It isn’t rare to see musicians giving back. Many current artists have charities, hold benefit concerts, and give to any number of other organizations. It is rare though, to see a band whose entire purpose is to raise awareness and money for a cause. That is exactly what N.E.D. does.
N.E.D., which stands for “No Evidence of Disease,” is a band made up of six gynecologic oncologists from all over the country. The six full-time doctors come together from Alaska to New York and everywhere in between to record, rehearse, and perform. All this in addition to their time consuming careers spent treating diseases that affect over 90,000 women and result in 30,000 deaths every year. Their core motivation for playing music comes from the cancers they all treat - and the lack of attention it receives.
Breast cancer in women has often captured the attention of Americans, but the cancers that these doctors treat often go un-noticed. Lead singer and rhythm guitar player John Boggess put it sharply: “Breast cancer overwhelms almost every other effort and the cancers that we treat often times have a much, much worse prognosis. There are much fewer resources for those women, and there are not resources being channeled to gynecologic cancer in the way that they are for breast cancer.” This is where their drive comes from, and it is a big enough cause to bring the six together from all corners of the country.
N.E.D. began so informally that the band’s first gig at a medical conference was also the first time they all met. After just one performance though the musical chemistry was obvious, and a friend of the band suggested that they become what Boggess describes as a “focal point for an awareness movement.” Now three years later their debut full-length album Six Degrees is out and the one off cover band has become a full-on touring act.
While the band’s purpose is noble, it would all be for naught if the music wasn’t as strong as it is. Six Degrees, a title referring to the six distinct personalities of the band members, is a rock album cut from the days of classic rock to modern pop music. Each member brings a different style to the writing process, and they have worked together to form a truly diverse sound “Everybody in the band contributes to the music”, said Boggess, “there isn’t a defined person who dictates what we write and what we don’t write.”
That sound is anchored by a solid rhythm section and bluesy lead guitar while much of the musical intrigue comes from the work of John Soper who often adds the flavor to each piece through the mandolin and slide guitar. The two vocalists, John Boggess and Joanie Hope, each have a unique tone with John providing the pop balance to Joanie’s husky, homey folk tone. A band with a focus on women’s cancer deserves a strong female lead, and Joanie provides that with her strong vocals and her background as the only Alaskan surgeon in her field.
While the music remains fresh throughout, it is the lyrics where the connection between the band’s message and music becomes clear. “As doctors we found we could write about things that were general but were informed by experiences that most people don’t have,” says Boggess. While the band treads on well worn ground by singing about relationships, beauty, and loss, there is a specific poignancy that comes through from the experiences that they have each had. “We try to keep the songs very positive and upbeat,” says Boggess, and throughout the album that is certainly the case. it is through that positivity that the band offers the hope that it is possible to survive the tragic events that can unfold in cancer treatment.
With careers in the medical field and such a gulf of geographic separation, one would think that the band is content to stay where they are. That simply isn’t the case, as N.E.D. hopes to see its fan base grow as a “lightning rod for awareness” that provides both money for research and attention for ob/gyn cancers that they treat every day. It is a lofty goal, but their story is one that will inspire others to give back in ways that they never thought possible.
If enough people get to hear this band, then they may be able alter the landscape of the medical world for the good of their patients. Let’s hope that’s the case!