My non-scientist colleagues are often surprised to find out that I sing in a band. Granted, ‘singing in a band’ might sound a bit more edgy than the reality: a bunch of aging scientists, ex-scientists, Nature editors and miscellaneous non-sciency friends who get together once a month or so to practice cover numbers for low-key charity gigs and the odd small festival and private party. It’s not exactly sex, drugs and rock-and-roll; although we do the rock-and-roll thing pretty well, the sex is entirely burlesque, in the form of a male percussionist who likes to dress as a nun with gold lamé disco boots, and the hardest drugs you’ll see circulating on stage on the night are Boot’s nasal spray and extra-strength Strepsils.
Frank-a-delic storms the Bullet Bar, Saturday
In fact, probably the closest we get to the real scene is in our practice space, The Premises in Hackney. The Premises is an anomaly and a great leveller: it’s both highly professional and extremely affordable. On its famous daily room-allocation board at reception, you can see who else is sharing the building with you at any given time. It’s always a kick to see the name of our band, Frank-a-delic, scrawled beneath the likes of The Arctic Monkeys, Razorlight or Lily Allen. People eye each other as they queue for tea in the attached café, trying to look cool and wondering who is famous and who is just a wanna-be. As you walk down the corridors, snippets of music leach through the sound-proofed rooms – tantalizing bits of every sort of style under the sun.
Should I be surprised that people are surprised I sing in a band? I suppose not. This is, after all, the same city that produced the following sneering précis in the daily science section of Friday’s London Metro:
I despair sometimes, truly I do. So that’s why I’m going to keep on singing.