Spring 2003 Contents OAM Home Oberlin Online Home
Feature Stories
Money Matters
Family Tree, Oberlin roots
Operation Internship
[cover story] Fury and the Sound
David Rees Gets His (Bleep) On
Around Tappan Square
Alumni Profiles
The Last Word
One More Thing
Inside Oberlin
Staff Box

The YYYs' beginnings were humble enough: Karen began playing with guitarist Nick Zinner (a Bard graduate) in fall 2000, and called Chase to fill in on drums. The project was intended as a lark, but the group was in the right place at the right time. The media pounced. Rolling Stone, Spin, Interview--the effusive praise rolled in from publications eager to anoint them as the next Strokes.

The turning point came in March 2002 at the annual South by Southwest music festival in Texas. "They had to move us to one of the biggest venues in Austin because the hype was so big," Karen recounts with lingering astonishment. "We were courted by major labels and hung out in a $5,000 suite that we didn't pay for. But the real shocker came the next morning. We went down to the lobby of our hotel, where there were stacks and stacks of the local papers, two different ones--with just me on the cover! That experience made us realize that this was bigger than us."

A major-label bidding war of monumental magnitude ensued. "Things were blown out of proportion," Karen says. "It stressed everyone out. Sometimes we just wanted to throw it all away."

"It's really irrelevant whether we sign to one label or another," Chase adds. "Who cares?" His question is rhetorical, but the band's upcoming debut full-length album on Interscope is big news in the music press. The band has had to adjust to the fact that for better or worse, people are paying attention to them.

Karen, for her part, has come to terms with the gaggles of girls who come to YYYs' concerts wearing imitations of her signature ripped dresses and torn gloves. "I'm actually flattered by it," she says. "One thing I value about being in a rock band is making people feel cooler than they usually do--including myself."

he French Kicks' road to fame has been more methodical. "We've touched every rung on the ladder," says Nick Stumpf '97, who plays drums and sings in the band he formed in 1999 with Obies Matt Stinchcomb '97 and Jamie Krents '97. (Krents left the band last year.)

"It was a gradual thing," Stumpf says of his band's newfound fame. "We had a lot of friends who came to our early shows. That created the illusion that we had fans, which we then parlayed into bigger shows."

Stumpf and Stinchcomb have made a career out of burning every bridge they cross. Before leaving for their first national tour in 2000, they quit their jobs. After the second tour, they gave up their Brooklyn apartments and moved into Stinchcomb's grandmother's house on the eastern shore of Maryland to write their debut album, One Time Bells.

People who knew these guys in college are not surprised by the intensity with which they've pursued their goals. Stinchcomb and Stumpf did nothing halfway back then, be it the battle of the bands where they learned two entire Led Zeppelin albums to perform at the 'Sco, or their reenactment of the Beatles' famous rooftop concert. (College administrator Chris Baymiller '71 was willing to let the musicians play atop Wilder, but security ultimately forced the show to move inside).

And then there was the famous Michael Jackson medley. "We started with 'Thriller,'" Stinchcomb says. "We got a casket from the theater department and had a seven-piece trumpet section carry our lead singer onstage inside of it."

Upon graduating, Stinchcomb and Stumpf spent a year as sidemen for a rising songwriter before starting their own project. The French Kicks quickly hit upon an infectious mix of rock swagger (think Rolling Stones) and compositional integrity (think J.S. Bach). But there were still dues to pay, and the Kicks' first tour was decidedly unglamorous. "There were a lot of nine-hour drives to play for that many people," Stumpf says. "It toughened us up as a band."

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