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November 12, 2008

Rockapella finely tunes its vocal instrumentation

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA):

Jeff Thacher is rather proud of his profession -- the vocal percussionist says he spits for a living. A member of the famed Rockapella group, Thacher uses only his mouth and vocal chords to produce a whole band's worth of instruments.

"I like to compare it to being a brass player, like playing the trumpet," the New York City resident says. "I use my mouth to make these sounds into a microphone and make it a realistic performance. My favorite shows are those with nice big speakers because we are an amplified group."

Along with Thacher, other members of the contemporary a cappella group are Scott Leonard, the group's high tenor; Kevin Wright, tenor; George Baldi, bass voice; and John K. Brown, tenor.

"I saw Rockapella in concert earlier this year and was amazed to hear their unique sound live in concert, especially vocal percussionist Jeff Thacher," says Teresa Baughman, director of marketing and programming for the Palace Theatre in Greensburg, where the group will perform Tuesday. "Thacher is truly amazing. You think you're hearing a drum set, but it's all in his voice, which really adds to the group's harmonies."

"Teens and young adults remember the 'Carmen San Diego' theme song, and everyone will recognize their commercial jingles," Baughman says. "It's a high-energy performance -- even the ballads are so powerful. It's just great music with the simplicity of pure vocals."

The pop musical group has taken a cappella music to a new level, performing a wide range of genres including pop, doo-wop, Motown and rock. Its captivating sound caught the attention of many, leading the band back into television for stations such as HBO, and eventually into the studio, where it has produced seven albums.

"So far, we tended to stay away from things that are frequently on the radio. They are what they are, and I think it's better to go back in the past and make something new again," Thacher says. "If you want to be a contemporary pop style, you have to go back to, like, the 1970s. There's lots there you can make your own.

"We also go deep into vocal group history to get that older male group sound. We like to pay tribute to them in the show. So we have originals and some contemporary stuff."

Thacher is the only member of the group who resides in New York; the rest of the band live in Florida. He says the group performs as a "well-oiled machine" and rehearses only while on the road traveling. He says it's particularly important, though, to continuously work on his "instrument" to ensure a good performance each time he steps onstage.

"When you're dealing with the human voice, so many things can change moment to moment. With a guitar, the strings will sound the way they sound. But with the voice, you constantly have got to keep it maintained. When you're blending with everyone, it's a constant listening and feedback loop," he says. "And when it's done right, people can really connect with it. It's human music performed by humans. It's written by humans, about humans. It's the ultimate organic music experience."

Posted by acapnews at November 12, 2008 10:26 PM


I love the idea of 'human music performed by humans.'

And also the Carmen San Diego theme song...

Posted by: Lindsay Price at December 8, 2008 7:38 AM

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