Student loans affect you — whether you have them or not. Approximately 40 million Americans have student loans, which accounts for $1.2 trillion in outstanding debt. That’s more than the total amount of credit card debt in this country. Quick back of the envelope calculations tell me that this is an issue that directly affects around 13 percent of Americans. The Pew Research Center, in an only slightly more official estimation, says nearly 1 in 5 American households are affected.

The effects of student loan debt, however, aren’t just limited to direct effects. Indeed, the indirect effects at play are just as important because student loan debt impacts the entire American economy. According to a recent report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), student loan obligations inhibit the possibility of home ownership, the likelihood of starting up small businesses and contributions to retirement savings. In short, student loan debt drags down the American economy.

So why has student loan debt become such an issue as of late? That probably has something to do with the fact that more and more people are borrowing more and more money to finance their education. Which, in turn, is most likely related to the fact that the average price of a college education has increased 1120 percent in the last 30 years. That increase beats the pace of inflation by… a lot. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), at a recent event on student loans, said that student loan debt has tripled over the past decade. Simply put, student debt is increasing at a rapid pace.

The fact that student interest rates are ridiculously high (six, 10 and even 14 percent rates aren’t uncommon) only compounds the problem — continuously, you could say.  When interest rates are at historic lows for mortgages, car loans and the like, why have student loans become the exception? Why is the reward for investing in your education higher interest rates and fewer protections than most other kinds of loans allow?

Amidst all the bad news surrounding student debt, there is some good news: Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act recently, which would allow students to refinance their student loans to much lower interest rates. The bill was shot down among almost purely partisan lines, as it seems almost all bills these days are. But President Obama announced that he supports the measure, and there’s still hope it will get implemented in the near future.

Refinancing loans is an option many people have wisely used for their home mortgages, car loans and the like. It allows you to take advantage of the current low interest rates to basically re-negotiate the terms of your loan for a lower interest rate. But, for some reason, current law prohibits the refinancing of student loans. Warren’s bill fixes that in addition to allowing student loans to be refinanced down to 3.86 percent.

If you’re wondering why such an arbitrary number was picked, there’s a reason. 3.86 percent is the rate that Congress said last year new student loans should be set at under the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act. New student loans have a 3.86 percent interest rate, and Warren’s bill would simply allow people with older student loans to be able to have the same rate. It makes the system a whole lot more fair. As for concerns about effects on the ever-increasing federal deficit, the Center for American Progress estimates that a reduction to a five percent interest rate would add $21 billion to the economy in the first year alone.

Whether you’re a fresh college graduate with loans or are responsible for a fraction of the half of the total student loan debt that’s owed by people over 30, this issue matters. Even if you don’t have student loan debt, your financial security is still dependent on the American economy, which is adversely affected by staggeringly high levels of student debt.

Student loan refinancing may sound lofty and unimportant, but it’s an issue grounded in the lives of millions of Americans who can’t afford to buy a house or are forced to put their marriage plans on hold because they decided to invest in their education. We, as a society, shouldn’t be punishing students for choosing to further their education.

​By Hannah Finnie

With powerful riffs and sweet melodies, Ume (pronounced “ooo-may”) are an indie rock band from Austin, Texas. Named after umeboshi, a Japanese sour pickled plum symbolizing perseverance and devotion, the band is comprised of guitarist and vocalist Lauren Larson and bassist husband Eric Larson, along with drummer Rachel Fuhrer.

Ume released their third album Monuments earlier this year, the follow-up to their 2011 sophomore Phantoms. Known for the merging of hard rock, punk rock and pop, Ume creates an emotionally intense experience and expresses who they really are in Monuments — a tenacious and passionate trio.

Like Ume’s Monuments album cover itself — girls in purple ballerina tutus facing a grim red lightning-filled sky — Ume’s sound is one of unique and effortless juxtaposition focusing on delicate vocals and ferocious musicianship.

“Black Stone” blasts the album into full force with head-banging and savage shredding, while “Barophobia” is a beautifully balanced ballad with airy lightness that transports listeners into a completely different world.

“Gleam,” a song dedicated to one of Lauren’s friends who was murdered during the writing of the record, combines Ume’s gleaming storytelling with polished sound. The concluding “Reason” manages to be deeply gentle yet aggressively raw.

Ume is currently touring until August, with a show in Atlanta on June 25. Lauren Larson took the time to answer some questions regarding everything from when she fell in love with music and the band’s first live show to Ume’s favorite food spots when touring.

Benazir Wehelie: What made you decide to pursue music?

Lauren Larson: I fell in love with music as a young girl listening to my parents’ record collection. I picked up a guitar around age 13 and learned Nirvana’s “Aneurysm” in one night. I was then hooked and got in my first thrashy punk rock band when I was 14. Seeing bands like Fugazi and Blonde Redhead inspired me as a young girl to want to get on stage too and hold nothing back.

BW: Which musicians or bands do you admire or have influenced your own music?

LL: Patti Smith, Nancy Wilson, Fugazi, Queens of the Stone Age, Prince, Pink Floyd, PJ Harvey …

BW: Who are some musicians or bands you would like to collaborate with in the future?

LL: Josh Homme, Bjork, Dave Grohl, Ian MacKaye and Kim Gordon.

BW: What was the first live show you played and how has the band evolved since then?

LL: At our first show ever we played to one person at an abandoned fire station in Houston. We still have the same DIY mentality and appreciate every single person at our shows, but I guess I’m not quite as terrified singing into a microphone after a few hundred shows, and I’ve learned to spin around and throw my head about a little more while still playing guitar.

