Behind the Music...MBA JAM
Published: Monday, December 5, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 17:12
BA Jam is an unlikely phenomenon, the likes of which most business schools have yet to encounter. Since their November 2010 inaugural show at The Delancey, MBA Jam has become a symbol of sorts.
The band's self-proclaimed mission, according to Facebook, is "Enabling your ass to sing, dance and drink. And melting your face." But many MBA2s view the band as a symbol of what makes Stern so special: a place where you can uncover the best, most awesome version of yourself.
In anticipation of MBA Jam's upcoming show on December 8th, I sat down with the band to talk shop and discover what fuels their face-melting fire. The encounter took place over beers, garlic fries and a blaring Giants game at West 3rd Common, as the band was assembling their set list for the December show. This involved a complicated, very b-school process that included a spreadsheet, rankings, veto power and innocuous spats, described by Morris as a "half-assed democracy." The only song to have made it on the list for every show but one is the country classic "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)," a result of Summer Start crowd-sourcing during the band's nascent formation.
MBA Jam was cobbled together during the summer of 2010 through the Stern Admitted Students posting board. The band's very first meeting involved Mayne, Chavon Sutton (guest vocalist), Song and hole-in-the-wall Irish pub Scratcher. Vermeer, Morris and Ramos came on board during the summer and Devarajan officially joined in the fall. The first practice session at Chelsea's Ultrasound Studios was "a shitshow," mostly featuring Coldplay and Sublime. Naming the band proved to be equally challenging and "MBA Jam," suggested by Vijay's roommate after the eponymous arcade game, ultimately won out as the least offensive option among several contenders.
By Thanksgiving 2010, the band was ready for its public debut at The Delancey. Recalls Song, "We didn't think a ton of people would show up. We expected 50 and it ended up being closer to 150." Over the course of 45 minutes and 9 meticulously selected songs, MBA Jam won the hearts of Stern's MBA class of 2012.
One of the band's greatest moments to date took place not long after, during a performance on Song's birthday. While the night was not without its low points – a band member puked, a beer was spilled on a guitar, and a fight ensued with the bartender over excessive tip demands – MBA Jam set the attendance record at Crash Mansion that night with a staggering 369 fans. Says Vermeer, "Being in a band was the absolute last thing I thought I would be doing in business school … our show at Crash Mansion last year when the club manager told us that we had sold the venue out was hysterical. My jaw pretty much hit the floor."
The ensuing fame and glory has not changed the band's down-to-earth attitude. Morris' parents will be in attendance at the next show. Ramos is quick to point out that it's the fans who are responsible for MBA Jam's success. Mayne, the only member to never have previously been part of a band, isn't too cool to share his unbridled enthusiasm for the group – "I f#%in' love this band!"
Devarajan recalls a special moment during last year's final show, a fundraising performance in an effort to raise money for his fiancée Nisha, who was running the 2011 New York City marathon in support of the charity Team for Kids. "Nisha was in the front row and near the end she motioned to me. She needed $2,620 to qualify for the marathon and said we had raised $3,200 just from that one night. The fundraising was done in a single night because of how generous our friends are. Usually the band takes some money to offset the costs of practicing in studio. But this time they all said no, let's just donate all of it, which was pretty awesome. It was a great moment."
So where does the band go from here? Since the very beginning, MBA Jam has continued to surprise its fans with guest vocalists like Chavon Sutton and Krystal Bowden and the addition of Liora Schocken, an MBA 1, on keys.
In March, they'll be following in the footsteps of Green Day when they perform at Webster Hall, their largest venue to date. MBA Jam's success story is one that many Sternies can relate to as it speaks to the scrappy ambition and strong sense of community that can only be found here at Stern. Says Mayne, "I highly doubt Columbia has a band. If they do, it's probably a quartet." Morris is quick to jump in, ending all debate: "They wouldn't know what a rock band was if it hit ‘em in the face."
Don't miss MBA Jam: The December Show at Sullivan Hall on Thursday, December 8.
Get to Know Your MBA Jam
J.P. Ramos – Drums
MBA Jam's Best Moment?
Our first show at The Delancey: Counting off our first song ("Today") and seeing the look on people's faces – a mix of excitement and curiosity – then seeing their faces turn into complete fun and enjoyment when they realized we could actually play.
Up for a reunion show? Definitely.
Eugene Song – Lead Guitar, Vocals
Favorite Song Performed? "Under the Bridge"
Music idol? Pete Townsend
Wish for the band? If we could have just one more show next semester.
Vijay Devarajan - Vocals
Favorite Song Performed? "All These Things That I've Done"
Music idol? Bono
MBA Jam's Biggest Fan? My fiancée. And everyone in the front row who always make us feel so cool.
Joel Morris – Bass (& Charmer of the Band)
Favorite Song Performed? When we first played "Dynamite." The crowd went nuts.
MBA Jam's Worst Moment? Seeing Vijay in slow motion run towards me with a beer and then accidentally spill the beer all over my guitar.