You probably thought outer-space got its most heartfelt love letter from David Bowie’s Space Oddity. However, Naked Singularity, a band comprised of Goddard Space Center employees, probably knows a bit more about our solar system than Bowie did. Though they did perform a rendition of The Byrd’s Spaceman at a NASA party, the group doesn’t just stick to covers of space-themed songs. After dividing up their time between quasars and quarter-notes, band members Maggie Masetti, Kevin Boyce, Rich Kelley, Rob Gersten, and Joe Nigro recently released Last Call, their first full-length album.
The genesis of Naked Singularity might be as difficult to pin down as the Big Bang. Lead vocalist Maggie explains:
“I was in a band that fell apart one band member at a time. When the drummer quit, I happened to run into an acquaintance, named Tali, who was looking to get back into drumming, so he started playing with us. Then the lead guitarist quit, and Tali said he had a friend who played guitar. So Rich joined us, and shortly after that, so did our friend Kevin, who had some sound equipment he wanted to experiment with.”
The band’s original bass player and Tali both left the group. After some membership flip-flopping that makes the Pete Best/Ringo Starr transition look tame, Kevin decided to take up bass, and Naked Singularity was joined by Rob on drums.
Even with the band members in equilibrium, it’s not easy to stay still. In fact, the life of a NASA-employed scientist can be just as nomadic as a touring musician’s.
“Sometimes I feel like I am in the NASA ‘Witness Protection Program’. I’m always moving,” says Joe. Working at Goddard has taken the band members to Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain, and throughout the United States. “I wish I could say the band is on an international tour, but this travel is mainly for work. At least I’m promoting Naked Singularity globally!”
When they’re not traveling, the group is based at the Goddard Space Center in Maryland. “I might be in the lab testing some spaceflight hardware or at the computer doing anything from emailing our Japanese colleagues, to writing code, to reading out data from our hardware” says Kevin.
But for all of their NASA-centric credentials, Naked Singularity keeps their music firmly grounded. “It's really hard to write about technical things and still maintain any kind of emotional connection,” Kevin reflects. “I know I've tried going that route and not liked how it ended up.”
Shoehorn, a song from Last Call that hints at this struggle between physics and feeling, begins with the line: “Drivin' back and forth, to my day job.” But it soon bursts into a more creative realm with its chorus: “One more song/One more happy scrap of an idea.” As Rich succinctly puts it, keeping the science at Goddard means “more emotion; more intensity!”
And, how do these songs make it from mind to album? “It did seem that the closer we got to finishing it, the quicker things went” asserts Rob. This seems to be the artistic equivalent of the “red shift” effect in astronomy: as the deadline approaches, time seems to condense.
Music and science converge for the members of Naked Singularity in more ways than one. “When I get to see some amazing places that Earth has to offer and better understand some of the issues we are facing, it serves as a source of inspiration. I think the music influences my job; it allows me to approach the tasks at hand in a more creative manner” says Joe.
So what’s next for Naked Singularity? If space is constantly expanding, does this mean their band will also? “We’re currently working on our second album, which we hope will be out in 2014,” Maggie says.
And if you’re really keen on a follow-up to Space Oddity, Maggie promises she might drive the band to produce more songs that speak to their work. “I’ve always liked songs that have astronomical themes! Maybe I need to give it a try!”
You can buy Naked Singularity's first album, Last Call, on Amazon mp3, iTunes, BandCamp, and CD Baby. Hard copies are available from band members or on CD Baby.