BW: What is the inspiration behind your latest album, Monuments, and how does it differ from your previous creations?

LL: This record was an attempt to make a raw, honest, rock record that for the first time captures the passion and intensity of who we are as a live band. We just tried to lay it all on the line with every song.

BW: You have noted how creating Monuments was as much about self-understanding as it was about tangible creation. What have you gained a better understanding of individually and musically?

LL: I’ve learned to take risks, to gather strength from my fears, to accept what my voice sounds like, to let go of all expectations of what we “should” sound like and just have fun and cherish the opportunity to create music.

BW: The band appeared on the 2012 season premiere of “No Reservations” with Anthony Bourdain, in which you experienced some local Austin, Texas cuisine. What are some of your favorite foods when touring?

LL: We always try to find authentic delicious local spots. Some of our favorites are Poche’s Market (the best crawfish etouffee) when driving through Breaux Bridge, La., late night Tootie’s Famous Italian Beef in Pittsburgh and Raku in Vegas. It’s a fine line between eating really heavy late night food after a show, and the rest of the time trying to find healthy places where you can get a fresh veggie juice and, if you’re lucky, something green.

BW: Besides creating music, what are your hobbies or interests?

LL: I also garden, and have the best vegetable harvest ever this year. It will inevitably die in this Texas heat as soon as we leave for tour in a couple days.

BW: What is one venue or city you have always wanted to perform at?

LL: Red Rocks in Denver

BW: What have been the most rewarding experiences or memorable moments individually or as a band?

LL: Nancy Wilson — one of my favorite guitarists — from Heart recently invited me to perform a couple songs with her at a benefit concert put on by Sammy Hagar in San Francisco. This was such an honor and amazing opportunity. James Hetfield from Metallica and Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day were also on the bill.

- By Benazir Wehelie


Although a vested myth in American culture, this past Friday the 13th will forever live in infamy to those who witnessed the Spanish become victims of redemption. In what was widely considered the worst loss by a defending champion in FIFA World Cup history, Spain suffered brutal attacks from the Netherlands during the first game of Group B on their unlucky Friday the 13th.

The match had a promising start for the Spaniards after Xabi Alonso drilled a penalty goal during minute 27, as a result of Diego Costa being tripped. Starting at minute 44, however, Robin van PersieArjen Robben or Stefan de Vrij scored a goal approximately every 10 minutes, leaving the scoreboard at 5-1 for the Netherlands. ESPN’s auto replay of Netherlands’ first goal was not sufficient to fully encapsulate the events that had Robin van Persie airborne, scoring a header into the net.

The Netherlands received three yellow cards during the soccer match on Friday, suggestive of their aggressive play.There were not nearly as many as the eight they received during the 2010 FIFA World Cup final against Spain, where Spain defeated the Netherlands 1-0. Spain’s strategy also paved the way to the last two European championships, but their high defensive line worked against them on Friday. It took away from their offense and left them susceptible to attack. At times, it appeared as though they were gently passing the ball back and forth to the most convenient player, not taking chances by ferociously driving the ball across the field in order to score.

My enthusiasm for the team I had pledged my allegiance to waned after Arjen Robben scored Netherlands’ third goal. My only consolation at that point, and possibly the consolation of millions of women worldwide, was admiring Shakira’s baby daddy, the tall and handsome Gerard Piqué (one of Spain’s defenders).​

- By Maria Berce


Early in the afternoon on Sunday, an unexpected guest strolled onto the main stage of Governors Ball, a three-day music festival held on Randall’s Island in New York City from June 6-8. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took the mic and explained that even though New York is already the capital of many world industries, together, we could make NYC the center of the world for contemporary music. The brief speech eloquently summed up the purpose of the festival.

Since its inception in 2011, Gov Ball has grown in size, scope and popularity. As always, this year’s festival featured hordes of music-loving New Yorkers, a view of the iconic NYC skyline and delicious, albeit highly overpriced, food from some of the city’s best food trucks and vendors. But this year, the festival stepped it up in more ways than one.

The lineup consisted of 68 acts, the most in the festival’s short history, as well as artists spanning genres from acoustic folk to dubstep and everything in between. A killer set of diverse headliners, including OutKast, Jack White, Skrillex and Vampire Weekend, also distinguished this year’s lineup.

Gov Ball’s intentions are not to be like other music festivals such as  Bonnaroo and Coachella. Instead, the festival takes a more modest approach, bringing out the essence and flavors of New York City through music and environment. Urban art on display from local artists, playful décor mimicking some of the city’s landmarks and a youthful, chic vibe helps Gov Ball brand itself as a definite New York music festival above all else.

Something New for Everyone

The 2014 lineup was stacked with talented newcomers and lesser-known artists. The amount of new music available was at times overwhelming. Head towards the smoke-filled Gotham Tent, and you might have found the smooth R&B sounds and ultra-cool style of The Internet. Follow the unique folk/punk sounds to the main stage to find Frank Turner pouring his heart into every song. Show up on time one day, and you might hear the soothing voice of Wild Belle or the infectious indie feel of BLEACHERS.

Throughout the festival, I made sure to challenge my existing music taste and venture outside my comfort zone. Diarrhea Planet, despite the group’s repulsive name, offered one of the most explosive performances of the weekend, as band members dove into the crowd, climbed trusses and even tore through OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” in celebration of their reunion.

