Ascending the stone steps to the deserted music department on a Sunday evening, I’m greeted by a sublime sound. Above me, The Rolling Tones are rehearsing with a new group of remarkably talented vocalists. It is, simply, beautiful.
Once I’m in the rehearsal room, the atmosphere is even better. The group are fiercely accommodating, seating me in their circle for ‘Snack Time’, which I am assured is as vital a part of rehearsal as anything else. Doritos and dip circulate as the group talk about everything from recent nights out to Barney the Chinchilla.
After rehearsals are finished, I’m treated to a chat with Zara Tso (Musical Director) and Caroline Roseberry Koktvedgaard (President) to learn a bit more about the group.
What is it about acapella that is so engaging?
Zara – It’s completely personal.
Caroline – The people you take in through auditions are going to be your instruments, so the sound becomes very personal because it’s everyone putting in their own voices, even if they have small parts.
Zara – Every band has a singer and every singer tells a story when they’re singing a song – so the benefit of acapella is that we have fourteen different stories because we have fourteen completely individual voices!
Caroline – We’re always comparing ourselves to male acapella groups who can do all these sick, deep notes and we can’t really do that. But with female voices we can get the really high sounds, so that’s where the ethereal quality comes from.
Ethereal is definitely the word.
Zara – We’re not a church choir though.
Well I noticed the beatboxing in there…
Zara – I’m an accidental beatboxer. We wanted a beatboxer but there’s always that stigma of men being better at beatboxing because they can hit the bass notes.
Caroline – And for some reason it’s not as popular for women to learn how to beatbox, but it’s becoming more popular now.
Zara – It’s a nice way to conduct as well, without being like a classic conductor.
Caroline – You see that people start moving and dance more too, if there’s a beat.
What kind of gigs do you usually perform?
Zara – It really varies. We do a lot of busking, a lot of charity work too.
Caroline – We’ve just done a gig in Manchester for Lupus UK and we busk for breast cancer, for the Samaritans
Zara – We do a lot for Women’s Rights charities too. Which is why we have a Girl Power medley!
Caroline – The next place you’ll be able to see us is in the One World Variety Show at the Greenwood Theatre (Thursday 19th November).
You did Meltdown Festival too, which is incredible! How did that come about?
Zara – We sang with Petra Haden and her band. Their lead guitarist Jesse Harris wrote Nora Jones’ Don’t Know Why.
Yeah I’ve heard that Petra Haden’s band is full of incredibly famous people.
Caroline – It was a great experience! We were treated like professional musicians.
Because you are!
Zara – When we first started we were called The King’s Chicks and we were very different from how we are now.
In what regard?
Zara – We tried really hard to be like the male groups. Now we’ve come into ourselves.
Caroline – We’ve had a total change of attitude. We did the Voice Festival UK this year and really took it seriously. We were the only female group in the finals, ranking us as the top female group in the UK. We’re taking ourselves a bit more seriously, a little bit more competitive.
Is it often competitive?
Zara – There’s a kind of friendly rivalry between us and All the King’s Men [KCL’s all-male acapella group] but we love them.
Caroline – They do great work.
Zara – They’re very different from us, so we don’t really compare ourselves to them anymore.
How are you different?
Caroline – They’re sometimes quite comedic.
Zara – And notoriously, of course, people don’t find women funny…
You do have comedy in your shows though – I loved the bit you showed me just now! [A medley of songs and speech from Chicago].
Caroline – That was our attempt at being funny! Guys can sing a Girl Power song and people just crack up because it’s funny.
Zara – Whereas when we sing male songs…
Caroline – There’s a very niche acapella humour though.
Explain niche acapella humour to me.
Caroline – Stereotypically it’ll be a male group doing funny dance moves and doing that bouncy thing.
I know the thing you mean, actually. Kind of like barbershop.
Caroline – Yeah, and they’ll sing funny or out of date songs and it’ll be cute and funny.
Do you find it hard to rival that?
Zara – Well now we know not to rival – we’re just different.
Caroline – The way we’re doing it now is we’re trying to be a little bit more dramatic and fall into our own category, which is why we do stuff like Chicago which is written for women. We are an all female group, so we need to be All-Female-Funny.
Besides Chicago, what other material can we expect from you soon?
Zara – I’ve just arranged ‘Lilac Wine’ by Nina Simone, and we’re doing ‘For Emma’ by Bon Iver too. I’m arranging ‘Jealous’ by Labyrinth, I’ve just done ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’, and I’m also doing a mash-up of ‘Bang Bang’ by Nancy Sinatra and ‘Try Again’ by Aaliyah.
Caroline – We’re currently brainstorming a Boy Band medley too.
A lot to look forward to!
Catch The Rolling Tones at One World Variety Show, Greenwood Theatre on November 19th.
The Rolling Tones take private requests too, just contact the group for more information.
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