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Tiny desk win could mean big break for local band Midnight Breakfast

Midnight Breakfast is a funk and soul-influenced band that’s been making waves in the local music scene. The group consists of vocalist Jennifer Shevlin-Fernandes, guitarist Matthew Donovan, percussionist Reggie Kollman, saxophonist Loren Pinkham and pianist Benjamin Flanagan. Originally covering contemporary pop, rock and R&B works, they’ve transitioned into creating their own arrangements while working the University of Maine’s bar scene. 

Their most recent move, however, could be one of their biggest. The band submitted one of their songs, “Bittersweet” in a competition to be featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series. 

The series, which takes established musical artists and jams them in between cluttered desks and bookshelves at NPR headquarters to perform their hits, is opening up the platform to public submissions. NPR will crown a winner later this spring season, promising a spot in the limelight and eventually tour dates. This might be the big break Midnight Breakfast is looking for, and could help push their careers to new heights. 

“If things take off we’ll go with them,” Shevlin-Fernandes said. “[ We’re] having fun and sharing with the world something that we love in a way that doesn’t feel forced or unnatural.”

“[The band] has become something greater than the sum of its parts,” Donovan said of watching the growth of the band’s music and influence. 

As for their submission in the Tiny Desk Concert competition, Midnight Breakfast recorded “Bittersweet,” an original tune, on the UMaine campus. The song, like many others written by the band, was a collaborative effort and selected for entry based on its unique composition, as it doesn’t follow any prescribed lyrical format. For the filming of the performance, they chose a location that held special significance to the band members.

“Room 107 in 1944 Hall was such a great spot because we’ve all sat in there [for classes] so we were familiar with the space,” Shevlin-Fernandes said. Donovan joked that one of the contest’s stipulations is that there must be a desk in the shot and that by performing in a room full of desks they’ve got a one-up on the competition. 

“It’s always interesting to see what the artists will bring to the space,” the band members said, noting that some of their favorite Tiny Desk Concerts so far have been Anderson Paak, Hozier and Rex Orange County. 

The band also plans to add more of their own recordings to their YouTube channel in the near future.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the band at what seems to be a transitory period, as they had planned on hitting the studio during this time.

“Maybe it’s the universe saying I should stay in Maine for a bit longer,” Donovan said. “I’m gonna make as much music as I can in the meantime.” 

Donovan had been preparing to move to New York to pursue a music career upon his graduation this May. 

They also discussed how the quarantine has taken away a lot of the steam the group has been building, resulting in the cancellation of a show at Woodman’s, among the loss of opportunities the group had been exploring for summer gigs. All hurdles aside, the members of Midnight Breakfast seemed optimistic about reuniting and pushing forward with live shows this coming fall. 


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