Producer Profile: Plaid Productions

plaid logo blue background Producer Profile: Plaid Productions

Plaid Productions logo. (Credit: plaidacappella.com)

Two years ago, a new production company was formed by two people who were anything but new to the a cappella world. The duo – Alex Green and Alexander Koutzoukis – are longtime friends and performers who brought their immense talents and in-depth knowledge of a cappella together to create Plaid Productions.

It already has an award-winning track record which belies the brief nature of Plaid’s existence. In their first year alone, clients who worked with Plaid Productions earned 18 nominations in the Contemporary A cappella Recording Awards, and nine tracks with the Plaid touch found their way onto some of the most respected a cappella compilations in existence.

They have not only worked with an extensive list of scholastic groups, but many professional powerhouses as well, including the Backbeats and Kinfolk 9 (both of “The Sing-Off” fame). The adventures of Alex and Alex also extend to a series of collaborative recording projects – working with some of the biggest names in a cappella during annual festivals on several opuses that combine the singing, arranging, percussion and production talents of the best in the business.

Both got their starts in a cappella early – Koutzoukis in high school, when his jazz ensemble was selected to open for the Tufts University Beelzebubs (which he would later join) and Green (an eventual Amalgamate, also at Tufts) through the magic of Rockapella’s “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” theme song.

It was after their exposure to (and involvement with) the world of collegiate a cappella, though, that they began to truly appreciate the possibilities of what the human voice can do – especially in the studio, where Green said he enjoys “taking a group that doesn’t really know what they have in themselves in terms of emotion, feeling, pathos, or whatever and showing them that their potential is even greater than they could imagine.”

The two met during their shared time at Tufts, bonding especially during the later years of their matriculation. While becoming closer as friends, the two also gained experience with performing and recording a cappella.

“As my (five-year) Bubs career progressed, I took more of an interest in the recording and production side of things, helping to record stuff for Ed [Boyer] when I could and eventually tracking the first batch of songs for “BATTLE” on my own,” Koutzoukis recalled. “Ed then gave me the opportunity and guidance to start editing those tracks and that ended up being the arrangement for the whole album.”

Realizing his passion for production through that opportunity, Koutzoukis approached Green about the prospect of going into business together – an idea Green had already been contemplating on his own time as he worked on “Hands Off the Mannequin!” for the Amalgamates with John Clark.

The rest, as they say, is history. And as for the future, it looks bright for the similarly named pair, and both Alex and Alex are thrilled to be doing what they love most – making music.

“There’s something to be said for the inherent joy that comes from [making music], and mine doesn’t have to be from performing,” Koutzoukis said. “I love having a creative outlet, especially when it means using my experience to help other groups and musicians and come up with a better end product.”

Added Green, “The people in this community who really care about what they’re doing and the music they’re making is what makes the good parts of our job great, and the difficult or tedious parts a little more bearable.”

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The Beelzebubs – Celebrating 50 Years

 The Beelzebubs   Celebrating 50 Years

A picture taken during The Beelzebub’s 2012 Homecoming concert. (Credit: bubs.com)

Those with any knowledge of the a cappella world are likely to be familiar with an all-male ensemble known as The Beelzebubs. Hailing from Tufts University, the Bubs (as they are often called) are a tour de force that has been recognized as one of the most widely respected and acclaimed groups in the genre – a title they secured long before their appearance on Season One of NBC’s The Sing-Off (where they ultimately took second place).

In addition to The Sing-Off, their voices were also heard on Fox’s hit show choir offering “Glee,” creating the rich sound that became synonymous with the fictional Dalton Academy Warblers.

Outside of television, their recordings are perennial favorites whose production values have set the standard for the rest of the recorded a cappella world, and whose top-to-bottom fantastic performances give them a timeless appeal no matter the year they were released. Tracks from their albums are consistently selected for inclusion on the Best of College A cappella compilation series (in addition to other genre-specific compilations), and they frequently garner nominations and win honors bestowed by the Contemporary A cappella Recording Awards board.

Beyond the realm of the studio, the group has performed all over the country – and the world – embarking on national and international tours every year that have taken them to almost every state in the nation and continent on the globe. During their travels, they have performed for people such as President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while gracing famous venues such as Fenway Park (during an MLB All-Star game) and the Late Show with David Letterman.

