Naveed Stone’s band, In Loving Memory, continues to grow in popularity, but not without struggles for Stone, as a Bengali-American. Below he shares his experiences, which can be read in full here.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Naveed Stone. I grew up right here in Queens, New York. I go to Stony Brook University in Long Island. I’m in my junior year right now. I’m an engineering science major with a mechanical specialization.
What is In Loving Memory?
In Loving Memory originally started out as a solo project. I was writing a bunch of songs when I was around 16 years old, and I was like, “You know what? I have the means to record these songs, so why not?”
When I started the project I was just making vocal covers on YouTube trying to get myself out there, waiting for the right musicians to turn my project into a full band. Oddly enough, a few guys found me on YouTube in the summer of 2014 and they are currently my bandmates: Thomas Diognardi, Jon Conway and Vito Racanelli.
When did you start pursuing your music career and why?
Throughout my high school years I was just sort of making music and figuring out how to do it. It was definitely a budding passion I had, but it didn’t really occur to me that I could legitimately start pursuing it as a career until In Loving Memory became a full band in October 2014.
What challenges have you faced surrounding your music?
I guess I’ll start with family because my biggest struggle is definitely being a Bengali American coming from a traditional South Asian background. My parents immigrated here with the expectations of, “Oh, you know, my son is going to become a doctor, an engineer, whatever the case may be, I’m going to make sure he pursues his education, pursues a lifestyle of stability and security.” Because that’s what our culture places such high value on, and here I am trying to pursue a lifestyle of being a musician, which is the exact opposite of stability.
Being a musician, you have to be ready to spend years pursuing your dream. You have to be ready to not have security. You have to be ready to live your entire life being spontaneous, and I guess because I grew up with that more traditional mindset, it’s hard for me to really adapt into such a different lifestyle. Now I’m at a point in my life where I’m investing so much in my academics but also my band; I’m sort of in the middle of those two extremes. I’m in the middle of wanting that stable lifestyle with security and also in the middle of wanting that reckless, youthful life of excitement.
I’ve always taken my academics very seriously. I went to Stuyvesant High School, the number one public high school in New York City. So naturally I went through most of my life thinking, “Yeah, I’m going to take my education all the way. Why not?” To suddenly start having to shift gears and think, “Hmm, maybe I’m really going to take this dream that I have and actually go for it,” can be hard.
There have been shows that my band has played where I’m studying in the car ride for a test that I have the next day. One time I remember playing a show in Brooklyn and I wasn’t even watching the other bands play. I was sitting at the bar in the venue studying while other bands were playing. It can get stressful but I feel like because of the way I was raised, obviously I do value my education. It’s an ongoing struggle, but I try to get a better grip on it every day.
What do you think about being a person of color in a predominantly white industry?
It can definitely be discouraging at times because it’s no secret that image is a huge part of what can make or break a band or anybody in the entertainment industry. I feel like it’s something that’s definitely not limited to music but the entertainment industry in general. That’s why I take a big influence from entertainers such as Aziz Ansari and YouTubers such as Karim Metwaly from Are We Famous Now, and FouseyTube. All these great actors and entertainers who are representing different demographics and different ethnicities show that it doesn’t have to be that way. I feel like, slowly, our society is progressing towards that point where not every entertainment industry has to be white-dominated. I can only hope that by me pursuing music and trying to be the front man for a rock band, it can definitely open some eyes too.
Why do you think there is a lack of diversity in this music scene?
From my own experience, I know I’ve grown up with so many kids from different backgrounds, and what they usually have in common is that first generation Americans are raised by parents who limit their mindset in terms of what they can do with their lives. They tell their kids from an early age, “You’re not meant to do this.” With me especially, since day one, my parents have said, “You can’t do this. Why are you trying to pursue music? Only rich people can make it. Only white people can make it. Only good looking people can make it.” It’s very discouraging to hear things like that from my own parents, but at the same time I can’t blame them for thinking that way because that’s what their culture taught them.
Our parents have all these cultural values and expectations and that’s cool and all, but a lot of it just doesn’t apply when you’re raising an American child… in America! That’s what I feel causes that disconnect between many first generation Americans and their parents. That’s why, for most of my life, I only thought of music as a hobby. That’s all it could ever be, and that’s probably what so many other kids like me grow up thinking and hence, never even try to pursue it, but that’s a big reason why I want to be the first Bengali-American to really put my face out there in the music industry. If I can make it through this struggle and see the other side of it, I’ll be in a position where I can show kids that this can be done before their parents tell them that it can’t.
What do you think we can do about it?
I think the most important thing to really bring about any kind of social change, granted the struggles of a first generation American are not necessarily up there with homophobia, racism, or all these other social issues that get so much spotlight, is that it’s definitely something that needs more light shed on it. Think of how many children in America are affected by this. It’s an issue that’s completely underrepresented in the music industry. Why? Because the industry is dominated by mostly white people who you can assume are not first generation Americans, and therefore don’t necessarily understand what it’s like to grow up constantly at war with different cultural values. I think that the best way to bring about change in that regard is to start with the youngest generation. Empower the next generation. Empower the youth to really take the reins on steering where our society goes. It doesn’t have to just be limited to music and entertainment. It can be in any facet of society.