With the release of Just Once, available today as a digital download and next week as a limited edition 10”, Tom Krell takes his How to Dress Well bedroom-pop project to a whole a new level. The EP includes orchestral versions of three songs from his 2010 debut, Love Remains, an album of bugged-out, radically recontextualized ‘90s R&B. The high-concept nature of Krell’s music is perhaps not surprising, given that he’s a graduate student working toward a PhD in philosophy. Once he earns his degree, Krell will gain entry into an elite club of rockers with doctorates. Here are five of the brainiacs he’s likely to encounter at his first mixer.
1. Dan Snaith of Caribou
Interviewers sometimes ask Snaith to explain the idea behind his PhD dissertation, Overconvergent Siegel Modular Symbols, and his answer is always some variation of the following: “Um, I can’t.” Born in Canada, where he completed his undergrad studies at the University of Toronto, and further educated at England’s Imperial College London, where he earned his doctorate in mathematics, Snaith might have as hard a time describing his music. Caribou’s psychedelic “indietronica” is the work of a musician equally attuned to the body and mind, and even if you’re like Sam Cooke and don’t know much trigonometry, you’re bound to dig his jams.
2. Drew Daniel of Matmos
It wasn’t Baltimore’s burgeoning avant-garde music scene that led Daniel and Matmos partner M.C. Schmidt to move east from San Francisco in 2007. Daniel had recently earned his doctorate in English literature from the University of California at Berkeley (thesis topic: “I Know Not Why I Am So Sad”: Melancholy and Knowledge in Early Modern English Portraiture, Drama, and Prose) and been offered a teaching position at Johns Hopkins University. Despite his teaching and frequent writing on music and literature, Daniel still finds time to make experimental electronic music. In 2010, Matmos cut two collaborative albums, including Treasure State, recorded with the clangorous Brooklyn four-piece So Percussion. The groups staged a joint tour in support of the record, “spreading post-everything crypto-classical rhythm gospel,” according to Matmos’ website.
3. Greg Graffin of Bad Religion
While it doesn’t quite take a PhD to understand Bad Religion’s complex, anti-authoritarian lyrics, it does take one to write them. Arguably the smartest guy in the history of punk rock, Graffin studied geology at the University of California at Los Angeles and earned his PhD in zoology at Cornell, penning the dissertation Monism, Atheism and the Naturalist Worldview: Perspectives from Evolutionary Biology. Earlier this year, paleontologists named an ancient bird fossil in his honor, and in the fall, he’ll begin teaching a course on evolution at Cornell.
In 1993, while singing lead in Heavenly — the second of four terrific U.K. twee-pop bands she’s fronted over the years — Amelia Fletcher earned a PhD in economics from the University of Oxford. In 2001, she was named chief economist at the Office of Fair Trade, and six years later, she earned a second title, senior director of mergers. While her dissertation, Theories of Self-Regulation, was probably about supply and demand or something, it sounds like required reading for anyone with a career in rock ‘n’ roll.
It reads like a badass album title, but Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear is actually a 2009 book by Kode9, AKA Steve Goodman, the British DJ and producer behind the influential Hyperdub record label. A key figure in the development of dubstep music, Goodman earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Warwick in 1999, and he’s subsequently lectured on music culture at the University of East London. He’s also studied rave culture as a member of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit — which, come to think of it, would be a badass name for a hip-hop group.