N.E.D.is a phrase that holds profound importance for individuals dealing with cancer. Short for "no evidence of disease," this medical term often signifies the difference between life or death, fear or hope, celebration or resignation. Thanks to an unlikely band of performers by the same name, N.E.D. is becoming a more widely known term, even among those unaffected by cancer.
N.E.D. was formed during a spur-of-the-moment jam session at a medical conference in 2008. When the scheduled entertainment for the night fell through, six musically inclined oncologists stepped up to perform.
"We were really pleasantly surprised by what a great time we had," says Dr. William "Rusty" Robinson, the band's bassist and a faculty member at Tulane University School of Medicine. "We found playing together to be a great release from the daily stresses and responsibilities of work, and it's evolved into a passion project that we've been fortunate enough to align with awareness."
N.E.D. also consists of Drs. Joanie Hope, John Soper, Nimesh Nagarsheth, John Boggess and Will Winter, and they're all based in different areas of the country. After steadily amassing a following, the band released an album last summer titled Six Degrees (a nod to their six respective medical degrees), collaborating with Mario McNulty, a producer who has worked with artists ranging from Philip Glass to David Bowie. A documentary about the group, Dancing With N.E.D., will be released by Spark Media in 2012.
Band members take their dual careers very seriously. It can be a challenge to balance demanding day jobs with their commitment to music, they say. "Because of our varying schedules, we have to plan things extremely far in advance, which unfortunately also means we have to turn down a lot of opportunities for shows and tours," Robinson says.
The ensemble is wary of being pigeonholed as a novelty act. The group works diligently to create a compelling blend of rock, R&B and acoustic bluegrass, a sound that has made fans of artists like Alison Krauss and Union Station take notice. "We want to be a band that happens to be comprised of physicians," says Winter, the band's guitarist. "Our intent is to draw people in initially with our music, which will then hopefully attract them to our cause."
The cause is dear to each of the band members' hearts: raising money for and awareness about all forms of gynecological cancer, which receives less than 1 percent of the funding that goes toward breast cancer research. "There's a stigma associated with vaginal cancers that makes people nervous and uncomfortable to talk about them," Robinson says. The band's motto is "Breast cancer has pink ribbons, but gynecological cancer has a rock band."
N.E.D. performs at 7 p.m. at Southport Hall (200 Monticello Ave., 835-2903; www.newsouthport.com) Saturday, Jan. 14. The show benefits Tulane Cancer Center's Gynecologic Cancer Research Fund HPV Vaccine Program, as well as the N.E.D. Fund at the Foundation for Women's Cancer. The band hopes to educate people about the dangers of the human papillomavirus, particularly among young adults.
"Ten years ago people didn't even know what HPV was, and the fact of the matter is that it is truly a sexually transmitted cancer," Robinson says. "I believe its prevention is so important that the vaccine should be administered to both boys and girls as a school requirement."
"The Susan G. Komen Foundation's grassroots efforts have created an iconic and successful breast cancer movement," says Boggess, guitarist and vocalist. "We hope to have a similar effect in our efforts to create awareness in a way that makes it a bit more palatable to discuss, and [serves as] a springboard to breaking down walls."
N.E.D. is excited to finally be perform in Robinson's hometown. "You can't call yourself a band if you haven't played in New Orleans," Winters says. "It's unquestionably one of the most musical cities on Earth."