Upon meeting me, Sam Cooper ’14 of Hot Breakfast offers me a plate of oysters from Eliot dining hall and informs me that I am his Datamatch. This might be a conflict of interest.
It is Valentine’s Day, and I am with Hot Breakfast, a student band made up of four seniors: Michael Senter-Zapata; Cooper, my Datamatch; Mateus Falci; and Paul C. Castrigano. The one sophomore member is Pranav Krishnan—or as his band mates call him, “PK Softmore.” Except for Senter-Zapata, all of them are single.
S-15, their practice room, is a tiny square in the basement of Eliot next to the gym. It is not soundproof, and it is barely large enough to fit the six of us. But then again, perhaps this is perfect; most of the band’s performances are in similar venues: the Eliot Cockpit, the Currier Bingham Solarium, and Lev Stein Club.
“It’s hot and sweaty,” Falci, the drummer, explains, “We thrive off of that. Performing for drunk college kids is the best audience we could ask for.”
While Hot Breakfast itself is a new creation, each member has been in a band before, many of them in high school—Cooper alone lists off five or six. No one has a formal position. They switch off depending on what the song requires.
Castrigano, Krishnan and Cooper are all members of the Intrinsics, and Senter-Zapata is a member of The Harvard Opportunes. With all of these commitments, scheduling a time to practice is not just difficult, but the hardest part about making the band work, according to Cooper. The band members agree that the school should give more support to on campus bands, such as soundproof practice rooms in the new Smith Center or “a venue whose specific purpose is to put on live music,” as Cooper suggests.
So perhaps practicing from two to five p.m. in S-15 on Valentine’s Day is not ideal, but it’s the best that they can do: they have to learn a new song before their performance at the Fox Club on March 1.
When the band played its first gig in November, the set was eight songs long. Now they have two sets, totalling up to 21 songs. For their gig in February, the band learned seven songs in a week.
So they have to be efficient, and S-15 doubles as a dining hall. With a tray of oysters balanced on the Casio keyboard, Cooper yells out chord changes between bites as the rest of the band plays along to Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life.” For the most part the band performs “crowd pleasing pop rock,” but their set list has no formal requirements. It spans The Beatles, The Killers, Weezer, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. They play what they like, and when you have five different members, tastes tend to differ.
But disagreements are civil. Earlier in the year Cooper “politely” objected to playing a Backstreet Boys song by promising to quietly sit out if the band chose to play the song. It was a bit of an “existential crisis,” but eventually he changed his mind.
“I talked to my family, I talked to some of my best friends, they talked me back into it. I don’t regret it,” he says.
Coming to a consensus on a name for the band was not a simple process either. Cooper forwarded me a series of the group’s first email correspondence from October 2013. The subject line, written by Castrigano, is a joke taken from “Zoolander”: “We’re really, really, ridiculously good.” (Note: In their defense, they are.)
The email, which chronicles the founding of the band, has a list of possible names, some jokes, including: Beer Goggles, The Section Kids, Intro to Congress, The Romans, The Next Zuckerbergs, Sex in the Stacks, Charles River Bridge, The Mather Express, Truman’s Asshole, Ghost Drunks, Table Grope, Gary Hooch and The Moose Knuckles, and, Cooper’s favorite, Long John Harvard.
According to Falci, during their first gig in the Eliot Cockpit, their band manager, Cam J. Heron ’14, introduced them as The Marshmallow Mateys. It was then that Falci vetoed the name, and they decided that Hot Breakfast would be a better fit.
Four months after that first gig, Hot Breakfast has a loyal, mostly male, following. While Falci’s brother is the “biggest groupie of the band,” members of the Fox, the Opportunes, and the inhabitants of the Eliot Cockpit are also strong supporters.
A member of the Opportunes emailed Senter-Zapata to tell him that one freshman boy was overhead in Annenberg bragging, “Dude, I have been to three Hot Breakfast gigs, it’s sick.” (Freshman fan, if you are reading this, Hot Breakfast wants to meet you.)
With so much recognition, I ask Heron if he actively tries to get Hot Breakfast gigs. “No.”
But the band manager’s not useless, “He is our muse,” Falci jokes.
Saturday they play at the Co-op, and next week, the Fox Club and Eliot Stein Club. The band is planning to perform at Dunster formal (maybe at Lev as well) and hopes to open at Yardfest.
In the interest of journalistic transparency, I should note that I will be attending all of these performances.
“Anyone want to practice now?” Cooper suggests during Sunday brunch. But they can’t. Castrigano and Krishnan have to take down the set from the Intrinsics’s performance at the Spee; Falci, a VES concentrator, has a documentary to make; and Senter-Zapata, a pre-med student, has an essay due the next day. Needless to say, most of these guys wouldn’t have time for hot breakfast, even if it was served.