about the band by Jahn Sood (from YouTube.com)
Live video from a New York City performance, fall 2007 (from YouTube.com)