In addition to brand new acts, the lineup had a healthy dose of artists who have already proven themselves with multiple critically acclaimed albums and impressive live shows. Phoenix, Fitz and the Tantrums and Foster the People gave the alternative scene just what they wanted, bringing energy, musicianship and a whole lot of hits to each of their performances. Chance The Rapper, Earl Sweatshirt, Childish Gambino and Tyler, The Creator represented the new age of rap and hip-hop music well with youth and dynamism, although some lacked memorability. Acts like The Head and the Heart and James Blake deserved more attention for their ability to translate their sophisticated studio sounds into powerful, chilling live shows.

The Headliners (and The Strokes)

After a decade-long hiatus, OutKast’s Andre 3000 and Big Boi finally reunited onstage at Coachella in April. On the whole, the performance underwhelmed fans, was blasted by critics such as Rebecca Nicholas as a “crushing disappointment” and left everyone uncertain about the success of their many tour dates this summer (almost exclusively at festivals). But when the duo took the stage Friday night, their confidence, energy and playful interaction won the crowd over instantly. Track after track, OutKast delivered with nostalgia-inducing fun and ATL swagger.

The duo’s soulful backing band and clear articulation allowed for tracks like opener “B.O.B.” and crowd favorite “Roses” to soar into the ears of thousands of fans. OutKast was sure to include the classics, such as “ATLiens,” “Skew it on the Bar-B” and “Hootie Hoo.” They even slowed it down for a bit and forced a rowdy crowd to chill and groove to “Aquemini” and “SpottieOttieDopaliscious.” Before blasting into “Hey Ya!” Andre thanked the crowd for putting up with them for 20 years and then teased, “only if y’all promise to lose your shit when this drops right now.” The crowd definitely kept that promise. I left Friday night confident that OutKast was back on track for one of the greatest comebacks of our generation.

As I walked onto the festival grounds for Day 2, Gov Ball volunteers greeted fans saying, “Welcome to Strokes Day!” The Strokes had not played NYC in over three years, and although it wasn’t quite as drastic as OutKast’s disappearance, fans couldn’t wait to see Julian Casablancas back where he belongs as the front man of one of the most transcendent rock bands of our time, arguably.

The Strokes hit the ground running, performing hit after hit from the group’s five LPs with the same sonically tight effect as the studio records but with a raw energy that can really only be attained live. From their grittiest classics like “Last Nite” to more electronic-tinged, blissful tracks like “Machu Picchu,” the Strokes were nothing short of brilliant. True fans were in heaven, and new listeners were made into believers. The Strokes played their cards right and were the best performance of the weekend.

On Saturday night, Gov Ball fans had a tough decision to make. On one end of Randall’s Island, guitar icon and trend-setting blues rocker Jack White readied his axe and bizarre antics for the NYC crowd. On the opposing side, a hardcore rocker turned international DJ superstar who helped bring dubstep to the masses prepared his spaceship (literally, the stage was a spaceship) for earth-shattering bass drops and EDM fantasia.

Ultimately, I chose White over Skrillex because of White’s past record of unpredictable live performance, and because I’ll always be drawn to live musicians over electronic, computer-generated sounds — even if the guy behind the computer does happen to be one of the most influential DJ of our generation of music.

Jack White’s set took fans on a ride through his impressive career as a part of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs and most recently, as a solo artist. From recent Blunderbuss hits like “Love Interruption” and White Stripes crowd favorites like “Hotel Yorba,” White confidently led his all-star band as fans gleefully sang along and admired his incredible guitar chops. “Sixteen Saltines” never sounded so big as White raucously twisted across the stage and his infamous lyrics soared out over the crowd.

Lillie Mae, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, was a standout in White’s band, skillfully taking on harmonies and violin solos with power and grace. On “We’re Going to Be Friends,” together with White, Mae helped to establish the only tender moment in White’s set with soft, elegant vocals and a stellar blend. White finished the night off with “Seven Nation Army” and I could hear the famous chant-inducing bass line echo out at the stars as I exited the venue to avoid the stampeding crowd.

Of the three headliners I chose to see, Vampire Weekend (VW) was the most predictable. I had just seen them at the Fox Theatre last month, and the set list has been more or less set in stone throughout the group’s tour. As I expected, similar to their performance at the Fox Theatre, VW brought summery fun and preppy style to their set packed with hits old and new, such as “A-Punk” and “Diane Young.” The festival atmosphere worked brilliantly for them, as it only added to the flowery, mood-boosting aura they bring to every performance. Although their lack of virtuosity still disappointed me, VW put on a great show and left fans feeling joyful and relaxed as they left the festival gates for the final time this year.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of Swedish House Mafia (Axwell^Ingrosso) set off fireworks, flame-throwers and water blasters to give Gov Ball 2014 a proper end. Most agree that they could not possibly live up to Skrillex, who performed on the same stage the night before, but for fans still eager for one last party (one with less flowers and more fire), it worked well.

Overall, this year’s Gov Ball was undoubtedly a success. The music showcased at the festival provided fans with a taste of some of the best up-and-coming artists in the world, as well as some already established acts a chance to shine once again. If the festival continues to adapt to the times, growing and changing as we do, it is sure to stay among the most popular and to become even more influential. As Schumer said, this festival can help to make New York the center of contemporary music. Those are large aspirations but I ​do love the enthusiasm.

- By Jason Charles


Later this summer, Emory Village will see the opening of Ali’s Cookies, which is replacing Tin Drum Asiacafe, and the renovation of Doc Chey’s into the Doc Chey’s Dragon Bowl concept.

According to a May 8 press release, the new Doc Chey’s Dragon Bowl will open in late summer 2014 and will “focus on Asian-inspired bowls piled high with a variety of fresh and seasonal ingredients.”

The new Dragon Bowl is comprised of a choice of base, protein and vegetables. According to the press release, the idea of the concept arose from a series of rotating specials at Atlanta-area Doc Chey’s locations that received “overwhelmingly positive reviews.”

