HomeContemporary A Cappella League Spotlight: Restated

Evan Feist's picture

Restated (formerly The Red States) (2010 A Cappella Community Award winners for Favorite Contemporary A Cappella League group) officially began in September 2007. I spoke to Jim Diego, who was one of the founders of the group, along with Brian Chambers and Candice Leigh Helfand.  “We called ourselves ‘The Red States’, Jim said, “because our original idea was that most, if not all, of our repertoire would fall under songs with emotions associated with the color red - emotions such as angst, lust, anger, love, etc. the sky's the limit.”

The name definitely grabs people's attention due to its political connotation.  But they always caveat themselves with their unofficial subtitle of "no political affiliation."

Co-founder Candice Helfand says, “We sang together at Rutgers University in the a cappella groups there, and wanted to create a group that allows those of us without a scholastic a cappella opportunity the chance to enjoy the camaraderie, and the genre itself.”

Red States are part of CASA's Contemporary A cappella League, a network of groups nationwide that allows those of us passionate about a cappella to connect and make the music we love.  “Having our group associated with a larger, supportive community has been a blessing for us in terms of that connection.  It's also been fun to be on the inside of watching something like CAL develop, and to in some way be a part of that growth” said Candace Helfand

When asked why Red States joined the League, they said that, “We're tied to people we wouldn't necessarily know and resources that we wouldn't necessarily have if we had started this venture outside of the League.  The a cappella community is accessible and friendly, but it never hurts to have that additional ‘in’.  Having CASA to help promote our group is also key, given the far reaches of the organization.”

The group's grown quite a bit musically since their beginnings three years ago.

Jim Diego: “We benefit from having a really strong amount of ridiculously talented soloists and arrangers.  The last six months have been quite amazing for us, ever since we were selected for Sing VI and received a CARA nomination and eventual win, for our only released recorded track of Lady Gaga's "Just Dance."  The group was also invited down to Washington, DC, to perform at Aca-Idol for the SingStrong A Cappella Festival, and also participated in two subset groups for the New York Regional Harmony Sweepstakes (due to the Sweeps maximum allowable number of members rule).  One of the groups, REDux, even garnered awards for Best Female Soloist (Candice Helfand for "Separate Ways") and Best Choreography (yours truly, for the entire set)”

I was lucky enough to be able to see REDux’s performance that night and they were easily the most fun and energetic group there.  And, as Jim pointed out, the arrangements AND soloists were great.  What I found particularly impressive about them was the spacing of the voice parts as well as the voice leading itself.  More so than the other groups, each singer had a real sense of where their part fit into the whole. You could tell that this group really had a great sense of dynamic and blend, as this concert was not aided with any pre- or post-microphone processing.  Another stellar aspect of REDux is that they had two female vocal percussionists on that set.  I know this isn’t as uncommon as it used to be (and I’m sure in about 8 months time it’ll seem silly that I even mentioned it), but it’s great to see such a versatile group live.

On a similar note, as Jim said, Red States only have one released studio track.  This makes my job a bit easier since all I have to listen to and report on are live videos on YouTube.  This is the best,  and in my opinion, only way to really get a sense of what a group’s about and who they are.

Unfortunately, 5 out of the 6 videos up on their YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/TheRedStatesNYC) are from the same show.  So, a critique of the group based on the only media I can find will seem more like a concert review.  Anywho, besides the diverse repertoire choice, their blend and dynamics are great.  One of the videos up on YouTube is of Radiohead’s “Creep”.  Unlike the majority of other groups covering this song, it’s not overdone.  It’s a very subtle track with beautiful close harmony.  They’re the kind of group that understands that you need to start small so that you have somewhere to build to.

On the other side of the spectrum, they perform songs like “Misery Business” (Paramore) and “Paralyzer” (Finger Eleven) in which they inject their special brand of close crunchy harmony into these normally dry diatonic rock songs.  It just dissonant enough to peak my interest without seeming too dense or inaccessible to a lay listener.

Their repertoire is mainly rock and "dirty pop," two genres with a veritable treasure trove of set list options that fit this bill.

“What makes us different”, Candace said, “in my opinion, is our overall attitude. We're forceful in our execution, but not without a sense of fun.  Our rock-centric repertoire also sets us apart, as I feel it's a genre in the community that, while certainly not ignored,  is not typically used as a foundational element in putting together a set for a vocal ensemble.

Also, I'd just like to say how proud I am of what our group has done...Our CARA win, our awards at the Harmony Sweepstakes - these are big deals for us.  But moreover, in three short years, this group has worked hard to make a name for itself, to establish itself as a dynamic and entertaining addition to the a cappella world.  I feel we've taken some significant strides toward that aim, and I am infinitely proud of those efforts.  I can't wait to see what lies ahead for us.” – Candace Helfand

What does the future hold for Red States?  Well, this summer, they hope to go into the recording studio to keep recording, and hopefully before the end of 2010, release their first album!


About the author:
Evan Feist has been composing, arranging, teaching, and singing a cappella music and vocal percussion for over eight years and has his Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Composition and Arts Management from SUNY Purchase's Conservatory of Music and is working towards his Master' Degree in Music Education at Columbia University, Teacher's College.  He has created and managed many successful groups, such as the A Cappella Innovations’ honored Choral Pleasure, SUNY Purchase Soul Voices, and the Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK Honors Choir.  Evan is the founder and president of Oven Feast Productions, and the business manager of Stacks of Wax Records, currently based out of Jersville Studios. He dabbles in all things musical and plays the piano, drums, percussion, trumpet, shofar, bass, and guitar.  Evan is currently building a collegiate mixed a cappella group in NYC (open to ALL students in the area)