The Amygdaloids, an American rock band from New York City, are four New York University scientists: Joseph LeDoux, vocals and guitar, Tyler Volk, lead guitar and vocals, Nina Curley, Bass, and Daniela Schiller, drums. LeDoux is a professor of neuroscience and Volk a professor of biology. Curley is a graduate student and Schiller a postdoctoral researcher in cognitive neuroscience. Their name is a reference to the amygdala in the brain.
The band’s first gig was on November 1, 2006 when they formed to play a set in conjunction with a lecture given by LeDoux about his research on fear and the brain. They played a number of rock cover songs with mind and brain themes, including: Manic Depression, 19th Nervous Breakdown, and Mother’s Little Helper. But, in addition, they performed several original songs about mind and brain and mental disorders. With each gig during the following spring, they included more original material.
In May, 2007, they played to 10,000 people in Madison Square Garden for NYU’s College of Arts and Science graduation. The audience of students and their families did “the wave” during their set. The moment was captured on video by several parents and friends and posted on YouTube, which gave them a PR boost.
The Amygdaloids recorded their debut CD, Heavy Mental, at Axis Sound in New York (Jeff Peretz, producer; Steve Rossiter, engineer) in June 2007. The CD contained 8 original songs, 7 written by LeDoux and one by Volk. It was released in October 2007, around the same time as an article on LeDoux in Salon.Com called “Joseph LeDoux’s Heavy Mental” by acclaimed rock interviewer, Jonathan Cott, who did the last interview with John Lennon. The interview led to an invitation to play at the JF Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Since then the group has had a steady flow of invitations to play in NYC clubs and art venues and museums.
The Amygdaloids were offered a recording deal with Knock Out Noise, a music production company, and in June 2008 they did basic tracking for a new CD(producer/engineer, Stuart Chatwood; executive producer, Tim Sommer). A pre-release version of the CD called Brainstorm was issued in March 2009. It contains 17 songs, 14 by LeDoux and three by Volk. Grammy Award Winner Rosanne Cash sings duets with LeDoux on two of the songs, Mind Over Matter and Crime of Passion. The official release will be spring 2010 and will be called Theory of My Mind. It will include a 13th song, Theory of My Mind, that was written by LeDoux and featuring Simon Baron-Cohen, autism researcher from Cambridge UK on bass.
Rock-It Science Music Festival
On March 3, 2009, The Amygdaloids shared the stage with a star-studded cast of musicians for the Rock-It Science concert at the Highline Ballroom, New York, an event organized by LeDoux, Knock-Out Noise, and the Sensation and Emotion Network. Guest artists included Lenny Kaye (Patti Smith Band), Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), Rufus Wainwright, The Kennedys, Gary Lucas (Capitan Beefheart), Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate), Stuart Chatwood (The Tea Party), Peter Holsapple (The dBs, REM), among others. Other scientist musicians include Daniel Levitin (author of This Is Your Brain On Music, McGill neuropsychologist), Pardis Sabeti (Harvard Geneticist), and Dave Soldier (aka, David Sulzer, a Columbia Neuroscientist). At Rock-It Science, The Amygdaloids were joined by Maura Kennedy on vocals and Jeff Peretz (the producer of their first CD) on guitar.
Their unique profile, scientists who make music about their science, has garnered them much attention in the media. Though their songs are about mind and brain, they are rock songs with typical rock song themes about love and life.
- Heydarpour, Roja (2007-03-06), "A Band of Scientists Who Really Are a Band by Roja Heydarpour", The New York Times, retrieved March 6, 2007
- Cott, Jonathan; Rester, Karen, Joseph LeDoux's heavy mental, retrieved JUL 25, 2007
- Heavy mental, retrieved June, 2007
- Khamsi, Roxanne (16 April 2009), "Songs on the brain", Nature 458 (7240): 835–836, doi:10.1038/458835b