The Bubs have additionally been a breeding ground for some of the most prolific, game-changing talents in a cappella, including Deke Sharon and Ed Boyer (whose most recent collaboration occurred on the set of Universal Studio’s “Pitch Perfect”), and have, with the help of these great a cappella minds, created the model for high-quality a cappella, both live and recorded, over the years.

And this year, they turn 50.

Half a century of iconic music-making is quite a feat, especially given the rapidly changing face of a cappella. But the group has not just merely kept up – in many regards, they have set the standard, and continually raised the bar for all other groups hoping to achieve greatness.

The Bubs have been celebrating their semi-centennial year by continuing their long-held tradition of engaging performances of eclectic music – a year which is leading up to a large celebration late this May. The highly anticipated weekend-long blowout will bring together a reported 200 alumni.

The group’s current President, Vinny Amaru, told A Cappella Records that he credits the long-term success of the group to a fortunate combination of its visionary founding/former membership, the dedicated men who kept tradition alive over the years, and the relationship forged between current Bubs and their alumni.

“The alumni connection is so important – guys really get to understand how far we’ve come to be who we are today,” Amaru said. “Nothing happened overnight. It happened over the course of 50 years.”

He added, “I can’t say how much of [our opportunities were born out of] luck … but without dedication, the group wouldn’t be able to function as well as it does.”

But of all the defining characteristics of this historic group – the innovative recordings, the stellar and sometimes breathtaking live performances, the international tours – the most significant part of the Bubs experience is the time they spend together forging friendships and making memories that will last a lifetime, and the persevering brotherhood that lasts long after members have left the group.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about having fun – the brotherhood that I have with these guys is something I never could have imagined,” he said. “It didn’t matter what class they were in, or what part they sang – the bond I have with these guys is one I will never, ever forget, and that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

He added, “These are the greatest friends I’ve ever had.”

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A Cappella Records, Inc acquires Kakapo LLC

February 12, 2013 – San Francisco, CA – A Cappella Records, Inc. is proud to announce its first acquisition of another company. We’ve taken on Kakapo, LLC for its talent and technology.

While Kakapo’s name might not be instantly familiar, many of its products are well-known to the Internet-savvy. Best-known as the driving force behind the “Game Music Bundle”, Kakapo has generated over $300,000 for artists in just over a year.

upload A Cappella Records, Inc acquires Kakapo LLC

Kakapo’s founder and engineer, Josh Whelchel, will be joining our team as our new Chief Technology Officer. In addition to his expertise running a platform for bundled content and working directly with independent artists, Josh brings a healthy obsession with using technology to strengthen the relationship between artists and their fans. He is also, like the other core members of the team, a passionate and talented musician in his own right.

With the new acquisition of Josh and Kakapo, it’s also time for some broader changes at ACR. Every year for the last four years, we’ve tripled in gross revenue, generating well over 4 million downloads and streams for our hundreds of cover song musicians, including Peter Hollens, The Futureheads, The Swingle Singers, the Whiffenpoofs, and the Tufts Beelzebubs.

This last April, we launched Joypad Records, extending our expertise and technology to the video game music community. Joypad’s releases have charted worldwide on numerous occasions, and we represent cover artists like Skotein (creator of Pokemon Reorchestrated), Kyle Landry, Erutan, and Blake Robinson. We’ve also begun to offer indie game soundtracks from studios like HyperDuck Soundworks and Disasterpeace.

While we’re still firmly supporting the a cappella community through ACR, we’ve decided to change the legal name of the company to something that will allow us to grow into even more cover song markets, especially in the realm of YouTube and discovery. As such, we’ve decided to rebrand our new team as re:discover, inc.

re:discover will be able to support all of our talented artists with licensing, distribution, and other services regardless of how they choose to make their art. Our labels (including Joypad and ACR) will continue to support our a cappella and video game communities specifically.

We’re working on some big things behind the scenes, and while we can’t say much yet, look for a lovely bundle this Thursday (just in time for Valentine’s), with an even louder announcement in the near future.

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A New Chapter For Liquid 5th

L5 Studio 300x199 A New Chapter For Liquid 5th

A view of The A Cappella Studio, Liquid 5th’s new home base for recording. (Credit: Michael Eldredge, Living Fiction)

Liquid 5th Productions is, and has been, one of the most respected a cappella production companies in the game.

