Following up on their critically acclaimed debut-EP from 2009, N.E.D. releases their first full-length recording, Six Degrees, on June 21, 2011. Produced by Mario McNulty, the cd showcases a number of musical styles, including driving electric rock heavy on guitars and hard-hitting rhythms, to a more acoustic bluegrass-inflected sound with subtle shades of mandolin, to R & B with funky bass lines and sizzling electric guitar grooves. With the addition of strings on several songs, the overall unique musicality of N.E.D. comes together.
The band's acronym N.E.D., which stands for No Evidence of Disease, introduces a deeper, more substantive influence on the band's music, for each of the six band members are also practicing gynecologic oncologists. As physicians, they treat diseases that affect some 90,000 women each year and that result in 30,000 deaths annually. Six Degrees simultaneously solidifies the band's musicianship (Oregon Music News says N.E.D. would "certainly make it as musicians and songwriters full-time, if that was what they wanted") while bringing them to the forefront of an awareness movement that is seeking to break through a wall of silence surrounding gynecologic cancer.
Writing about the band's self-titled introductory EP, All Music Guide praised the release by stating: "One can support their cause and their music…this EP never feels like the quality of the music is taking a backseat to the importance of the cause…N.E.D.'s music is consistently pleasing." Six Degrees offers up a more refined creative vision for the band that builds upon the solid foundations of the EP.
Six Degrees is an album full of sublime adult-oriented rock, showcasing evocative lyrics that shed a light on some of life's toughest issues and themes. The poignant ballad "Good Enough" tells the story of a man finding the strength to survive after his wife leaves him; the infectious and inspirational "Celestial Visions" reverberates with life, the energy and potential everyone has to bring to it, and the sobering way in which life continues its relentless journey after we are gone; "Nevermind" is driven by rapid-fire lead guitar and forceful lyricism about being able to let go of angst and refusing to let troubles become paralyzing; "Let the Singing Begin" is a salute to the indomitable spirit of the women these musician-physicians treat. "Running in Circles" (which is the first single off the album) is about survival and the internal world we possess that allows us to cope and thrive, even in the face of threats beyond our control.
Originally brought together for the first time to play for a medical conference in 2008, the six members of the band discovered that what started out as a side project might just represent an opportunity to do something unique, original and outside of the box. As each member of N.E.D. had previously been in bands, the members didn't take long to find a sound that fans of U2, Alison Kraus and Union Station, and Natalie Merchant would find appealing. Band members include John Boggess (Chapel Hill, NC), lead vocals and guitar; Joanie Hope (Anchorage, AK), lead vocals; Will Winter (Portland, OR), lead guitar and backing vocals; John Soper (Chapel Hill, NC), mandolin, rhythm and slide guitar; Nimesh Nagarsheth (New York City), drums and percussion; and Rusty Robinson (New Orleans, LA), bass.
Nagarsheth and Robinson combine to form solid, forceful rhythms that anchor the music, with Soper providing strong supporting work, be it with the mandolin or guitar, often introducing shades of Americana into the mix. Winter's guitar work is exceptional, providing distorted, overdriven riffs as well as powerful grooves that resolve into and out of skillfully placed solo work. On vocals, Hope demonstrates formidable range, with a sound that is part Natalie Merchant and part Annie Lenox. With his vocals, Boggess brings a powerful voice to the mix that helps to drive songs along in a way that would edgy in its delivery but for the material found in the band's music. Viewed as a whole, N.E.D. harnesses considerable talent at the individual level to raise Six Degrees to the place where the band can tackle material that is as challenging as it is uplifting. N.E.D. plays as a cohesive unit and remarkably avoids the pitfalls of bringing together six artistic individuals which might have resulted in a disjointed collection of subjective songwriting.
The band has previously been featured in newspapers across the country, radio interviews, and has been spotlighted on the Lifetime Channel and thinkMTV.com. Currently, Spark Media Group of Washington, D.C., is filming a feature-length documentary about the band titled Dancing with N.E.D. The film charts the dual careers of these musician-surgeons, from operating rooms to music halls, from conversations with fans of their music to consultations with their patients.
On a deeper level, Dancing with N.E.D. is fundamentally about the women who are diagnosed with gynecologic cancer and the life-altering effects of the disease, including the prospect of dying before having children or having to choose their life over having children. Of those fortunate enough to have children, many will die before having the opportunity to see them grow up. The documentary, set to be completed in November, 2011, depicts the heart-wrenching journeys of these women through sadness, anger, fear and hope, all the while having both their physical endurance and emotional courage tested to the limits.
In a final overlap between their music and fascinating backstory, N.E.D. is officially part a non-profit foundation in Portland, OR, called Marjie's Fund, which is named after a Portland artist and musician who died of uterine cancer in 2007. The fund is committed to raising awareness about gynecologic cancers and providing monies for research in this area. All proceeds from the bands' endeavors go directly to the fund.
Ultimately, the story of N.E.D. is the tale of the dual lives of six individuals who seek to bring well-being and hope to their patients while collectively writing music that expresses the toughest challenges universally faced by everyone. Fortunately, for patients and fans alike, it is a dual-role N.E.D. pulls off exceptionally well.