Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Don’t Thunk twice: They’re all right

Setting the Record Straight:

A capella group Thunk was misnamed in this article. The mistake has been corrected, but PLAY and The Daily regret the mistakes.

Thunk got kicked out of the Music Administration Building last Friday by a Senior Professor because they accidentally took a class space. But Musical Director Bri Rossi, a Music junior, says they’ll have their keys back soon.

Until then, the group, which prides itself on being the most “soulful” of the a cappella groups on campus, will do their be-bop-sha-bops in the apartment of two of their upperclassmen members.

With an upcoming fall show and a future trip to South Africa, the group is learning new material and sharpening their repertoire in preparation. It almost looks like the college version of the von Trapp family — 17 college students sitting on couches and chairs or cross-legged on the floor, signing and swaying as Rossi taps her hot pink heels to the beat of each song.

“Thunk is just sort of a family of friends,” Communication junior Sean Carroll, one of Thunk’s producers, said during their only five-minute break in a three-hour rehearsal.

Each group member rehearses three times a week — twice as a group, and once split up by gender — in preparation for their annual fall and spring shows.

Thunk also records each year and produces a new CD every other year. This year’s compilation, their sixth, is titled “Hot Black” and includes more popular songs like Parliament’s “Brick House” interspersed with interesting and eccentric songs like Tori Amos’ “Leather,” which will be featured at Thunk’s upcoming concert.

Another paramount part of the Thunk experience is their annual tour. Last year, Thunk went to Montreal. This year, however, they will be shimmying on down to the more exotic locale of Capetown, South Africa. For most members the trip to South Africa just seemed like the right choice. Rossi’s boyfriend recently lived there. Carroll was approached by a consulate to South Africa at a gig. Others in the group are excited to learn about South African culture, which Carroll said has “a strong musical tradition,” including popular a cappella groups such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

“I think there’s so much you can’t learn staying in Evanston,” Pranidhi Varshney, a Communication junior and three-year Thunker, said. She added that she is looking forward to the outreach Thunk can offer by participating in workshops with schools and venues.

“Having a bunch of college kids coming to sing pop music is probably something they haven’t experienced,” Varshney added.

Not only does Thunk take non-traditional a cappella trips, it also avoids national a cappella competitions. Members arrange their own music and collectively choose songs to represent the current group members each year, so their style changes slightly as years progress but always focuses on original arrangements of fun and interesting songs.

“We tend to be a little bit edgier than other a cappella groups, a little bit off-the-cuff,” Rossi said, adding that this can be a disadvantage to people who come to their concerts and expect to hear arrangements of traditional pop favorites.

But don’t fear if pop favorites are your thing, Thunk will be performing songs by Blind Melon and John Mayer at their fall show, which follows the theme, “Thunk the Vote.”

The show, which runs Oct. 28, 29 and 30 in the Shanley Pavillion, will include politically-geared skits in the style of SNL as well as decorations with some sort of political-humor spin. Taking advantage of the presidential election, Thunk definitely wanted to use politics to entice an audience.

“At that point, a weekend before the election, people are going be all wrapped up in the election, but sick of the politics — so we’re doing parody,” Carroll said.

Fun and funkiness seem to be paramount in everything from Thunk’s concert theme to its music, to the other things Thunk members are involved in. One member ices a hockey injury while getting scores on his cell phone. Another tells a story about her cat, who she had to bring to rehearsal because her apartment was too cold for the animal. And from the sounds of the cat in the next room, he would love to be in Thunk too.

When choosing new members for Thunk, Rossi emphasized that the group looks for people who will blend both vocally and socially with the group. Through a unanimous voting process, the members chose four new freshmen this year, two males and two females, to round out their sound.

“Overall, Thunk is made up of a group of really intelligent singers,” Rossi said, explaining the speed and precision with which the group learns its songs.

Also, with three minority members out of seventeen, Varshney doesn’t hesitate to point out that most a cappella groups are mostly white, adding “because of our diversity, Thunk is able to do different kinds of music like R&B and soul.”

“I was called back for Purple Haze and luckily they didn’t take me,” Varshney said.

And that was before she knew Thunk would be performing in South Africa this year.4

Medill freshman Kurt Soller is a PLAY writer. He can be reached at [email protected].

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Don’t Thunk twice: They’re all right