A cappella groups had this sort of renaissance in the 21st century due to a little show called ‘Glee’ and a franchise by the name of ‘Pitch Perfect,’ and while those shows inspired a generation to sing loud and proud, they didn’t showcase the full picture. According to Radius, a real-life a cappella delight, those mainstream additions to pop culture got some things right, but not all of it. We talked about that, as well as their Justin Bieber medley, whether or not a Disney one is in their future, and more in this back-and-forth exchange.
Kendra: A couple of you attended the University of Miami, is that where Radius sort of began, or was it later back in Chicago where you all call home now?
Dylan: So only Gabe and I attended the University of Miami. This group actually became a thing virtually during the whole “no live performance” COVID era in 2020. Seven guys just came together and formed something that was originally just for fun because we were ultimately bored. It’s still crazy to think about where we are today!
Kendra: Being a particular age, I came of age during the late ‘90s so I am partial to a group of people singing together a la Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys, which Radius does draw inspiration from later groups like One Direction, and also the powerhouse that is Pentatonix. The latter’s inspiration is easy to recognize, but what have you all admired about One Direction’s approach to music?
Sam: We’re huge fans of One Direction! Something that 1D does incredibly well that we have tried to take after is featuring multiple (and at certain times all) vocalists within one song. They constantly are switching leads and you get a glimpse into each member’s style and personality, as well as seeing how they ultimately fit into the puzzle that is their band.
Kendra: Now when it comes to a capella groups, they’ve had some pretty notable moments in pop culture outside of Pentatonix. We had ‘Pitch Perfect’ and ‘Glee,’ but also Here Comes Treble in ‘The Office.’ For you, what did those get right about a capella groups and competitions, and what did they get 100% wrong?
Ben: So here’s the main misconception – while they are incredible in movies, riff-offs aren’t actually real. It actually takes a VERY long time to organize the vocalists into parts and to arrange the music to sound similar enough to the cover song to where it’s recognizable, but still, keep it original enough that it’s not a carbon copy of the music. As much as we’d all love to be Anna Kendrick in their ‘Pitch Perfect’ moment, it’s just not a thing that’s a reality. There’s a lot though that’s very accurate! There is a college competition for a cappella, and a lot of these groups put an entire year’s worth of effort into it, so it can get pretty serious!
Kendra: In your opinion, what are the key elements when it comes to making a mainstream pop song an a capella moment?
Dylan: The main things that I look for when arranging an a cappella song are pretty simple. First I take a listen to just the drums and bass of the song (which in our case, would be emulated by myself and Sam) because in most cases that doesn’t really change between a cappella and a regular performance of the song. The next thing I listen for is to see when the bigger moments of the song are, whether it be an iconic set of lyrics in the chorus or something as simple as a riff that the soloist has made a signature out of. The last thing I listen to is either a live performance/remix of the song. It’s always good to get a slightly different perspective of a song, and you’ll find that in most live performances/remixes there are little moments where they switch up a chord here or go into half time there, it really can add some variety and make your arrangement unique!
Kendra: Which, you’ve recently done this with a good deal of Justin Bieber songs in the “Evolution of Justin Bieber” medley. Such a great artist to choose for this because he has created some of the best pop songs in recent years. “Love Yourself” is one of my top 10, for sure but I’d love to know what Bieber song you were most excited about including and why?
Gabe: I was most excited about “What Do You Mean” being in the medley! It’s one of Bieber’s most underrated songs in my opinion, and I love the melody and simplistic production of the original recording. Also, our friend Jared Jenkins (who arranged the song) made this one of the most challenging versions of the song to ever exist!
Kendra: Are there plans to do this with other artists down the line?
Ethan: Yeah it’s definitely something that we’d do in the future! We’ve discussed a few ideas, but it takes a REALLY long time to organize one of those so it’s not something we can just pull out of a hat and do all the time.
Kendra: Perhaps go with a Disney medley. I saw you had some ‘Hercules’ going on already but could we possibly get a mix of all the love songs?
Ben: I’d love to do that! I’m definitely the biggest Disney fan of the group. We heard the idea done by Voctave a few years back, so we’d potentially want to wait a little bit for a few more Disney love songs to come out!
Kendra: Now it’s time for a side note – with it being May, I always think of the end of the school year and all those memories of field trips, parties, and yearbooks. With that, I’d love to know what your fondest end-of-the-school-year memory was?
Dylan: Honestly my favorite school memory was that period of time right before graduation my senior year of high school. It’s so interesting how years of drama, arguments, and everything can go away because everybody knows that this is the last time that we’re going to be around each other as a high school class, so it’s nothing but fun times and bonding before we all went our separate ways for summer and eventually college.
Kendra: Lastly, we did talk about what could possibly be in the works but with “Evolution of Justin Bieber” out now, what else can fans really expect as we continue towards summer?
Ethan: We have a lot planned this summer! We’re going to be a lot more active than ever before on our social media so you can check us out on everything @radiusvocals!
Just for you all that are reading this, we’re dropping a new single on June 2nd so be sure to follow us on whatever platform you use!