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April 03, 2007

Law School Rocks! ... For These Folks

By Tim Harrington

What sets the University of Michigan Law School apart, other than our status as officially cool —at least cooler than Boalt Hall– in the www.abovethelaw.com March Madness tournament? Well, for one thing, we have a rock band: T.J. Hooper and the Learned Hands. Yes, we’re not just musical, we’re funny too! According to band member and 1L Jennifer Pepin, that’s a much wittier name than The 2nd Restatement of Rock, the band hailing from George Washington University’s Law School. Oh, they also have a website: www.carrolltowing.com. Detect a theme here?

I sat down with Pepin on a bench in the sunny Law Quad, and she explained that the band consists of four, five, or maybe six core members, but added that there was a fluidity to the composition of the group. A complete list can be found in their Facebook group. She mentioned in particular the founder, Andrew Moll, on guitar; Dave Lupton-Laurence—“or Laurence-Lupton, I can’t remember,” on bass guitar; Adam Dubinsky, on ukulele; and herself on cornet—it’s “like the trumpet but louder.”

Pepin reports that she’s played the cornet for fewer than two months but that the twelve-year old upright bass player she jams with on Wednesday nights has said that she’s better than all the eighth graders in the Slauson Middle School band. Other core members of the group include Dave Alles on Emo guitar, who can play any Top-40 song from the last 20 years, and “this guy named Paul—he’s tall—who plays bass.”

The band’s influences include Andrew W. K. and Rick Springfield. Pepin insisted that she didn’t list Andrew W. K. in order to kiss Professor Krier’s @ss. She said they really all did enjoy his music, as well as the new Modest Mouse, which they “all happen to be listening to right now.” The Rick Springfield influence apparently is more subconscious. The band worked on a song written by Andrew Moll called “I Wanna Be Mao,” an ironic appreciation of the merits of dictatorship, that sounded just like “Jessie’s Girl.” After discovering the similarity the band decided to rework their musical homage to the late Chinese leader. As for other songs, Pepin reported that they are currently trying to craft another original that is so awesome that the law school just isn’t ready for it right now.

T.J. Hooper and the Learned Hands haven’t played any gigs yet, but they did earn $6 busking outside Sweetwaters, where they played the “talking blues”—blues with spoken vocals. The band taught the Erie Doctrine to passersby, and a local lawyer gave them $2 (cheap bastard). Pepin reports that the band doesn’t feel ready to play a gig yet, but that word has gotten out of their existence. Members of the School of Social Work and the School of Urban Planning have approached them to ask about playing at a fundraiser.

For the record, I am in Pepin’s Jurisdiction class, and I fully intend to review for our exam with the entire band…what better way to study?

For now, they are practicing hard when they can get together, despite various obstacles, including getting kicked out of the Lawyer’s Club Lounge for being too loud, but mostly…law school. Ironic, isn’t it? The very thing that brought them together is the same thing that threatens to drive them apart. Despite their struggle to “gel,” Pepin is hopeful. With the exception of the incomparable Duby, all members of the band are returning next year, and Pepin is excited about the class of 2010—she’s been “putting the pressure” on Dean Zearfoss to admit a drummer.

The band has looked for a drummer in the past but doesn’t have one at the moment. Pepin met some promising candidates during the two preview weekends last month, including one who had toured with the Pixies (in what capacity it was unclear). While none was a drummer, there were several “kids who knew a thing or two about rockin’.”

As the semester comes to a close, we probably won’t see much of the Learned Hands—or is the appropriate abbreviation the T.J.’s?—but we will at least know a little more about the talented and—occasionally—intriguingly enigmatic people with whom we go to school. After all, these rockers are still law students. True to form, Pepin ended the interview by saying she needed to go “ogle” some Federal judges in room 218 and get some breakfast (at 11:45 a.m.). “Do you think they wear robes all the time?” she asked. “I’d wear mine to the grocery store, …I look good in black.”