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Singing Scientists

Scientists by day, pop stars by night

News Editor Drishti Kataria introduces you to the Untidy Naked Dilemma — a band of Western's top researchers who play at venues such as the Grad Club and the Ceeps.

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Do you ever wonder what super smart scientists do with their free time, if they get free time? For six scientists at Western's Brain and Mind Institute and a Western psychiatrist, they jam out as members of Untidy Naked Dilemma.

The band's organizer, Adrian Owen, is a world-renowned expert on consciousness in vegetative patients by day and Untidy Naked Dilemma's lead vocalist and a guitarist by night. He's loved singing and playing the guitar since he picked one up 24 years ago.

“I really love doing something else with my scientific colleagues that isn’t science, and the idea that we get out on stage and play in a band is great fun," Owen said. "We have a tremendous camaraderie between us.”

For Owen, performing is second-nature. After Owen moved to London from Cambridge in 2011, he'd been a part of a band for 15 years and decided to keep the tradition going — despite also running Western's Owen Lab, acting is a Canada Excellence Research Chair and working as a principal researcher involved with the University's BrainsCAN project, which recently received the biggest research grant in the University's history — $66 million. 

But besides Owen, the band doesn't lack star power: there's his wife, cognitive neuroscientist and Grahn lab director, Jessica Grahn, on electric cello and key board; neuroscience PhD candidate, Dan Cameron, on drums; three postdoctoral neuroscience researchers: Conor Wild on bass, Molly Henry on vocals and Alex Billig on keyboard; and Western psychiatrist, Hooman Ganjavi, rounding out the group as its lead guitarist. Together, they practice once a month as Untidy Naked Dilemma.

And if you're wondering, the band's name is the result of a random band name generator followed by a democratic process of elimination.

“When I came here to work at the Brain and Mind Institute, other people played instruments and they were talking about starting a band, and it was this awesome opportunity to get back into playing just for fun,” said Wild, who slightly trumps Owen's musical record — he's played the bass for 25 years. 

So far, the group's a hit, according to Marc Lalonde, manager of the Grad Club.

“If you have a chance to go to watch them, I guarantee you’ll have a great time," Lalonde said. "The music selection is great; Owen always puts on a great show. He even recalls a time the band performed "Thriller" by Michael Jackson. The performance was accompanied by dancers in the crowd that got up and did the entire dance.

Lalonde also doesn't mind that the band is great for business. According to him, the musician-scientists bring in a big crowd.

“It’s a great show, a lot of fun, there’s dancing and everyone is having a great time,” he said.

While the band mainly performs at the Grad Club, they have also done shows at pool parties, St. Regis Tavern, done outside gigs and were scheduled to play at the Ceeps on Sept. 30 before they were forced to cancel due to their travelling drummer.

“I really like the experience of achieving something with another group of individuals,"  Owen said. "It's reasonably challenging, going out on stage trying to pull off a gig, getting all the songs right, playing with other people; it’s quite a challenge and I really enjoy that challenge."

Untidy Naked Dilemma performs four times a year playing covers of 80s pop artists, like David Bowie, The Smiths, Queen, Bruce Springsteen or even modern musicians inspired by 80s pop.

Their next performance will be a Christmas gig at the Grad Club. Owen suggests following his twitter, @Comadork, for updates on future band performances.


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