Naturally 7 aren’t your run-of-the-mill vocal group that hark back to a cappella doo wop groups of yesteryear. Rather, the Brooklyn based act give themselves a 21st century edge via their ‘vocal play’ style of a cappella.
The group’s founding member, and musical director, Roger Thomas sits down to discuss the seven-piece’s unique take on beatboxing.
Naturally 7 is a ‘vocal play’ group... how does it differ from the traditional a cappella sound?
Naturally 7 is an a cappella group. Vocal play expresses what type of a cappella. For example barbershop and doo wop. Assuming both are done without instruments, the names give you an idea of what type of a cappella or harmony you will hear. So a cappella simply means singing without instruments while ‘vocal play’ is becoming or imitating an instrument without actually using one.
You formed the group with your brother Warren... was the idea always to start an all-vocal outfit?
No, we only knew that we would have a heavy focus on harmony.
How influential was the a cappella competition the group won in New York in 1999, when you were first starting out?
I think this was the main reason we decided to focus on a cappella and look for a style that would be original. The competition gave us confidence that we were pretty good, somewhat unique, and it gave us the belief that we had a chance to pursue it as a career.
What does each member bring to the group?
Each member comes to the table with just the right tone that keeps our harmony very warm sounding. Many groups find that they can only get warmth in the lower parts, but we get a lot of it in the middle and upper parts too. This fills the spectrum differently than most people are used to hearing when listening to harmony.
When did you know you could utilise your voice to make unique sounds?
Some members such as my brother Warren were already aware that they could make musical sounds prior to the group. Others became creative once we decided that we wanted to be more ‘band-like’. We are blessed that it turned out that we all could do different things and in some cases we all are able to do the same sounds while imitating various guitars and horns.
As musical director, are there extra responsibilities that come with the title?
Yes. My most important jobs are arranging and deciding/ directing where we will musically go next.
How much did the YouTube hit, ‘Feel It (In The Air Tonight)’, catapult you further into the mainstream?
YouTube is everywhere... nothing travels faster than YouTube when it comes to viewing a performance. This has put us into countries and continents that we have yet to tour! In other words the video precedes us, and is always a major talking point when people meet us for the first time.
You’ve been associated with Michael Buble as well... what have you learnt from him, being a part of such a massive touring production?
Buble is from the old school... the school that believes that everyone on the tour deserves respect... almost like a family. We hope that we will be the same if or when we are in a similar position. He also believes in connecting with every audience; this really appeals to us and means so much more after you've seen it done over 350 shows!
You’ve collaborated with the likes of Quincy Jones and Ludacris. Do you have any other collaborations, joint projects in the works?
That's always on our minds and we hope to do some collaborations on some upcoming projects, but no names yet. But be on the look out; it's only ‘natural’.
Performing at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver... that must have been one of the career highlights?
Yes indeed. We shall never forget it! We are now looking forward to performing during the Summer Games in London.
You’re headed to Australia later this month... what can local audiences expect from Naturally 7?
More! And better! If we said that last time then the answer should be ‘More than that! Better than that! More than ever! Better than ever!’
Naturally 7 play the QPAC Concert Hall May 22.