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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, April 15, 2024

Couch connects with students on Tisch Roof in Coffeehouse series

The band’s warmth, kindness and silliness came to the forefront.

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Zach Blankstein, Tema Siegel and Eric Tarlin of Couch are pictured on Oct. 19.

On a weekday evening in the heart of midterms, music on Tisch Roof brightened campus. Student big band Freshman 15 drew in students and passersby with their loud, brassy sound, before a portion of Boston-based band Couch brought a relaxed and comfortable vibe fitting for TUSC’s Coffeehouse series.

Made up of seven members, Couch infuses pop with funk, rock and R&B/soul. Lead vocalist Tema Siegel, guitarist Zach Blankstein and saxophonist Eric Tarlin performed on the roof of Tisch Library on Thursday. While the band impressed students with musical excellence not often heard at Tisch, their ability to connect with the community proved to be their greatest achievement. Despite playing to a crowded audience, they were down to earth and bonded with students. Many Tufts musicians stayed after their performance and asked for advice while other students just wanted to say how much they enjoyed the show. 

An hour before their set, the Daily met with Siegel, Blankstein and Tarlin at their “green room” in a Tisch Library study room to talk all things Couch. 

“Sunshower,” Couch’s second EP set to release Nov. 3, will present a maturation of the band.

“This past year, a lot of us graduated, and obviously the pandemic happened,” Siegel said. “We let that show in our music. It's a little bit more complex and dynamic, [and] there's more struggle in addition to the optimism. To us, ‘Sunshower,’ the idea of it being sunny out while it's raining, kind of encompasses that complexity.

“Musically, this project steps out in a few different directions,” Tarlin said. “We're kind of stretching our musical limbs, figuring out what we’re capable of with the seven members of Couch and experimenting, [and we’re] still trying to find the sounds that excite us the most,” Tarlin added. 

A second single from the EP, “(I Wanted) Summer with You,” will be released Friday. 

Due to attending different universities and the lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic, Couch wrote and recorded virtually for three years. For Tarlin, songwriting virtually had some unforeseen creative benefits. 

“I'm someone who likes to really sit with ideas, stew over them,” Tarlin said. “I feel that way for a lot of songwriting. I like to just let [ideas] sit and percolate in my mind. Writing long-distance gave me the flexibility to think for 15 minutes before responding to an idea … whereas in person, there are a lot of ideas bouncing around. You have to be coming up with your ideas quickly, or they might never see the light of day and be heard by your bandmates.” 

Of course, Couch prefers rehearsing and touring together in-person, which also offers benefits during the songwriting process.

“It’s ultimately good that [writing together in-person means] more opinions are always being checked by each other,” Tarlin said. “I think both ways are great. Sometimes if there's a really strong vision that someone might have, they wouldn't have the chance to flesh it out as much if we're working in a more collaborative way.”

Performing as a trio calls back to Couch’s roots.

“This is actually more similar to the format that the first few Couch shows occurred in … Back in 2019, [Zach and Tema] did a few shows, just the two of them, guitar and vocals,” Tarlin said. “We're breaking out some of the covers that we used to do back in the day, [and] most people won't get to hear that. So, we're excited to share some different music than what we'll be playing on this tour.

Playing with no stage on Tisch Roof allowed Couch to let loose and focus on the moment.

“That's all part of this type of gig, you know, we're right there on the same level as the audience,” Tarlin said. “We're sharing an experience with them. We want it to be somewhat spontaneous.”

Students who saw Siegel’s relaxed and cheerful attitude during the performance might be surprised to know she used to struggle with stage fright. 

“I used to get really nervous before shows when we first started touring and it impacted my confidence on stage. It impacted my voice, I would feel constricted in my throat and short of breath,” Siegel said. “I'm now a lot more confident.”

For aspiring musicians, Couch recommended treating a band with the same effort as a career, job or internship. Siegel additionally advocated for Blankstein’s outlook on creation as something that inspired her. 

“If there's something that could be cool and compelling that you've never seen someone else do, just go do it really well before someone else,” Blankstein advised.

Throughout their show, Couch’s warmth, kindness and — above all else — silliness came to the forefront. The fun that Couch has with each other and with their audience allowed a break from midterms through a successful night of relaxing and stress-free music.