People like to sing naked. In the shower, in bed … you get my point.
So it seems only natural that some of the best singers at UCSB should be in Naked Voices, the a cappella student group at UCSB dedicated to promoting not only their group, but performing arts as a whole.
UCSB is not known for its strong artistic side, but Naked Voices is hoping to change that. In fact, it was that very lack of performance outlets that inspired Naked Voices President Amy Hough to start the group last year.
Like many future members of the group, Hough had “always been a performer” and felt a void during her freshman year as she realized how much she missed doing musical theater. UCSB had no musical theater group, and the music department is more focused on classical and operatic styles, so Hough felt like she had nowhere to go.
“There was stuff to be a part of,” she said, “but nothing I was really excited about.”
That summer, Hough met with her dance teacher’s boyfriend, a man who founded an a cappella group at the University of Southern California and decided that she was going to bring that style of music to UCSB.
At first, the task seemed a little overwhelming. Funding was virtually non-existent, and she did not have the turnout at the first auditions she was hoping for.
“I’d been a leader before,” she said, “but I’ve never started something like this.”
After a series of auditions, Naked Voices became what it is today, a group of 13 students who almost always perform barefoot.
Naked Voices sings songs you know from pop radio “a cappella,” or without music. For example, they perform songs such as “Living on the Edge,” by Aerosmith and “Everything is Everything,” by Lauryn Hill as you have never heard them before.
Still, Naked Voices is not to be confused with your grandfather’s barbershop quartet, Musical Director Bill Brown said.
“If we’re singing a Matchbox 20 song, we don’t want to sound barbershop, we want to sound like a Matchbox 20 song,” he said.
Brown not only joined the group, but became the musical director as well after Hough realized his ability to play piano. As musical director, he runs rehearsals, copies music and arranges the songs to best suit the group’s style and talent, work that paid off during this year’s International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella quarterfinals.
When Naked Voices decided to send in an audition tape for the ICCAs, they did not expect to be invited to compete, but they were one of six groups selected from 14 applicants. When they went to UCLA for the competition, no one expected them to go on to the next level, but Naked Voices won second place at the event behind USC’s SoCal VoCals, a group that has been around for eight years.
After placing second, Naked Voices was invited to compete at Stanford. While they did not place at that event, group members see the competition as a huge success, especially Vice-President of Public Relations Alana Loewe, who won best soloist at both of the competitions, making her one of the six best soloists in the country.
Loewe joined Naked Voices because she was “sick of not having the ability to perform,” and said she loves a cappella music because it gives her the freedom to sing wherever she wants, whenever she wants.
“You just have to stand somewhere; you don’t need instruments or amplification, you just need yourself, and of course, your group,” she said.
However, the fun does not come without sacrifices. Group membership can be expensive, as Naked Voices is still too young to be eligible for funding from Associated Students. Members are asked to pay dues of $100 per person, and Brown estimates he has put up to $400 into the group out of pocket.
Then there is the time commitment. Naked Voices rehearses twice a week, in addition to performances and any additional work that may need to be done. While some members have jobs, many members focus only on school and Naked Voices.
“I tell people yes, I have a job, and yes, I have a significant other, and they’re both Naked Voices,” Brown said.
Naked Voice’s next big project is their “Talent Orgy,” an event designed to help both individuals and groups showcase their talent. The event will be held on Sunday, May 19 in Isla Vista Theater, a location Hough said gives performers the opportunity to reach a large audience.
“That’s the thing with performing arts at UCSB,” Hough said. “There’s definitely a want for it, but there’s not much going on for it,” she said.
Already groups such as the Women’s Ensemble Theater Troupe and the MultiCultural Drama Company are set to be involved in the show.
Competition for a spot in Naked Voices is aggressive. Last fall, only eight students were selected from the 70 that auditioned. Brown said he would like to see another a cappella group start in the near future to provide those students turned away with another creative outlet.
“This isn’t an elite thing,” he said. “The idea is to have fun.”
Naked Voices is in the process of looking for both male singers and a new percussionist. The vocal percussionist has the important role of supplying the beats for the music, or as Brown described, “a drummer that doesn’t have a drum set.” This allows the music to sound more like the original recording.
Naked Voices is also working on a CD, tentatively titled Masterbeats, which they hope to release late next fall. The group has already recorded three songs at a studio in Los Angeles and would have a CD out now if they had the money. Making a CD costs a lot, as recording one track costs between $700-800, not including production expenses.
Naked Voices has come a long way since the first performance on Earth Day last year. Since then, they have performed at various events including the West Coast Showcase in Berkeley, a telethon on KEYT and various events hosted by Chancellor Henry Yang.
You can see Naked Voices live at Java Jones this Friday or at their spring concert on June 2.
To find out more about Naked Voices, check out their website at http://members.aol.com/nakedUCSB/ or e-mail them at .