Student band celebrates free expression, individuality

Naked Lunch Music hopes to start playing local gigs, such as at The Palms restaurant, this year


Haley Stern, ’20, and Eric Schleicher, ’21, practice playing guitar together. Photo by Kaelan McCabe, ’21.

Kaelan McCabe

He plugs his electric guitar into the amplifier, strumming freely to check the tune of the instrument. She grabs a sweater and her acoustic guitar and settles into the couch. Above them hangs their first acoustic, depicting an original design of the band’s name. The burning candle scent clings on to the October breeze as it blows through the open porch door. It has been almost a year since she started writing original music. And now she sings “Child of the 21st Century,” the title track of their first album.

Haley Stern, ’20 and Eric Schleicher, ’21 formed Naked Lunch Music after crossing paths and sharing their love for music in the fall of 2017.

Schleicher said he started playing guitar at the age of 10 or 11. He said he played in a few bands in high school for fun but was never serious with music until he met Stern.

“We met and we found out each other played music and naturally, since we are together, we decided to play,” he said. “It’s turned into now what we want to do with our lives.”

Stern and Schleicher said their music inspires, and is inspired by, the idea of young adults coming together to celebrate their right to have autonomy over their lives.

“Us as individuals, and also as our generation, can do whatever we want to do,” Stern said. “Our futures are decided by us and whatever is inspiring to us.”

The inspiration for the band and its name comes in part from Visiting Associate Professor of English Gordon Ball’s course, Literature of the Beat Generation, which Stern and Schleicher took together in the fall of 2017. The beat generation represents a revolutionary time period of counterculture, a theme which Naked Lunch reflects.

“We are both very inspired by the music of, in particular, the ‘60s and ‘70s, and kind of that counterculture,” Schleicher said. “It was more than just the music. It really represented a movement and coming together of people. And I think, you know, we kind of want that to an extent too.”

The band’s namesake is a book by William Burroughs, an author from the beat generation.

“It was written back in the ‘50s and it was really new and weird for the day,” Schleicher said. “It was really dark and kind of dystopian, but also pretty cool and [the name] sounded catchy.”

Naked Lunch said they hope their music provides a form of expression for younger generations, especially in a society where older generations have control.

“We’re not just writing, you know, like hippy-dippy-sound-good stuff,” Schleicher said. “There is substance to it, and I think the idea is we want to contribute to having music be a platform by which people, but especially our generation, connect because there’s a lot of stuff that’s going on that needs a collectivized voice.”

Stern and Schleicher said that through Naked Lunch, they have discovered themselves as individuals. Neither Stern, a geology and environmental studies double major and education minor, nor Schleicher, an economics major and environmental studies minor, anticipated that they would follow careers in music when they began college.

“I think there’s been mental shifts for us both for, you know, just breaking down the barrier of accepting the idea that we want to go against the grain,” Schleicher said. “We want to do things that are not going to be the typical, standard path.”

Considering the social dynamic on campus, where the majority of students are involved in Greek life, Stern echoed the same sentiment of finding comfort in straying from the norm.

“I think there was a long time where I was really caught up in the social structure and really hurt by it and really lonely,” Stern said. “But I think ultimately as time has passed we kind of just found our way…I think we are the perfect example of going against the grain.”

Stern and Schleicher’s living room is covered wall-to-wall by Stern’s original artwork. As she put it, “Naked Lunch Art” shares the same themes as the music.

Over Reading Days, the couple visited New York and tried to sell some of Stern’s artwork in Central Park. They made no sales but they plan to try again in February in Washington Square Park.

Naked Lunch plays consistently at Friday Underground. This year, they hope to start playing at The Palms.

Looking to the future, the band said they hope to add a few members, especially a drummer and another guitarist. Currently, Stern plays guitar, sings and writes music. Schleicher plays guitar, bass, piano and drums.

After they have both graduated, Stern and Schleicher have their eyes set on New York.

“We have some large goals like recording in New York City,” Stern started, looking to Schleicher.

“But the way we view it is if other people can do it, then we should be able to also,” Schleicher added, finishing Stern’s sentence. “And I really believe in it.”

For sneak peeks of Naked Lunch Music, follow them on Instagram @nakedlunchmusic.