With their latest release, “Escape Velocity,” the Harmonics set out to explore new levels of a cappella innovation. The effort garnered the award-winning group one of the a cappella community’s highest honors – the album was named Best Mixed Collegiate Album by the 2009 Contemporary A cappella Recording Awards (CARAs).
The bold direction of their latest studio venture is epitomized by the album’s breakout song, “The Sound of Silence,” which also received CARA recognition as the 2009 Best Mixed Collegiate Song.
“I wanted something epic for the album,” explained Charlie Forkish, the group’s musical director and arranger of the song – whose efforts were recognized with a Best Mixed Collegiate Arrangement award.
And the broad, sweeping, decidedly-darker take on the classic folk tune by Simon & Garfunkel accomplished just that, earning the group a space on genre-specific compilations such as the Best of Collegiate A cappella (BOCA) 2009 and Sing V. Their version of “Rhapsody in Blue” secured them a place on Voices Only 2009.
The group’s efforts over the past two years have been spearheaded by 22-year-old Forkish, who feels greatly encouraged by the overall success of the album.
“It felt really good – obviously,” he said, laughing. “We worked really hard on the album, and I was very invested in it.”
Forkish added that the group took a very self-critical approach to their work this time around, throwing out whole tracks, or tirelessly re-recording various takes, to make sure they had the best raw material.
“We (held) ourselves to a really high standard, and…by the time we were done, we didn’t feel competitive about it – we were just really proud of what we had done, and happy with how it turned out,” he said. “Winning was cool because it shows that other people appreciate our standard.”
The Harmonics’ penchant for cutting-edge performance techniques does not stop in the studio. For the past year, they’ve dedicated time, energy, and money – including a grant from the Contemporary A cappella Society of America – toward revolutionizing their stage presentation, the culmination of their efforts put on display during their “ShamRock” show this past March. With a bold concert tag-line – “Everything you know about a cappella is about to change.” – they unveiled a performance rife with light and sound technology rarely before seen in the a cappella world.
“Our goal was being able to do everything we do on our album, live,” Forkish said, noting that he was inspired by a performance at SoJam two years ago by Finland’s own Fork. He hopes to similarly brand the Harmonics as a rock band, as opposed to an a cappella ensemble.
He added that, in addition to spending some time in the studio, the group plans to spend this upcoming year refining their performance techniques, growing comfortable with their new equipment and, more importantly, new identity.
Said Forkish, “We want to put on rock concerts, instead of a cappella shows.”
Curious about the Harmonics’ live presentation? Watch clips from their “Amped” show .
Written By Candice Leigh Helfand