The SONS OF PITCHES have certainly been making extraordinary strides in the past year. Since winning BBC2’s The Naked Choir in 2015, the multi-award winning British vocal group has gone from strength to strength, with a new album on the way, as well as UK tour.
For those new to the group, SONS OF PITCHES are a Birmingham-based all-male a cappella group famous for their inventive pop covers, sensational beatboxing and impeccable harmonies. The six singers met while studying at the University of Birmingham and in 2015 became the first winners of BBC2’s The Naked Choir hosted by Gareth Malone.
In anticipation for the start of their UK tour, Frankly My Dear UK caught up with band member Joe Belham to chat about their time on The Naked Choir, their upcoming tour and release of their highly anticipated full-length album.
Frankly My Dear UK (FMD): It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for you since you won BBC2’s The Naked Choir. How has life changed since being on the show?
Joe Belham: Its cliché but it really has changed our lives. It’s opened up a lot of doors for us and we are incredibly lucky. As soon as we finished recording the final, two days later we started a run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival so it was pretty tricky because obviously we wanted to be able to promote the show but we weren’t allowed to mention it for the next couple of months. It has widened our audience and increased our exposure so we’ve be doing lots of school workshops. I guess the main thing that has changed is that we’ve managed to sort out this tour and we’ve got an agent. We’ve got much more exposure and we’ve been able to do a tour which is incredible.
FMD: You’re a vocal a cappella group so the way you arrange a song is incredibly unique. Could you briefly describe the music-making process?
Joe: We’re somewhat different from a lot of groups that we know because we don’t have a musical director within our group so everything we do, we do it together. Even though it can be a slower process sometimes, it is a lot more rewarding because we’re all coming up with our own parts.
The longest process is deciding on a song. It always takes a while to decide what we’re going to sing. We start by listening to a song, then we’ll pick out the bits that we think are the most important or iconic. Most of the time we’ll work from the bass upwards and then add in the beats and then the solo. Sometimes we like to turn a song on its head and do it in a really different style, but other times if we’ll record it as close to the original as possible, like we did with Uptown Funk.
FMD: Your YouTube video of ‘MMMBop in 10 genres’ has received more than 290K views. What inspired you to record that particular number in such a different way?
Joe: Whenever we do large shows we try and improvise songs so the audience will pick a song and suggest a different genre. We discussed this with Gareth Malone and he said that was really impressive so maybe it would be a good time to show that off? The remit of that round was to come up with a viral video idea and we thought that doing something like that with a catchy title such as “MMMBop in 10 genres” might make people click on to see how we do it.
FMD: How has your music evolved since you first formed? Has your experience on The Naked Choir changed the way you approach making music?
Joe: The way we arrange things has evolved over time. When we first started out, someone would take control of a song but we’ve begun to appreciate that the group arrangement is really what makes our songs sound like a SONS OF PITCHES song so that has been important to us.
The show [The Naked Choir] taught us the importance of not showing off too much. Gareth Malone told us not to be concerned with showing off but to focus on our singing and we’ve really taken that on board. We’ve also started singing slower songs which is something we never really used to do. We always used to do really fast, up-tempo stuff but now we strip things back a bit and keep things simple and easy for the audience to listen to.
FMD: Your UK tour starts on 6th May at Bristol, how are rehearsals going?
Joe: Prep has gone really well. Obviously it’s a lot of hard work, having to drill things over and over again and we’ve have bits of choreography in the show so it’s been a lot to remember but we’re in a really good position. We don’t have any management so all of the creative process has been down to us. It’s been tough work trying to decide what the set list would be but we’ve ended up with something that’s really nice and varied and that should appeal to all ages and different kinds of audiences. It’s been a really great creative process for us and we’ve really enjoyed being able to plan it all.
FMD: You’ve also got a brand new album on way. What kind of tracks can we expect to hear?
Joe: The album comes out in autumn. We’ve already recorded all of the tracks for it and its going to be our first ever full length album. Its two thirds cover songs, tracks that people may have seen on YouTube or when they’ve come to see us live. The rest is original songs we’ve written so that’s really exciting. It’s going to give people a chance to listen to songs we’ve come up with ourselves.
We don’t really have a sound in terms of original songs but we do like stuff with groovy beats. It’s hard because everyone has such different approaches to music and influences within the group. If an idea comes to us then we’ll just do it or if we have a particular spot to fill then we’ll try and write that. I went away and wrote some lyrics for a nice three-part slower song for us to do.
FMD: What does the future hold for the SONS OF PITCHES?
Joe: We want to keep writing our own material. Obviously we’ve got an album coming out in autumn and we’re going to be really pushing that. This tour has also done way better than we ever thought in terms of ticket sales we’re going to do another 20 date tour in the UK around October/November time on the back of the new album. We’ve also got some really exciting music videos coming out so it’s just trying to get our stuff out to as many people as possible.
The SONS OF PITCHES tour begins in Bristol on 6 May and finishes at Sheffield on 27 June.