By Stephen Kane
SC Copy Editor
Local band Turning Down Harvard is gearing up for Bamboozle—an annual three-day music festival hosted in Asbury Park, New Jersey this year. The five-man group boasts an alternative rock feel with grooves of reggae-funk and solid Sublimesque jives. The Stroud Courier had a chance to talk with drummer, Sean Sanbeg, and keyboard player, Charles Johnson, in an exclusive interview regarding the band’s aspirations and rising success.
How long have you guys been playing together?
Sean: Only four months.
From where did the band name originate?
CJ: Turning Down Harvard’s name comes from a story I heard in my senior year of high school, and its meaning is much deeper rooted than some may think. On the surface, it may seem like it is based on our personal feelings towards college, but it’s more towards following your dreams, even if it’s down a path unexpected by those around you. Someone was talking about a kid who got a big scholarship to Harvard, but that wasn’t the main part of the story. It was said that the kid turned it down to pursue another path in his life. As expected, many people were against it, and as you could imagine, the question, “How the hell could you turn down Harvard?” was brought up quite a bit. That’s exactly when the idea came about to name our band that. Not only is it catchy, but it serves another purpose other than our name. It’s a message that we think everyone should take on the long hard journey of life. Everyone has choices and opportunities, but if they’re not going to make you happy, is it really worth taking them? If your answer to that is no, than you can think of yourself as Turning Down Harvard. Every time you take a risk, you are Turning Down Harvard. Every time you go after a new goal, maybe one that people wouldn’t expect, you are Turning Down Harvard. Every time you make a change to make yourself or others happy, you are Turning Down Harvard.
From what bands does the group draw inspiration?
Sean: Echo Movement, 311, Coldplay, Streetlight Manifesto, The Beatles, RHCP, Maroon 5, The Killers, August Burns Red, and Texas in July to name a few.”
Does Turning Down Harvard primarily cover songs, or do you guys generally play originals?
Sean: With the exception of two covers, “The Scientist” by Coldplay and “Moving Out” by Billy Joel, we play all originals. A few song names include “The Song We’re Not Calling Mardi,” “The Guarantee,” “Slow Down,” “Life,” and “DNA.”
So who writes all the lyrics and music for the band?
CJ: We write the music collectively, usually jamming off someone’s riff or idea. Jesse writes our lyrics, with “Slow Down” being the exception. “Slow Down” was written by Sean.
Are you looking to expand and add a horn section for your reggae-funk feel?
CJ: Not currently, but it has been a thought. We’re happy with our sound right now.
The Bamboozle Festival is undoubtedly a big deal. How did the band earn a spot?
Sean: We joined up with The Break Contest, sponsored by YuuZoo—a social media network. Throughout the competition, we competed against the bands from our original venue. For us, this was the bands from The Note. We played in round one [at The Note] and came in second, advancing on to the second round [at The Landis Theater] where we came in first to move on to the regional finals [at The Stone Pony], where we became the runner up—representing West Chester, PA at The Bamboozle Festival.
What direction would the band like to go?
Sean: We’re trying to get our name out there, hoping to live out that age-old dream of making it big. We all want to use our passion to make a living, and if we’re successful in that, we’d be happy.
So, what’s next?
CJ and Sean: Bamboozle!
CJ: It’s returning to its hometown this year for its 10-year anniversary. As for the times, we’re not sure yet. The show gates open Friday at 5:30pm, Saturday at 2:00pm, and Sunday at 2:00 pm. We haven’t been told when we’re playing yet.
Find Turning Down Harvard:
The band has frequented and performed at West Chester’s The Note, Philadelphia’s Fergie’s Pub, Sciota’s Club Vertigo, The Landis Theater in Vineland, NJ, and The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ.
If you are interested in hearing some of Turning Down Harvard’s music or finding out where their next gig will be, visit the band’s site at www.facebook.com/TurningDownHarvard.
Sean also mentioned, “If you go to reverbnation.com, we have live recordings available for free download.”
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