Here's what the public knows about Racer X:

It features Bowdoin Assistant Professor of English Aaron Kitch on the keyboard and Assistant Professor of Music Vin Shende on vocals and guitar. Other members of the band are Dave "Big D" Morrell and Pat "the Snake" Cyr.

The band plays '80s music.

But beneath this premise, Kitch and Shende insist there lies a dark and sometimes twisted history full of intrigue and references to obsolete pop stars.

According to the two professor-musicians, Racer X found its inspiration through Shende, when he was locked in a dark room until the age of six and forced to listen to what Shende referred to as the "commerce machine" of classic rock. The artists included, but were not limited to, Lynyrd Skynyrd and some Led Zeppelin. Shende emerged from the room in 1980, calling it the birth of his love for New Wave music.

"The idea of classic rock became wallpaper," Shende said.

"It was water torture, musically speaking," Kitch said.

Instead of bowing to this commerce machine, Shende embraced just "the machine," which he defined according to the technology of the New Wave movement and simulacrum, a post-WWII-philosophy that states a copy is not reflective of the original, but rather an operative of the original. Therefore, Racer X sees itself as "rehumanizing the machine."

The band also found its muse in a "Knight Rider" poster, an '80s television show starring David Hasselhoff. The futuristic nature of the show plays into the digital character and technological aspects of Racer X's shows.

"We're humanities professors," said Kitch, "but really we're about Flock of Seagulls."

As with all '80s cover bands featuring professors, Racer X has had its share of awkward moments. One incident involved a request from Steve Perry to play "Don't Stop Believin'" with them after the band kicked Perry out.

"He showed up at our gig in Portland in drag," Shende said. "They had ugly security."

"The pictures and hate mail we got from Steve Perry after that were a little much," said Kitch. "I mean, with the slaughtered goats and all."

Kitch also got into an argument about scientific empiricisim with an audience member during the group's performance of "She Blinded Me with Science" by Thomas Dolby.

Shende said that the band takes necessary spiritual steps to perform these '80s covers. These spiritual steps are painstakingly complete, including robes, incense, and oils.

"Soft Cell is all about a lack of spirituality and original sin," he said. "There's even a fourth verse that many people don't know, which involves Satan, the apple, and a warthog."

Kitch and Shende are currently focusing on solo projects in addition to their roles in Racer X, in order to keep the covers fresh. Kitch is creating his "dream": a musical with Karen Carpenter's "Rainy Days and Mondays" set to a hip-hop beat, along with her redemption of a stripteasing Richard Nixon.

Shende, instead, is indulging his passion of artisan cheese making. He currently has a herd of cows in his basement and has built a table and refrigerator completely out of cheese.

For those curious about Racer X's name and its costumes, the name came from a discussion of simulacrum on the way to a Speed Racer convention in New Hampshire. The band felt that Speed Racer's older brother, Racer X, embodied many of their ideals about the machine.

The costumes are made by a mysterious German woman who refused to have her name printed. She lives on an island off Maine's coast and comes to every one of the band's concerts at the very end to try to snatch back her designs, due to the controversial nature of their koala bear skin material.

Kitch and Shende remain curious about the love Bowdoin students' express for '80s music, especially since most of their songs were released before the birth of the student body.

After a lengthy discussion, Kitch and Shende concluded that Bowdoin students were idealists and could easily relate to such '80s songs as "Africa" by Toto.

"They just won't stop believing," Kitch said.