We at the Voice Festival UK have known Birmingham-based a cappella group The Sons of Pitches since they burst onto the university a cappella scene in 2010 with those memorable boiler suits and exciting new sounds. Much has changed since then, however – the boiler suits are a thing of the past and the Sons, despite members holding down full-time jobs or finishing off their time at university, are now a professional a cappella group.
We’re dead excited to be welcoming the Sons to our Festival Weekend in Birmingham in their various capacities – they’re not only performing at and MCing our Youth Final, but are also giving a workshop on improvising and performing with confidence (essential skills for every a cappella singer!). Remember, even if you’re not in an a cappella group, you can enjoy the Sons’ performance by buying a ticket to our Youth Final – or if you fancy learning some top tips at their workshop, you can attend as an individual singer by purchasing a Weekend Pass.
So, without further ado… let’s meet the Sons! (with many thanks to Joe Belham for taking the time to answer our burning questions)
What’s a day in the life of the Sons like?
We’re all currently employed in full time jobs apart from two of the guys who are still at university. When we aren’t learning, teaching or making coffee we like to relax like any normal boys would and make highly complex a cappella arrangements. We also like eating copious amounts of biscuits!
What’s your perception of a cappella singing in the UK today? Do you think it’s changed much since the group first started?
The UK a cappella scene has changed massively since we started out about 4 years ago. The ‘cool factor’ of beatbox and the internet’s interest in a cappella have helped to give the genre a much wider audience. No longer do people think it is a ‘geeky’ or ‘nerdy’ practice! It’s so great to see such a high volume of groups come out of University but also to see groups starting out in schools across the country.
What are your musical influences, and how do you think that contemporary a cappella singers can learn from and be informed by different musical genres?
We have a huge range of musical influences from Bryan Adams to Beyoncé, from Daft Punk to Daniel Bedingfield and from Muse to Missy Elliot. Because we all come from such different musical backgrounds we can achieve a sound that is noticeably eclectic (hopefully) and we always take all ideas into account. We’ve never wanted to be pigeonholed into a particular genre. This is the benefit of a cappella and its intrinsic sense of musical freedom. If an electronic song is missing some drive then you could look to a drumbeat from an Arctic Monkeys track for some influence. There is no wrong answer when arranging for us.
Can you give any hints as to what our workshop attendees can expect from your session at the Festival Weekend?
We have always sought to inspire confidence whenever we’ve lead workshops. We aren’t particularly interested in communicating the minutia of chord or harmony – instead we want to convey how a cappella can allow you to try anything without fear. Improvisation is a huge part of what we do and attendees will be encouraged to try and make some music up on the spot! We also like to make it clear how important working as a team is both when arranging and performing.