Ali’s Cookies is opening its third location in Emory Village, joining stores in Marietta, Georgia and Dunwoody, Georgia, according to a post on local food blog

The Kosher cookie company offers over 20 flavors and delivery through its website.

Stuart Meddin, owner of the property in Emory Village, said in an interview with the Wheel that he is excited for the new properties and the growth they will bring the Village area.

- By Stephen Fowler

baseball Seniors graduated from Emory College and Goizueta Business School three weeks ago, but for 10, their time on the diamond wasn’t quite up. The Eagles worked their way out of the Losers Bracket in the South Region Tournament and then out of the Losers Bracket in the Division III College World Series (CWS) to the National Championship, falling to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Fighting out of the Losers Bracket after a first round loss to Baldwin Wallace University (Ohio) meant that the Eagles would have to win another four games, including a double-header without any rest days, to reach the Championship. Whitewater, on the other hand, only had to win two games to be granted two days of rest before the Championship. Because the tournament is double-elimination, Emory needed to outscore Whitewater in two games to capture the national title. Nonetheless, the Eagles endured, defeating Linfield College (Ore.), SUNY Cortland (N.Y.) and the University of Southern Maine. “We were in a mentality: we can’t go home,” senior outfielder Daniel Iturrey said. The players were just continuing to play the game they love. “It felt surprisingly normal,” senior catcher Jared Welch said. “There wasn’t any pressure on any of us the whole week.” Head coach Mike Twardoski reinforced this mentality to his players throughout the season. “After the loss, we just had to simplify the game,” he said. “We played one game at a time.” The team continued to have fun together and stay relaxed on the field. The lucky “Senior Bush,” a potted plant originally placed in the dugout by sophomore David Coble, accompanied the team in Appleton, Wis. for the CWS. Additionally, at the request of junior outfielder Brett Lake, junior center fielder Wes Peacock retrieved a sombrero on the side of the road near Emory’s campus. During regionals and at the CWS, the team placed the sombrero on the bush, and senior catcher Josh Bokor later wore it himself. At the World Series, announcers interviewed Bokor and thought the oversized hat was hilarious. “We’re an energy-based team, so anything that keeps us loose and having fun is good,” Twardoski said. “It’s one of the things I love about the game. [The sombrero] got us some publicity too, which always helps to promote Emory baseball.” In the Championship game, which was played in Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ Fox Cities Stadium, senior Warhawks pitcher and Tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP) Scott Plaza shut out the Eagles for nine innings. “He was very consistent and hit spots the whole game,” Peacock said. “Sometimes we hit the ball where they were and we got a couple tough breaks on calls.” The Eagles’ fatigue from their double header the day before also played a part in their weaker-than-usual bats in the game. “We didn’t come out as forceful as we had earlier in the tournament,” Welch said. “It was a product of shear exhaustion.” The final score of the game was 7-0, Whitewater. Three Eagles were named to the All-Tournament team. Freshman third baseman Phillip Maldari went 11-24, leading the tournament with 11 RBIs, Welch went 11-24 with nine RBIs, and senior second baseman Jared Khan went 11-21 with seven RBIs. Additionally, senior Brandon Hannon was named to the Capital One Academic All-America Baseball Division III Third Team, for outstanding academic and athletic performance. The outfielder was the second in the program’s history to be awarded this honor. He batted .376 this season with 24 stolen bases and with 67 runs scored, the second most of any D-III player this season and of any Emory player in the program’s history. Throughout his time at Emory, Hannon accumulated 187 runs scored, breaking the school’s record. He graduated with a 3.46 GPA, earning degrees in mathematics and economics. Although some underclassmen are already thinking about next season, the graduating seniors were happy to have extended their play as long they did. “I wouldn’t have wanted to end my career any other way,” Iturrey said. “We got to finish off in the biggest cage possible.” For many, the road to the Championship game meant far more than the game itself. “It stinks to lose the last game, but to win a regional and to get that far from the Losers Bracket is a huge accomplishment,” Twardoski said. “It was one of the best exhibits of camaraderie and leadership I’ve seen.” This season was not the first in which Twardoski found success. Since taking over as Head Coach in 2000, Coach T, as he is known to his players, has now led the Eagles to four CWS appearances, including a previous advancement to the Championship from the Losers Bracket in 2007. Emory Baseball alumni, hailing from both winning and losing teams, supported the Eagles indefatigably throughout their 2014 campaign, many attending the Championship game in their old uniforms. Twardoski has worked to foster this Emory Baseball community throughout his tenure. “When I got here, there wasn’t really a lot of alumni base. I went back to when it started as just a club team. They couldn’t believe I wanted a relationship with them,” he said. “80 came back a couple years ago for the alumni game. I got 200 texts when we won regionals.” Because they signify not only the end of one stage, but the beginning of a next stage in the lives of graduating students, high school and college graduations are referred to as commencements. Perhaps the final game the team’s ten seniors is better called a commencement, as new chapters now begin in their lives. “It’s always been a dream of mine to play at the next level,” Iturrey said. “But my last experience with Emory was getting to play with my best friends in the College World Series, so I’m cool with a new path too.” Graduating 10 leaders can be tough on a team, but Twardoski predicts that between 10 and 15 freshmen and transfers will come in next year. “There’ll be some competition for spots, and that always makes for a better team,” he said. Additionally, the underclassmen are prepared to carry on the legacy of the team. “We’ve been learning from the seniors for three years, and I think people will really step up to fill their shoes next year,” Peacock said. - By Zak Hudak

Neon Trees

In 2010, Provo, Utah-based band Neon Trees, which includes vocalist Tyler Glenn, guitarist Chris Allen, bassist Branden Campbell and drummer Elaine Bradley, released its debut album, Habits, in which the world was introduced to the memorable, melodious song “Animal.” The year 2012 brought Picture Show, where “Everybody Talks” showed the band’s ability to craft frenetic yet controlled creations.

