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Saturday Morning Project offers weekday delight

Saturday Morning Project, a band composed of six Brown students, is just happy to be here.

The band played a short-and-sweet, 35-minute set opening for Stars at downtown venue Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel on Thursday. There's a palpable, genuine, goofy excitement to their show, a way of letting you know just how thrilled they are to be there. They can't stop thanking the audience, they're smiling the whole time and at one point they do a choreographed sort of graduated-jump move that's kind of cheesy in the best way possible.

They don't take themselves too seriously -- as evidenced by a brilliant cover of Dr. Dre featuring Eminem's "Forgot About Dre" and a poignant rendition of The Foundations' "Build Me Up Buttercup" that blends into a hilarious Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back." They're not trying to be too cool, and it's refreshing.

Over coffee on Thayer Street the next morning, electric violinist and violist Jenna White '09, guitarist Josh Morrison '09 and lead vocalist/guitarist Doug Berman '09 are just as funny, friendly and sincere in person as they are on stage. They tease each other, they smile a lot and they positively beam when asked about the previous night's show.

"It was fun. It was so nice to see a lot of the faces that we see at our other shows (closer to College Hill)," Berman says.

Indeed, the show was heavily attended by members of the Brown community. In addition to a number of students, Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron and Professor of Music Butch Rovan were there to support the band. Four members are taking their team-taught course, MUSC 0450: "On Songs and Songwriting."

Brown has been crucial to the band's evolution, so it's fitting that Saturday Morning Project is now so valued by the Brown community.

"We all would never have met each other and started a band if it weren't for this school. We're all really different people, and we're all on different tracks of school," says Josh, crediting the University for bringing the six -- whose concentrations range from COE-Business Economics (White) to Biophysics (keyboardist Sean McGeary '09) -- together.

In fact, the stirrings of what would later become Saturday Morning Project coincided with the beginning of its members' Brown experiences. White explains that three of the band's members met on their way to A Day On College Hill.

"On the train, Josh passed me wearing a ukelele, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. I was wearing a Guster shirt and he was so excited that I liked Guster, so we started chatting." Ben Zlotoff '09, the band's drummer, was in the same train car as well.

"We decided we wanted to start a band that day," says Morrison. Meanwhile, Berman and McGeary lived next door to each other and would often play together, and upon befriending the other three members, everything fell into place.

"We were standing outside of Jo's one time, and we just decided to do it," says Morrison. The band's name came about when they discovered that Brown-RISD Hillel housed a piano and drum set and began jamming there every Saturday.

After a couple of lineup changes -- including the addition of Alex Korzec '10, the band's bassist and only junior -- the group played some shows on campus.

"We played a few shows that we really had no business playing," laughs Doug. "I think we (even) played one show without a drummer."

Ultimately, though, they played a show to a packed house at the Underground and later had the opportunity to open for Guster at the 2007 WBRU Summer Concert Series. :

"It was the best day ever," Berman says. "There were so many people there."

The band took a break last year while Morrison, McGeary and White studied abroad, but now they're ready to get back into playing around Providence, and hope to play a show closer to campus soon. In the meantime, their first EP, "Parapluie," was released in spring of 2007 and is available on iTunes. Just last week, they recorded a two-song set live at WBRU.

Their sound, which Berman calls "pop-conscious rock" sets itself apart from typical pop-rock with interesting arrangements, the unexpected addition of an electric violinist and eclectic musical inspiration. Berman, White and Morrison list everything from classical to hip-hop as influences.

"I feel like our music is easily palatable," Berman says.

Their songwriting is a product of each of their individual contributions.

"There's something about collaboration between six people that you just can't create on your own," says Morrison, adding that one person usually comes up with the beginnings of a song, on which Saturday Morning Project's other members build until they have a finished product.

So what's on the horizon for Saturday Morning Project as graduation looms for five of its members? "We're just going to take it where we can this year," says Morrison.

In the meantime, they're just enjoying themselves, making music and hanging out.

Zlotoff and Berman live together, and Saturday Morning Project routinely holds band dinners.

"Just meeting each other and finding these people is great," says Berman.

"Yeah," says Morrison, smiling, "there's a lot of love."


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