At about 25 groups, the Contemporary A Cappella League (CAL) continues to grow as new groups are formed and formed groups hop on the a cappella soul train. One such group is LA-based Voxel Rox. At the helm of Voxel Rox is Barton Gawboy who is a seasoned professional that has had much success in the areas of computer music and computer graphics (this is where I think the group got its name) and looks to form a successful post-collegiate vocal band. I had a chance to chat with Bart over the phone and he gave me some insight on where the group is now and where they hope to be.
As is true with most post-collegiate a cappellers, Bart is anxious to produce a group that will help to get those musical juices flowing. Eleven members strong, the hope is to garner enough a cappella junkies that the group could grow to an even stronger twenty. Current members range in age from twenties to fifties, even sixties. Voxel Rox is not immune to the typical adult a cappella member with responsibilities outside of being an a cappella rock star but it is important for them to have their voice(s) heard in the Venice Beach community in which they reside. “Voxel Rox is a growing new vocal group that is an active community group - nurturing celebration of life, bringing live song and dance, encouraging participation, balancing our passive, hi-tech world.”
With some R&B band experience under his cap, Bart hopes to recreate that sort of sound with voices--a big vocal band. “Well, it is a cappella, but it is not a choir, though it may grow to be quite large like a choir. It will have many instrumental (non-lyrical) parts. You could call it a vocal ensemble, but then it might not convey the kind of groove we want to hit. It’s more of a band, a rocked-out big vocal band, rather than a vocal big band.”
The group instrumentation is spelled out a lot like an R&B or horn band but with singer labels. “We want a group that sounds more like parts of a band with voices and we want to do lots of improv, like an actual band would do. We have about 9 parts: soprano, mezzo, alto 1, alto 2, tenor 1, tenor 2, bari 1 as a sax, sometimes a bari 2 as a guitar, bass, and drums. There is a lead and we’re basically jamming behind them. It is tough building members because of the difficulty of parts, but we are getting closer to our vision.”
“We'll take on funk and rock, if it includes big horns, big backup vocals, or wall of guitar instrumentation, we're game. Any groove built for dancing is up for grabs, but we also love the messages in the lyrics that these grooves often accompany, so we are heavily influenced by many of the social statement songs from the 60s and 70s -- Sly and the Family Stone, Tower of Power, Blood, Sweat and Tears.” On their website, Voxel Rox lists a plethora of arrangements that showcase the influences which inform their sound. These influences range from Earth, Wind, and Fire to Depeche Mode, but Voxel Rox is not devoid of current sounds, as is evident with arrangements of songs by Jason Derulo, Alicia Keys, and Rhianna.
Although Bart is the primary arranger, he does invite other members to arrange and offers any assistance they may need. “But, we really want to grow our songs from the inside out with free-spirited improvising and discovering in rehearsal. And we want to do lots of originals.” Their website echoes this sentiment as it states: “Our goal is to be defined by our original creations.” This could eventually lead to recording as Bart mentions that is a goal of the group; they would like to submit an album of mostly originals for the League category of the CARA’s.
In January, the group performed at the LA A Capella Festival (LAAF) and sang two new songs, “It’s Your Thing” (Isley Bros.) and an original, “Sing For Your Life” in honor of the League slogan. VR has also been known to frequent The Talking Stick, a popular Venice entertainment venue. In fact, their next performance at The Talking Stick is scheduled for May 1st. The group would like to get out even more in their community, gigging regularly. “We want people coming out dancing and singing along. We also would like to perform with other groups and help them get heard.”
So you may be asking yourself, “Hey, I live in the LA area…how can I be a member of this group?” Well, you’re in luck, their website says they are looking for all vocal parts but in particular, tenors, baritones, and vocal percussionists are being sought. On the site is a detailed audition page that explains what you would expect to encounter in a Voxel Rox audition. Contact information is provided to get in touch with Bart to set up an audition. Also provided on the site is a FAQ about the group that details some points I may have missed; it’s always a good idea to do your homework about a group before you go in to an audition. This FAQ provides much insight to the group and how it functions.
Big sound, free-spirits, rockin’ out, all phrases that would describe what Voxel Rox is and will be as it reaches full member capacity. Bart adds, “after some time away from music, I started singing and it got the juices flowing again.” They seem to embody the idea that you don’t need to stop loving what you did and you can definitely (re)start doing what you love!
For more info on Voxel Rox, visit their website at www.voxelrox.com.
About the author:
José “Chach” Snook was a recording artist with Town Crier Records in NYC with his former group Pieces of 8 and now teaches Jr. High choir in Tucson, AZ. José “Chach” Snook grew up in Napa, CA and has performed in 44 states and 13 countries. For 10 years, Chach lived in NYC as a professional singer/actor and appeared in many shows including Forever Plaid and Altar Boyz (pre-Off-Broadway reading). Chach has been singing a cappella since his freshman year of high school and was last seen as a member of the NY-based, jazz a cappella group Pieces of 8. With Pof8 he recorded 2 albums and was featured on United Airlines’ in-flight music. Chach has a Vocal Performance degree from Northern Arizona University and currently teaches choir and theatre in Tucson, AZ where he lives with his wife and 2 children.