Aca-Incredible! Behind the Scenes with the Gentlemen of Reverb A Cappella Group

 

With all the recent buzz surrounding a cappella groups, I found it very fitting to interview a member of one for my latest “Campus Celebrity” installment.  I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dan Hollister and Skip Stradtman, both members of the group “Reverb,” the only all-male a cappella group here at FSU.  Reverb was started in 2007, and the group has gained a considerable amount of popularity in recent years. Some of their more recent works include a medley of Justin Timberlake songs, Safe and Sound by Capital Cities, and their latest medley titled “Come and Get my Heart (the Way),” which you can watch below. 

The medley features songs from all female artists such as Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande, and Selena Gomez.  On why they decided to choose an all-female medley, Stradtman claimed they had great success with it in the past. “We did a Beyoncé song at a competition and it was a huge hit with the crowd, so we decided to exploit the [female vocalist] genre”.

There’s no questioning the growing popularity of Reverb after their outstanding success at ICCA this past year. ICCA (or the International Championship of A Cappella) showcases top a cappella groups from around the nation.  The competition consists of three rounds, the final held in New York City.  Reverb made it all the way to the final round, scoring 4th overall out of 8 groups, and got first place in both the choreography and male group categories.  “Our goal for this year is to go back and do even better,” Stradtman said.  Stradtman also reflected on the group’s most recent competition, Southern Jam, which was held in Raleigh, NC.  Reverb also found great success there, earning 2nd place in the collegiate competition special awards for the best arrangement and winning an award for the best vocal percussion (beat boxing).  “The crowd seemed to love us, it helped solidify us as a group, we bonded well, and I think it will help us prepare for nationals,” Stradtman said. 

So what’s it like being and performing in an a cappella group? I couldn’t help but ask the boys the one question that most likely pops into people’s heads: is a real a cappella group anything like the movie Pitch Perfect? “We don’t add aca to everything,” Hollister said with a laugh.  “There also aren’t any commentators at ICCA [like in the movie]. There are definitely rivalries though.”  Hollister said that even though a cappella group rivalries exist at other schools, Reverb and the other four groups on campus tend to get along.  He said the groups even have meet-and-greets to get to know each other. 

The members of Reverb practice three days a week, the practices ranging about two to three hours each.  During practice the boys rehearse music, learn songs for gigs or competitions, and prepare for competitions which include adding and practicing choreography.  They also explained how they learn to “sell” the songs they perform. 

So what does it mean to “sell” a song? Stradtman explained that there’s a huge difference between blandly singing a song and “elevating it to the next level,” which is what the gentlemen of Reverb strive to do.  “A cappella is about taking an already-made song and adding another layer of emotion to it,” Stradtman said.  He also explained how Reverb works to convey the message of the song and further tries to communicate that meaning to the audience. 

So how does one go about doing that?  Reverb spends an ample amount of time working on this aspect of performing, including doing exercises with emotions.  “Sometimes it helps to talk about our feelings,” Hollister said.  “We think about what the emotion of the song is, and how someone would feel when listening to it.” 

For those of you readers interested in possibly joining one of the five a cappella groups offered at FSU, Stradtman and Hollister both encourage possible candidates to have fun and enjoy themselves.  “Singing comes so much more naturally when it’s something you like. We always tell everyone to remember to have fun. Don’t overanalyze it,” Hollister said.  Stradtman also explained how this can be applied to performing as well.  “Do whatever you can to make yourself comfortable.  You’ll perform and sing better, and the audience will be more comfortable.  The theory isn’t as important as dedicating yourself to the group,” he said.  Both boys also seemed to agree that Reverb is all-and-all something that they love to do.   They stressed that it’s not about how well they do at competitions, or rivalries, but about the friendships made and the experiences had.  Stradtman said: “You should join not to win, but for yourself, and for the relationships you’ll make.”