Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Cappella Page: Overboard

More a cappella? You got it! Going forward, I will be featuring once-a-month interviews with a cappella groups I love. For the first one, meet Overboard, a Boston-based professional a cappella group founded by Nick Girard in 2006. A member of the University of Vermont Top Cats in college, Nick went into serious a cappella withdrawal after graduation. It wasn’t until he caught a performance by another semi-pro group that he was inspired to start his own. I caught up with Nick—and the rest of the guys, including special guest Rockapella's Jeff Thacher—before a gig at Crash Mansion in New York.

First, what inspired you to start Overboard? I sang for three years in college, really liked it, left, and wasn’t doing anything musical at all. I went to an a cappella competition in Boston and saw a semi-pro group performing there. All I could think was how cool it was. I thought, I could do that.

How did you find people to join the group in the beginning? Some of them were people that I sang with in college. Others, we found through Craigslist. I actually held auditions for the first two members completely by myself. I just met guys in a house. Alone. I’m the one original member left. Scott [Overboard's percussionist] is the next guy and he joined in March of 2007.

How would you describe Overboard’s style? We try to keep our repertoire really eclectic. We want to be able to perform at everything from a college to a 75-year-old’s birthday party and be able to entertain both audiences. We often find ourselves in front of an audience that spans a 50-year age gap. As a result, we try to mix up our style a lot.

What songs are in your repertoire? We do a lot of standard, doo-wop types of songs like “Stand By Me” or “In the Still of the Night”. We also do some modern pop songs like “Baby” by Justin Bieber and “Forget You” by Cee Lo Green. We just recently found out we’re the recipients of a CARA Award and some CARA runner-up awards. One of them was for Best Religious Song for a version of “Amazing Grace” we did. The other was for a jazz song. We remade Britney Spears’ “Toxic” into this really atonal, creepy, esoteric jazz song. We do all kinds of things.

Is it tough to pursue a cappella full-time? We’re doing our best to make this a full-time venture. We do a lot of musical side work in order to make sure that we have enough income coming in. Most of us at this point are doing a cappella production work too, tracking high school groups or college groups and doing editing and mixing. That’s something we’re going to be pursuing in a more organized and formal fashion coming up.

What do you guys think about the state of a cappella today? It’s really exciting. A lot of things are happening. It’s becoming a lot more recognizable. Specifically, I think with shows like Glee, people are starting to pay a lot more attention. When I started Overboard, we did a lot of street performing up in Newburyport, Massachusetts and coastal towns. We would be singing on the street and the 13-year-old boys would walk by and make fun of us. Now, they’ll actually stand there and watch or sit down and give us money. There isn’t as much of a stigma about it anymore.

Tell me about Free Track Tuesdays. The primary reason for Free Track Tuesdays was so that we could develop a workflow and regiment ourselves to a one-week period in order to arrange, track and mix a song. The exterior part of it was, let’s make the song that we do available for free as a sample from us. It’s worked out really well for us so far. Our download rates go up every week.

What’s next for Overboard? We just recently lost one of our members so we’re in the midst of rebuilding the repertoire for five people instead of six. We’re auditioning, but we’re cognizant of the fact that finding the right member to fill the spot takes time. We’re not in a rush. We’re also planning a UK tour. A former intern of ours from Massachusetts is going to school at St. Andrews in Scotland and so we’re working with him and his group to put something together.

Last question—what other a cappella groups are you listening to right now? At Vocal Nation, we had the pleasure of listening to the Swingle Singers from London. They are unbelievable. If you have the opportunity to see them live, go, no matter what you have to cancel to do it. Also, go into the show realizing that all a cappella afterwards is going to pale in comparison to what you see. It was probably the best live music performance I’ve ever seen.

Don't miss Overboard's Free Track Tuesday. Go to their site to download a song today!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks again for featuring us on your blog, Rachel!