This past December marked an important time in the lives of a small group of past St. Mary’s alumni with the release of their band’s debut album, Finding Color in the Ashes.
It isn’t that often that the student body here at St. Mary’s receives the chance to hear much about what past alumni have been achieving since graduating from their own collegiate days. But the four friends that make up the band Drop Electric have been gaining some media attention this winter due to the release of their debut album.
The group consists of Ramtin Arablouei, ‘05, on drums, David Garber, ‘06, on piano and keyboard, and Neel Singh, ‘06, and Sho Fujiwara (a Norwestern University alumnus) on guitar.
According to the group’s Myspace page, they “creates a hybrid of rock, electronica, world, and hip-hop music with a booming, bass heavy style…which in turn brings together Eastern and Western cultures over beats that make any crowd move.”
Drop Electric held the official release party for their CD on Saturday, Dec.18, 2010 at the Black Cat in Washington, D.C. where they were joined by the bands The Sweater Set from D.C., and Brooklyn’s Emily Wells.
Not only has this group of St. Mary’s alumni successfully published their own album, but they also have been using Drop Electric as a platform to support local issues and fundraising within the local Maryland/D.C. community, such as Young Women’s Drum Empowerment Project and Empower DC.
The band stated in an interview on D.C.’s District of Sound website in 2009, “Obviously, it’s nice to make money and fund studio work, but when it comes down to it we are all members of the community and as a result have responsibilities. We just want to make any small contribution we can. We’ll continue to do this as long as we are a band.”
The group particularly went to great lengths in order to help raise funds for their former lead singer Padma Soundararajan, also an alumna of St. Mary’s, after she lost both parents and her two sisters to a devastating car accident a few years ago, which left her the sole provider for her two younger brothers, one with autism and the other with severe cerebral palsy.
Due to Soundararajan’s new responsibilities, she unfortunately had to drop out of the band, leaving the group with no vocalist. Afterwards, Drop Electric had no choice but to become an all-instrumental band.
The band’s Facebook page states that “During the ensuing months, the remaining members of the band found solace in music. This album captures the music written during that time period. Each song attempts to make sense of the tragedy and find glimpses of hope in the often senseless nature of life.”
The album has been dedicated in loving memory to Soundararajan’s family. However, she isn’t the only one that has helped to craft the resulting sound of the quartet’s new album, since the CD is also dedicated to the late former St. Mary’s professor Lucille Clifton.
Clifton over the years has left an important legacy at St. Mary’s College, including the plaques of her writings that circle the St. John’s pond, her poem “Blessing the Boats” that can be seen printed on the wall of the main hall of the campus center, and the memories that many upperclassmen have of her speaking at their first-year convocation.
She was a close friend and mentor to Arablouei, and recordings of her voice reciting her poetry can be heard in a number of their songs. “We want current students to know the legacy that Lucille Clifton leaves behind, as well as the students who came just before them,” said Singh. “It is one of our great regrets that she cannot hear the album.”
A review of their album in the Washington Post appeared in mid-December 2010 with the reporter Catherine Lewis stating that the “sorrow is apparent in these mostly instrumental songs…[but]…this album surges with a tranquil hopefulness.”
They have even been compared in reviews to bands such as Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai.
Finding Color in the Ashes, which includes thirteen tracks averaging lengths of around four minutes a piece, has also been officially released on iTunes for $9.99.
Despite their growing audience, Drop Electric still remembers that their beginnings happened here at St. Mary’s. “This album could not have been possible without SMCM and the love we have for that place,” said Singh. “I cannot stress enough how important St. Mary’s is in our lives and how thankful we are that we decided to attend the school.”