Today, “Animal” continues to be habitually played, while “Everybody Talks” has become forever engraved in listeners, remaining a permanently picturesque pattern of euphony. And Neon Trees continues to light up the world with their latest album, Pop Psychology.

The Pop Psychology journey embarks with “Love in the 21st Century,” a heart-thumping song about the difficulties with love in modern times. The lyrics and musicianship create a buzzing and bouncing balance, leaving the creation both catchy and subtle.

“Sleeping With A Friend” is a polished, intimate ode about friends with benefits. The gently penetrating vocals, delicately pulsating guitar and lightly exploding drums combine to create an old-school yet modern sound.

“Voices In The Halls” darkly shines and brightly haunts as Glenn sings, “I can taste your lemonade. Bittersweet like every summer fling.” Neon Trees creates a mysterious, ghost-like aura with an eerily flowing rhythm combined with a pleasant and smooth synth-driven melody.

The album concludes with “First Things First,” a lyrical photo album. With a solid beat and raw reminiscing, the band’s story and its members’ individual narratives are the underlying forefront. This piece lightly touches upon the subject of how each member of Neon Trees has truly grown not only creatively with their music, but also personally in their lives.

Glenn, originally from Temecula, Ca., grew up listening to Michael Jackson and Morrissey, and in high school knew music was his passion. But Glenn was also considered “different” to those in his hometown, in both appearance and behavior, as he created extravagant outfits and took ballet classes. In April, Glenn opened up about his homosexuality and the torment he faced on whether to make it public or keep it private. With Pop Psychology, the serious yet quirky Glenn shows that his true soul mate has been and always will be music.

As a child, Allen was neighbors with Glenn in Murrieta, Ca., and when Allen moved to Provo, Utah for college, Glenn also decided to make the move. Allen, who also had a deep passion for music growing up, enriches Neon Trees and brings out the spirit of the guitar with his fun, engaging and tenacious talent.

Campbell is Neon Trees’ brilliant and beaming bassist. On Twitter he states, “I live. I love. I bass it up & write songs in Neon Trees!” Not only is he a rock star in Neon Trees, but Campbell is also a rock-star husband and father. Campbell’s son, Connor, suffers from epilepsy and is on the autism spectrum, yet Campbell continues to remain a strong, solid force in both his band and for his family.

Bradley is Neon Trees’ devoted drummer. From making songs on the playground and playing with pots and lids as a child, today Bradley gleams in Neon Trees with her dynamic drumming and her zesty, passionate personality.

Together, each member of Neon Trees combines their talents to produce creations that gently glow deep within listeners through the good, the bad and everything in between. And with their latest album, Pop Psychology, Neon Trees is sonically inspirational and powerfully captures just how healing and freeing music can be.

Neon Trees is currently on tour with Nightmare and the Cat and Smallpools until July. It was a pleasure speaking with guitarist Chris Allen via phone. Allen discussed everything from the formation of Neon Trees and the band’s interests outside of music, to his own dream musical collaboration and personal fashion sense. 

Benazir Wehelie: How did all the band members come together to form Neon Trees?

Chris Allen: Myself and Tyler, we were neighbors in Southern California and our dads actually worked at the same office. They knew we were both really into music, so they were the ones that got us together. So, Tyler and I started playing for a bit and then I moved up to Utah to go to massage school. And so Tyler wanted to keep playing music with me so he moved up there just to play music. And then we met with the other band members while we were up in Utah, and they were playing with different bands. We hit it off and at the time, their schedules we freeing up and we were needing a bassist and a drummer, so they joined up with us.

BW: What inspired your latest album, Pop Psychology?

CA: Last year, Tyler was having a hard time emotionally and we took a little bit of a break. He saw a psychologist and it really helped with how he was feeling and it really made him think about a lot of things. He was kind of in a dark place and he wanted to talk about a lot of things that were weighing on him, but he wanted to do it in an upbeat and kind of positive way. He feels better now and kind of wanted to deliver it in a fun way. And that’s kind of the sound of the album — it’s real upbeat and exciting. I think that’s where a lot of the inspiration for the feel of the album came, Tyler seeing a psychologist and kind of sorting out his life and being happy with who he was and with what he was doing.

BW: What would you say you are most proud of from the album?

CA: I really love the song “Living In Another World.” It’s very simple sounding, but it just has a nice groove to it and I really like the words. [Tyler] says at one point, “Four chords and a beat keep me alive.” I think for a lot of our fans, music is just such an important part in their lives and it is what gets them through tough times and inspires them to get out of bed and go about their day.

BW: The music videos are all really creative and fun. What was the creative process when coming up with the concept for the music videos for songs from Pop Psychology?

CA: Tyler works with the directors on that, mostly, and then sends us the ideas and will try to get our feedback or if there’s anything we want to add to it. Actually, a couple of the videos we self-produced and directed. Tyler and his brother were very involved. Tyler’s brother is going to film school and so he shoots the videos and Tyler directs them. It’s cool because we’re really happy with the “I Love You (But I Hate Your Friends)” video and the “First Things First” video and those cost us a fraction of what a full-budget, professional video costs. So, we tend to have a DIY approach. We’ve always liked to be involved in every aspect of what we do and our videos are no exception. I think in a lot of ways, some of our favorite things to do are the videos. It’s really fun to get in costumes and act and just let loose. It can be really fun to shoot those videos.

