Graham Straus is a junior at Brown, singer and guitarist for his band Test Tube, and creator of food time capsules. Last week, Blog was lucky enough to snag an interview with this punk aficionado and potential puppeteer. Read on to find out exactly what Graham’s deal is!
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How you are involved with punk here at Brown?
I have a band called Test Tube. Test Tube is myself and my friend Nate Umbanhowar, who I’ve known since high school. He and I grew up in Evanston, Illinois together and we played music casually. Neither of us really did the punk thing before college. But this past October for Gigs on the Grass we started playing music with Isaac Davis and then later James Wentz. And Isaac and James are not from Evanston, they’re seniors. But they are in the band.
What’s your role in the band?
I play guitar and sing. But I think that’s my only involvement in the punk scene. I am a bit of a punk myself, though.
So you said the band started with your friend from high school. So, how long ago?
We didn’t start in high school but I’ve known Nate since sophomore year of high school. But the love that undergirds the band began in high school.
So how did you guys get the band together?
I auditioned for Gigs on the Grass. The class board hosts that on Wriston with Brown Concert Agency. I auditioned alone under the name Cheese Puffs just with an acoustic guitar. And they said I could play, and I was like I don’t want to play alone with the name Cheese Puffs, so I got Nate and Isaac. Isaac played drums and Nate played guitar. And Nate and I were waiting to shoot the little promo video that Class Board had us shoot and we were like we need a new band name, what should it be, and we realized we did science together in high school — we were lab partners for three years. So we called it Test Tube. And we’re trying new things in the band, not just punk.
What kind of music are you guys trying?
We like reggae, more standard rock n’ roll, we like jazz, all kinds of stuff.
What are some of the songs you usually perform?
One of our best songs is called “England is Too Small,” which is an original. We also cover a band called the Replacements, originally from Minneapolis in the 80s.
What does punk really mean?
Punk really means getting mostly vegetables at the grocery store and studying science and being good to your family and doing good in the world. That’s what punk really is.
We were told that you are involved with some experiments with rotting vegetables. Could you explain a little about that?
Last year I took a bunch of stuff — in one of these jars, I put Dayquil and wasabi peas and shaving cream and it went from orange, the color of Dayquil, to this almost wasabi color, this really dirty green. And it’s a time capsule. So after the nuclear apocalypse, people will be able to know what products we used during our time.
And are you still doing that?
They’re in my room — all eight of them, the time capsules. But I am not creating any more of them. The series is complete.
Pepperoni pizza and an egg in one of Graham’s time capsules
Are there any other areas you’re involved with on campus besides the band?
I coach and coordinate for the Rhode Island Urban Debate League. This year I am a coordinator, like Alex Vidmar, who was profiled in this section. We coach in up to fourteen high schools in Providence and run monthly tournaments for policy debaters. I’m involved with that and I study math and political science when I’m in class during the day and I did Safewalk. I’m in a puppet show right now too, that Sock & Buskin is doing. It’s called bunraku puppetry, and I’m very bad at it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Images via Graham Straus ’19.