Chatting it up with Thought Police

Avid Khorramian and Tom Bonan

Our first interaction with Thought Police, a five-piece student rock band at the University composed of members all set to graduate in May, came from meeting some of the members through our work with Camus Vinyl. The process of writing this article – which hopes to piece together the unique history of the band and its progression over the years – was a great way to see some of these familiar faces in a new setting. 

As we waited for some members of the group in the library, we were unsure where this piece would eventually take us. Connor Small and Jake Perlmutter – who strutted in with a gregarious grin from ear to ear – entered first, but Andrew Kilman quickly followed in suit. Kilman, brimming with youthful optimism, walked over with his signature gait: a walk where he moves his neck back and forth, almost as if he’s constantly listening to some sort of funk tune or is part of a ’50s greaser gang.

This story of the band is one of those seminal coming-of-age narratives that is both inspirational and understates the importance of creative endeavors. It is a story of fraternal bond and friendship, hardship and triumph, but most importantly a story of dedication to a common goal.

Rhythm guitarist and vocalist Jake Perlmutter originally met Kilman, known for his killer vocal solos and wicked keyboard skills, after he quit the crew team his freshman year. Through a mutual friend and a common class, Perlmutter and Kilman met and began jamming together in their free time. During this period, the duo wrote many of the songs that were later featured on their debut EP “High Places and Hopeful Faces.”

During the summer of 2012, Kilman and Perlmutter went into the studio to record their first EP, using equipment owned by one of Perlmutter’s friends. Due to limited time and money, the duo recorded almost all of the songs in one or two takes, giving the extended play a fresh, edgy feel that one would expect from one of live shows. Between recording its album, the group performed off campus for the first time at a Jack Wills party at the Atria Hotel in Martha’s Vineyard.

The band’s big break came during one of Uptown’s classic “Pub Night” celebrations during the members’  sophomore year. There, the group – which now included bassist Sam Carey – was the headlining act. The band also brought in a “very young” Ryan Sindelar as drummer, completing the lineup of the original four.

Recalling the memory of the sophomore group working to get into a twenty-one and over event, Perlmutter chuckled.

“We had to wait in line to get in the door to our own gig and tell them we were the band playing,” Kilman said.

After negotiating their way in, they performed live as a band for the first time, getting a rocky start but setting the stage for a massive breakout into campus stardom. 

Through Kilman’s involvement with the a cappella group The Bison Chips – where he just concluded his acclaimed career as its leader – Small, a guitarist and vocalist who was also in the Chips, came into the picture. He jammed intermittently with Kilman during these critical early years, whether during acoustic sets at Seventh Street Café or off-the-radar sessions in Kilman’s mod, but remained more of a liminal figure.

Entering their junior year, the group members had no clue what direction their musical prowess was going to take them in. A highlight, or potentially lowlight, of first semester came in the form of Campus Vinyl’s Battle of the Bands competition. There, Thought Police was set to perform against Small’s band consisting of members of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. Small – who blew the crowd away with his improved ability to, as Kilman described it, “slay on the guitar” – won the competition, beating out his future bandmates. The loss was tough, but the group came out of it with a bit more exposure.

The spring semester saw Perlmutter studying abroad in Italy, leaving many wondering what would become of Thought Police in his absence. Kilman and Small formed a powerhouse R&B trio with Sindelar called the HMS Pinafore that served to fill the void in a different context. The trio played at an outdoor Saturday gig or two as well as Campus Vinyl’s Winter Jam event.

Meanwhile, to keep his spirits high, Perlmutter bought a cheap guitar and took to the Italian open mic scene, gelato shop hopping with local celebrity Attilio Gabrielli – known more commonly by his stage name Johnny Black. Upon Perlmutter’s return, HMS Pinafore remained as a side project of Kilman’s when the band finally got back together and started performing again.

Perlmutter lost no time upon his return to the states, scheduling a pivotal gig in August of 2014 at Garcia’s at the Capitol Theatre, a bar in the acclaimed Port Chester, N.Y. venue. There, the band members garnered enough momentum to propel them into their final year at the University. Also that summer, the group released their LP, “Ministry of Groove.”

Senior year was a period of consolidation and general improvement for the band. After they opened for the New York based group The Rooks in November at Campus Vinyl’s register, they consolidated HMS Pinafore and brought Small in as a lead guitarist. January 2015 solidified the progress, as the group was featured in a video exclusive performance at Relix Magazine the day before playing its second gig at Garcia’s—Small’s first legitimate performance with the band. Coasting off of their work over the summer, the band members performed strong with an intensity that was much more subtle than their other work in the past – an overture to an outstanding career as one of the preeminent student groups to come out of the University in recent memory.

As we packed up, we glanced up and saw Small and Perlmutter walking towards the exit – Kilman was still bopping around the library chatting up some ladies over by a few open computers. The interesting thing about their presence is you don’t really notice how much space and attention they can command until they are gone – only then do you fully appreciate the dynamic that they can bring to the table. As each member prepares to find a job and construct a life for himself beyond campus, no one seems too worried about the future. Their story is one of fluidity and casual acceptance of the mercurial nature of being musicians. Only time will tell whether Aristophanes answers their call to action, but it’s clear to all that, like CSN&Y, these guys are about to take it over.

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