BW: You have toured with many bands. Are there any musicians and bands you would like to collaborate with?

CA: A musician I’ve always really wanted to collaborate with, but I doubt will ever happen, is David Byrne from the Talking Heads. I’ve always really liked him. And Cyndi Lauper would be a really fun collaboration. We all really love her music and we actually met her at the AMA awards last year. She was really sweet. So who knows, maybe that could happen sometime down the road.

BW: You were the special guests opening for Taylor Swift’s RED Tour. What was that experience like?

CA: That was so much fun. Of course, it was in Australia and New Zealand and I’ll take any chance I get to go to those places. So that was fun. There was only seven shows, I think, and we were there for a month so there was a lot of down time. We got to see the sights. She was just a real pleasure to work with and just very nice. Those shows were just amazing, being able to play full stadiums every night was just really cool. Because that’s not really something we’re used to. Every now and then we’ll play a show that’s that big, but it will be for a special event or something, but actually doing a tour where every night is like that is kind of crazy. And especially when people are singing along to your songs, it’s very surreal.

BW: Is there any stadium in particular you’ve always wanted to play at?

CA: The Hollywood Bowl is a venue I’ve really wanted to play. I don’t know what the capacity is, but it’s pretty big and I think it would be considered a stadium. The Hollywood Bowl would be really cool. We all went to see REM a few years back, right before they broke up. They played with Modest Mouse and the National and we saw them at the Hollywood Bowl and that was really cool.

BW: The whole band has a unique fashion sense. How would you describe your style, specifically?

CA: I think Saturday morning cartoons is how I would describe it. Pee-wee Herman. Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

BW: Do you have a favorite costume?

CA: I just recently had a bunch of shirts made. Me and my wife went and bought a fabric and buttons and had this lady that we know make a bunch of shirts. And I think that’s going to be my favorite thing to wear. Also, I just had a custom guitar made. The entire thing is painted blue. The body and the neck and the headstock, just the whole thing, so it kind of looks like it’s made out of a chunk of plastic. I kind of just wanted to make it look like a toy. Yeah, I guess we can consider that as a kind of accessory, kind of a piece of fashion.

BW: When not working on music, what does the band enjoy doing outside of that?

CA: Well, we all love movies, our last album being Picture Show and all the videos we had done on that were movie-related. Whenever we get a day off we like to watch movies. Individually, we have our own things that we really like. Elaine really likes working out and playing sports. And I really like a bunch of different things. I like motorcycles, working on things, remodeling houses. We just all have a lot of interests. I don’t know what other common other stuff besides like movies. We love being busy.

BW: How long have you been playing guitar?

CA: I started playing guitar in eighth grade. I guess about 21 years or something like that, 21, 22 years. So, most of my life.

BW: Do you play any other instruments?

CA: Not well. I play a little bit of drums and a little bit of bass. Not really piano, but I mess around a little bit. But yeah, pretty much just guitar.

BW: Your tour has officially begun and will continue until July. What do you enjoy most about touring?

CA: I like having a routine. I like it when we’re able to get on a bus and have a full set of dates ahead of us. And you know, we play a show, hop on the bus, go to the next place to play another show. You just get real comfortable, the music gets tighter and tighter and you can just see the shows get better and better. I definitely prefer that kind of touring to flying from one city to the other side of the country and just playing a few shows here and there. I like when it’s just kind of packed full.

BW: What should fans look forward to most from this tour?

CA: This tour, there’s going to be a lot more visually going on, on stage. We’ve really invested a lot into making our live show more exciting because we feel like that’s a big focus of our band — actually coming out to the shows. I feel like you don’t fully get the message if you don’t come to the live show to see it. It’s one thing on an iPod, but the songs sound different and there’s a different energy to them and there’s an interaction between us and the crowd that’s just really fun. I think that’s going to be the biggest change, is the visuals. We really put a lot into it this time around.

- Benazir Wehelie


Courtesy of Jason Charles

As the lights slowly dimmed at the Fox Theatre on May 5th, the mundane black backdrop on stage plummeted to the ground, revealing a flowery, Beach Boys-esque backcloth, Roman columns and a mysterious mirror. Simultaneously, Drake’s “Worst Behavior” blasted through the sound system as music’s favorite Columbia University grads strutted onto the stage one by one. Overwrought with anticipation and pure elation, the crowd proudly welcomed Vampire Weekend (VW) to Atlanta for the first time in four years.

I last encountered VW in April of 2010 at the Ryman Auditorium, an old church in Nashville, on one of their first headlining national tours. The band was young and inexperienced, but I could so easily see and hear immense potential. It was clear that the band was a group of talented musicians, but even more than that, I could feel their passion and creative expression constantly throughout the performance. Then and now, VW does not just play concerts, they create art.

The surprisingly appropriate Drake song completely changed the aura in the theater that Monday night, creating an atmosphere perfect for VW’s lively, well-crafted music. Ezra Koenig (lead vocals, guitar) then stepped up the mic and dove head first into Diane Young, the fast-paced summer-y single off of their latest album, Modern Vampires of the City (XL Recordings). The crowd was with them from the very start. There was no need to warm them up or even address them at all, so Koenig just kept on playing with tamed jubilance and understated confidence.

The night’s set list was trickled with tracks from all three of VW’s LPs, with perhaps a bit more emphasis on newer material. The set was balanced and flows effortlessly, as if the songs were meant to played in this succession.

“Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” an infectious track off of Vampire Weekend, once helped to establish the band as a formidable force among the many guitar bands emerging at the time. With new-found musical reputability and songwriting abilities often compared to Paul Simon, the track propelled them forward and allowed them to begin to experiment on Contra, the band’s follow-up LP. However, from the very beginning, Koenig and Co. were deemed privileged dilettantes, having formed in white collar New York City at Columbia University. The band didn’t seem to care much about this assumed image and continued to make and play music that they themselves were proud of.

However, I can now say with confidence that over the last year, VW has shattered the box they may have placed in, expanding the range of possibilities for the future. Their live performance is more mature, better coordinated and gorgeously produced. Every detail, from the impressively synchronized lighting, to the artsy images that appear in the hidden screen of the mirror at the center of the set, the show is planned extensively.

Even the way the band flawlessly ended each song was evidently rehearsed and catered to live audiences. “Step,” an emotionally charged, lush ballad, laced with harpsichord and witty lyrics, ends as the band members dramatically bow their heads to the audience. “Holiday,” one of my favorites of the night, comes to a close with just a couple of extra chords and a rhythmic beat, perfectly in sync with pulsating lights and a blackout on the final chord. Each song’s calculated ending added a theatrical element to the show that complements the band well.

One challenge that modern bands often share is being able to produce what can be done in the studio live at a concert. Different acts have different ways of dealing with this issue; some pre-record the whole track, others pre-record only certain elements of the track, some attempt to use other methods to produce the same sound live and some may decide to leave out the electronic elements altogether. Overall, VW used a mix of these options, balancing live auto tune and electronic supplements with some pre-recorded elements, such as selected background vocals.

On tracks like “Everlasting Arms,” Koenig’s voice, although electronically altered, somehow sounded natural, as if it should be that way. However, on track “Ya Hey,” the squealing baby vocal refrain feels forced and over-produced live. The altered voices pierce through the texture of the music, but perhaps that is the point. After all, the song is about religious doubt and has been praised by critics, specifically Ian Cohen of Pitchfork, for its “duality of childish innocence and poetic confidence.” Either way, the live version quickly grew tired and was hindered by its dependence on auto-tune.

Despite their obvious growth and fresh maturity, there are small moments when the boys of Columbia U. let their inner-college student shine through. Aside from their awesome entrance featuring Drake, just before exploding into crowd-favorite, “One (Blake’s Got A New Face),” the epic opening sample from DJ Kool’s “Let Me Clear My Throat” blasted through the speakers and the crowd went wild. Thus demonstrating that despite their polished approach and newfound maturity, VW is still made up of college kids at heart.

It was a night of carefree dancing, musical bliss and unwavering admiration. There is no doubting this band’s unique talent and uncanny ability to turn a concert into a truly artful experience; a finished product, elegantly refined and expertly curated to represent to the audience who they are, how they want to be perceived and who they aspire to become.

Virtuosity does feel somewhat lost in a show that is so calculated and rehearsed. However, VW isn’t, and will most likely never be, the kind of band you go see for a legendary guitar solo or random jam session. Instead, they express a clear vision and an aesthetic experience to every crowd they play for. Will it be the same show at each stop on this tour? For the most part, yes. But VW is no longer the alternative college band I saw play a show in a small church in Nashville; now, they’re rock stars poised to shape the music world in years to come, staying to true to their own artistic vision and inspiring other artists and fans along the way. They can do what they please, take the road less traveled and, most likely, others will follow in their footsteps.

- By Jason Charles


Emory University has suspended the Xi chapter of Sigma Nu fraternity for five years after the chapter accepted responsibility for violations of the University’s anti-hazing policy, found in an Office of Student Conduct (OSC) investigation this spring.

Senior Associate Dean and Director of Campus Life External Relations Andy Wilson released a statement to the Wheel Friday outlining the University’s response to the investigation, which began after OSC received “an anonymous tip that a violation may have occurred,” according to the statement.

“On May 1, 2014, the chapter accepted responsibility for violating the university’s anti-hazing policy. As a result, the university and Sigma Nu Headquarters jointly decided that the chapter will lose its privilege to exist as a fraternity chapter at Emory University for five years. OSC is currently investigating allegations that individual students may have violated the Undergraduate Code of Conduct.”

Since Sigma Nu accepted responsibility for the hazing and did not appeal its decision, there was no hearing involved, Wilson said.

A representative from Emory Sigma Nu has not yet responded to comment at this time.

Sigma Nu is the fifth Emory Greek organization to face suspension for hazing violations since 2011, joining Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta sororityAlpha Epsilon Phi sorority and most recently, Phi Delta Theta fraternity ​in July 2013. Additionally, Emory Residence Life and Housing began conducting walkthroughs of fraternity houses in fall 2013 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to check for rule violations.

Typically, suspended organizations are eligible to return to campus four years after the announcement of their OSC ruling. However, Wilson said in an interview with the Wheel that the severity of Sig Nu’s violations warranted a five-year suspension.

According to Wilson, one instance of hazing required new members of the fraternity to “consume food items in large quantities at rapid paces to the point of physical harm and vomiting.”

Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair wrote in an email to the Wheel that this Sigma Nu chapter’s “egregious actions are incongruent with the University’s expectations and standards” and expressed his disappointment in the situation.

“Fraternities, sororities and other student groups must realize that the privilege of existing at the university comes with great responsibility including ensuring the safety and well-being of new members,” Nair wrote.

Sigma Nu also faced disciplinary action by the administration in 2008, where Sigma Nu members violated a number of housing policies and lost their privilege to live in a fraternity house on Eagle Row for a year. In 1998, the chapter was suspended for “psychological hazing” of its pledges.

