by Zawwar Naseer ’21 (he/him), Music Critic
I found out about The Equatics on a very typical night in July. I was laying in my bedroom trying to figure out what to watch on Hulu (a dilemma that I’m sure plagues many of you and something I will probably cover in another article). In a rare stroke of decisiveness, I managed to pick something within the first 10 minutes of my journey through the very confidential algorithm of the ‘TV for you’ category. I settled on High Fidelity, a Hulu original based on the original book by Nick Hornby, starring Zoë Kravitz. While the IMDB reviews may disagree with me on this, I thought it was a great show for one reason in particular: the scoring. Considering the show is about the trials and tribulations of someone who owns a record store, it follows that this is something with a lot of effort put into it. The discography spans several decades and showcases recognisable hits from Prince to Fleetwood Mac, unquestionably great songs, but all of which rang a bell of familiarity.
It was only at the 15:57 mark of episode three that I was caught off guard. During this over-the-shoulder, slow-motion shot, Robyn’s character turns back to see a vision of her ex-lover when the song “Merry Go Round” by The Equatics starts to play. Even though it was only a 20 second snippet, Daniel “Buddy” Slade’s notes on the trumpet got me hooked right away. A quick Google search and four finger swipes brought me to the band’s Spotify page, where I was perplexed to see only one album, composed of nine songs from 1972, and literally nothing else. I’m sorry…what?
Thankfully, the reliable four finger swipe and Google search brought me more answers. The circumstances that brought this album together could not have been more random. The group was composed of nine students who were seniors at Hampton High School in Virginia. The band was able to record their album Doin it!!!!, after winning Pepsi’s “New Sounds of 1972” contest. It was released, but only a few hundred copies were ever originally pressed. Since then, the organ-drenched, funk-soul record has achieved somewhat of a cult status with original copies of the album selling for upwards of $300.
Despite the band’s immense talent, Doin it!!!! was the only album they released. According to the band leader and bassist Ben Crawford, The Equatics didn’t survive much longer after their first album. He explained in a 2010 interview with The Daily Press that many of the band’s members were conflicted about keeping the group together or going off to college: “I said, ‘No thanks, I’m going to stay in school.’” Crawford joined the Air Force after graduating, and the band broke up soon after.
But the reason I wanted to write about The Equatics wasn’t because I think they’re a great band or because of their unique story, but because of what they represent to me. Their album was a strange departure from what I usually listened to. It’s entirely composed of band instruments, and half of the songs don’t have any vocals in them. One would assume that someone like myself, who has never really had a keen ear for instrumental funk music, would never be interested in this, but it’s actually quite the contrary. I’ve been playing it on repeat for months, and it has introduced me to a whole genre of new sounds and an entire category of musicians I was never before exposed to. In many ways, this is what music does at its best. Great music transcends habit or familiarity. It gives form to the inevitable void that language and logic can often leave us with. It reaches into us and gives us a glimpse of the parts of ourselves we didn’t know we had or wanted. It shows us the shadow of a figure just out of sight and around the corner.
Zawwar Naseer ‘21 (he/him) is an Economics major and Computer Science minor from Hong Kong. He can be reached for comment at email@example.com.