Founded in 2005 and based in North Carolina, the organization has grown and thrived during its eight years of existence, bringing the best out of its ever-growing list of clients and translating their performances into outstanding, award-winning recordings.

Their roster of professional-grade producers earned L5 a whopping 27 nominations in the Contemporary A cappella Recording Awards in 2012 alone, not to mention multiple appearances on compilations such as the Best of College A cappella, SING and Voices Only. L5 has also engineered sound for live shows up and down the East Coast, perhaps most notably for the final rounds of the International Championship of High School and College A Cappella in New York. They also launched a new a cappella festival in 2012 called Amplify, held in idyllic Providence, RI.

The successes of their past year reflect the ever-growing nature of the company – especially as it moves into a new era, complete with a state-of-the-art recording space. Dubbed the A Cappella Studio, their new recording home base comes complete with booths of varying sizes (enabling them to employ different recording techniques tailored to a given group’s needs), and a polished, refined lounge area that personifies the polished nature of their musical works.

The glossy, 2,000-square-foot A Cappella Studio was christened with a grand opening celebration in late September, a party that allowed friends, family and clients alike to come together in the new space. And while talking with A Cappella Records soon after, L5 producers Carl Taylor (owner) and Chris Juengel expressed their excitement about the new possibilities of the updated, upgraded studio space.

“We’re trying to move ourselves in a direction where it legitimizes, just a bit more, the kind of work that we do,” Taylor said. “For us, we felt like working out of homes could only carry us so far – we wanted to create THE space, THE place for groups to come and record.”

L5 will continue to offer its remote services for groups not able to make the journey to Durham, but for those who can, they will be in for a true experience. Taylor went on to describe the location – a refurbished building formerly used for the production of the Durham Sun newspaper that also houses a Cuban restaurant called the Old Havana Sandwich Shop, the embodiment of industrial chic.

“The neighborhood is being revitalized, and has a new urban scene,” Juengel added, noting its address on the edge of an up-and-coming area of Durham.

As previously mentioned, L5 did the vast majority of its work as nomads before now, improvising and utilizing bedroom and closet spaces both in their native state and abroad, in the homes of clients.

“You name it, we’ve been there,” Taylor said. “The product is great, even when you do it that way, but I do feel that groups lose a little bit of the experience of what it’s like to go into the studio – to be a recording artists.”

And in addition to offering clients the star treatment they deserve, L5 also hopes to cross over a new threshold of musicality.

“We could have just continued … as we were, working at home or exclusively on campus or on location, and that would have been just fine, “Taylor said. “Or we could take a leap of faith and do something new and different – we opted to take the leap.”

Added Juengel, “We’re stretching ourselves … as musicians and producers. And we will continue to push ourselves to get better and better – to learn every day, and to go to new places.”

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Don’t Wait Until The Eleventh Hour To Buy This Album!

TtBA 286x300 Dont Wait Until The Eleventh Hour To Buy This Album!Eleventh Hour, hailing from Kettering Fairmont High School in Ohio, first made its national debut on Season 2 of NBC’s The Sing-Off, wowing judges with high-energy interpretations of hit songs by Justin Bieber and Bruno Mars. Their performances put them on par with their collegiate and professional competitors, and showed them to be a group with both talent and maturity beyond their years.

Since then, they have shared the stage with acts such as Delilah, Committed and Street Corner Symphony, graced the small screen again on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and have garnered accolades in choral competitions throughout their home state.

Their 2010 album, “Electrify,” was referred to as a recording that “should make collegiate and even some post-collegiate groups scared of the talent creeping up behind them.” And Eleventh Hour continues to contribute to the world of high-quality high school a cappella on their new album, “Turn the Beat Around!”

Late last year, A Cappella Records released a single of the recording’s title song, which exemplifies the feel of the entire album. Creative arranging, gifted soloists, and a sense of fun wrapped up in a professionally produced product – every tune delivers on this Kickstarter-funded, 14-track opus, from Sara Bareilles’ “Come Round Soon” and Rascall Flatts’ “What Hurts the Most” to Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight” and Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget You.”

Founded as an experimental gathering of eight young and passionate singers at FKHS under the supervision of director Brody McDonald, Eleventh Hour has grown into a nationally renowned ensemble that continues to impress both on the stage and in the studio. And you won’t want to miss on enjoying the latest chapter in their continuing tale of musical success.

Check out “Turn the Beat Around” today!

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