According to Wilson, sophomores assigned to live in the Sigma Nu house in the fall will be guaranteed housing elsewhere on campus, and juniors and seniors may appeal to have their housing contracts released or work with Residence Life and Housing to find other on-campus accommodations.

Additionally, the status of the house at 10 Eagle Row is to be determined by Residence Life and Housing.

Wilson added that the information leading to the investigation came via an anonymous tip and that OSC investigates any tip it receives.

On its national website, Sigma Nu writes that it is a fraternity “founded based on honor, which stems from our founders rebelling against the common practice of hazing at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, V​A. That principle still holds true today.”

Emory’s Sigma Nu chapter was established in 1884 as one of the first Interfraternity Council chapters on campus.

By Stephen Fowler

This article was updated at 4:51 p.m. on 5/11/2014 to remove the fifteenth paragraph, which stated further details about the specific violations would be provided to the Wheel on Monday. The University has communicated that they have nothing else to share at this time.
This article was updated at 11:10 p.m. on 5/10/2014 to reflect a change in the twelfth paragraph that clarifies that juniors and seniors must appeal to have their housing contracts released.

Who is from Bowling Green, Ky. and delivers joyous melodies? Sleeper Agent, an alternative band with sextet Alex Kandel, Tony Smith, Justin Wilson, Lee Williams, Scott Gardner and Josh Martin.

Structuring their punk-pop sound from their first album, Celabrasion, Sleeper Agent recently released About Last Night, an album that is both pristine and polished. From heartbreak to victory, Sleeper Agent takes listeners on a unified magical musical journey.

The opening song, “Be Brave,” is euphoniously energetic and enchantingly encouraging despite lyrics such as “I’ve been feeling so lonesome that I could cry.” Sleeper Agent has created waves with “Waves,” the standout song from the album. The song, about a private apocalypse, has a catchy chorus and brightly sparkles with raw vocals and graceful musicianship.

“Haunting Me,” which was originally intended to be a Jackson 5 tribute, is subtly deep and hauntingly harmonious. The album concludes with “Sweetheart,” a Latin-flared, power-popping song inspired by a W.B. Yeats poem.

About Last Night certainly highlights Sleeper Agent’s lyrical and instrumental growth and versatility as a band. Sleeper Agent is currently on tour and will play in Atlanta on July 24.

Tony Smith answered some questions via phone, discussing the meaning behind Sleeper Agent’s name, who they would love to collaborate with and activities they enjoy outside of music.

Benazir Wehelie: What is the meaning behind the name, Sleeper Agent?

Tony Smith: Sleeper Agent is taken from a 2005 TV show called “Battlestar Galactica.”They’re the enemies on the TV show.

BW: You recently released the album, About Last Night. As a sextet band, what was the creative process like when putting together the album?

TS: In a lot of ways it’s very relieving because if I ever get stuck on a song, then I know I have five other people to help me work through it. Generally, I’ll start the song and then I’ll bring it on acoustic guitar to everybody and they’ll try to weigh in and craft their own parts around it. And that’s how we do it.

BW: What is the meaning behind “Waves”?

TS: “Waves” is pretty much our experiences on our first two tours, getting to see everything from New York to California. And kind of like our experiences being on the radio and just watching the reality of touring and what it really is as opposed to what I romanticized it to be as a younger teenager.  

BW: You are from Bowling Green, Kentucky. How does the music scene in Bowling Green differ from other cities you have had the chance to perform in?

TS: We pretty much get the same high energy show whether in Bowling Green or Los Angeles. I guess the only thing that really changes is the way people respond to it. Some regions are a little more laid back and some areas are a little more wild.

BW: Do you prefer more laid back or more outgoing audiences?

TS: I definitely prefer outgoing because we give so much and then if we get a lot in return, it just makes us give even harder.

BW: Describe your relationship with fellow Bowling Green band, Cage the Elephant.

TS: We’re friends, we grew up with them in our teen years. Two of us did, and went to the same schools.

BW: Rolling Stone described you as “Shaggy Kentucky kids whose songs are sweet, fizzy and combustible as a can of shook soda.” How would you describe Sleeper Agent?

TS: Six fun-loving, music-loving nerds.

BW: Your influences include the Pixies and the Black Lips. What specifically about these bands do you love?

TS: That was earlier on in our first record. The Pixies have always just been great song writers, while having this incredible energy and this other-world kind of snarl and great interplay between each other. The Black Lips is just a fun live show. They put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.

BW: If you could collaborate with any other band or musician, who would you choose and what kind of music would you make?

TS: I always thought it would be fun to do something in hip-hop, a hip-hop collaboration and there’s a list upon list of people I’d love to work with in that realm.

BW: Do you have a favorite hip-hop song or musician?

TS: I like a lot of the old backpack rap, stuff like A Tribe Called Quest and Jurassic 5. And I like a lot of newer guys too like Kanye West and Chance the Rapper and stuff like that.

BW: What are your favorite things to do together outside of music?

TS: We all love going to eat together and going to the movies, going to bars. Anything that’s kind of in that realm we always enjoy doing. The other day we went to the beach, so that was good.  

BW: You are performing in Atlanta in July. What can audiences look forward to from your live performances?

TS: We’ve always had a really good experience in Atlanta. One of our best shows was in Atlanta when the crowd was singing the lyrics louder than we were, so it was very shocking. We’re always very excited to play Atlanta to get that same vibe going again, so you’ll see us very excited and happy to be back in Atlanta. And we’ll put on a hell of show!

- By Benazir Wehelie

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