Northwestern a cappella groups gain exposure with album releases

Vinithra Rajagopalan, Priyanka Tilve and Anjolie Kulkarni perform for Brown Sugar. The group plans to release a new album next quarter.

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Vinithra Rajagopalan, Priyanka Tilve and Anjolie Kulkarni perform for Brown Sugar. The group plans to release a new album next quarter.

Amy Whyte, Reporter

With more than a dozen groups on campus, a cappella has a strong presence at Northwestern. For most of the groups, that presence is now extending beyond Evanston borders, with studio albums building the groups’ fan bases across the country and the world.

Of the 12 groups that make up the Northwestern A Cappella Community Alliance, 11 have already put out at least one album, with the 12th, the three-year-old Jewish group ShireiNU, in the process of recording its first-ever album. Several other NU groups are also currently producing albums, many of which will be available for purchase on iTunes.

“We’re very passionate about our music,” said Weinberg junior Gaurav Kikani, a member of the South Asian group Brown Sugar. “Immortalizing it on an album is the ultimate goal.”

This quarter, Brown Sugar is preparing to release its fourth studio album, which has been in the works for the last two years, Kikani said. Because they have been recording the album for so long, it features singers from six different graduating classes.

“The album records both where this group has been and where it is today,” Kikani said.

The Undertones, a coed a cappella group founded in 2001, is also in the process of releasing its next studio album. The album, the group’s third, is expected out in March. Treasurer Liz Banaszak said the Undertones are “always working toward a CD.”

“Right after we release one CD, we start recording the next one,” the Bienen sophomore said. “It’s just what we do.”

Because producing albums is expensive, Banaszak said the group compensates with significant fundraising efforts. So far, Undertones has successfully paid off more than half of the CD, with plans to raise the remaining funds through pre-order sales and a partnership with Cheesie’s Pub & Grub this month.

The all-male a cappella group Freshman 15, which just released its newest album, “High Five Friday,” was able to fund the album primarily through performances and the sales of previous albums, said the group’s CD producer, Jeremy Shpizner.

“We’re a pretty self-sustaining organization,” the Communication senior said.

Through the six albums the group has released, Shpizner said Freshman 15 has been able to reach a wider audience.

“There’s people we’ve never met and will never meet who are listening to the album right now,” he said.

National organizations such as Best of A Cappella and Voices Only highlight tracks from various a cappella albums in their compilations. The Undertones were featured on a 2009 Voices Only compilation, along with NU’s coed group the X-Factors.

Banaszak said producing albums is a good way for a group to get its talent out to the a cappella world.

“You get a better reputation and more chances to apply for better recognition,” Banaszak said.

However, Banaszak, Kikani and Shpizner said they agree that the most important reason  a cappella groups record their music is not for fame or recognition but simply to immortalize their work.

“When it comes down to it, it’s something we do so that we can sit in a room and drink beers and listen to it and be like, ‘Yo, bros, we did this,’” Shpizner said.