Testostertones record new album, strive to take music to next level

caitlinhardee

Photo Credit : Jacobson

As February rolled into March, the sun was shining, the flowers budding, but the Testostertones were not outside to see it. The members of Whitman’s all-male a cappella group were sequestered below ground in a makeshift basement studio, bringing their own project to life. For the first time in several years, the vocal group is releasing a new album and recently finished the strenuous recording sessions.

Senior T-Tones member Graham Toben recalled the long hours and demands of recording.

“I was probably [in studio] for eight or nine hours this weekend, maybe more,” said Toben. “Recording is kind of a piecewise thing. It’s not as if you record a whole song and then record the whole song again; it’s literally like four measures, another four measures, another four measures, and you record it numerous times.”

To handle production, editing and mixing for the album, the T-Tones brought in award-winning producer and founder of the University of Oregon a cappella group On The Rocks, Peter Hollens.

“Peter’s really well-known: when he produces a CD, people pay attention to it,” said the T-Tones Business Manager, senior Matthew Beckett. “We’re hoping that we can get the CD out into bigger, broader a cappella communities and get a name for ourselves, similar to University of Oregon’s On The Rocks, the Tufts Beelzebubs, even the University of North Carolina Clef Hangers. Hopefully if we can get our name out there, we’ll get more revenue from CD sales nationally.”

With Hollens’ strong leadership came equally exacting standards. Toben discussed the experience of working with the producer.

“It was interesting. He at times was a real jerk and at times he was real supportive,” said Toben. “The first time we met him, he walked in and said, ‘I’m going to be kind of a dick, but the bottom line is, I want to show you guys just what really good a cappella can be.’ And I definitely feel like he pushed us to the next level. He was critical when he needed to be and supportive when he needed to be.”

Hollens concurred. Speaking through e-mail, he cited the long hours and fatigue of the recording process as challenges for himself and the guys, but praised their growth and the final result.

“They have done an amazing job in the studio and really embraced changes, and I think it will reflect well in their live performance,” said Hollens.

This new album represents the next step in the T-Tones’ struggle toward wider recognition. However, it has also consumed the funds the group has spent the last few years accumulating. Sophomore de facto group leader Jasper Bash cited file sharing and the unavailability of ASWC support for a “for-profit” group as major financial obstacles. The T-Tones are staking their resources on the professionalism of the album and hoping for inclusion in a nationwide a cappella compilation that would afford them greater exposure.

“That would be sweet, if we could get onto [a compilation],” said Bash. “I think we’re going to send in some of our songs for that: maybe Kodachrome. It’s a song that hasn’t been used a lot before; [sophomore] Mark Arand did a really fabulous arrangement for us. We’re gunning for BOCA: Best of College Acappella.”

The group will do its best to harness the potential publicity of the new album, both in the national a cappella community and here in Walla Walla. A release date is not yet certain, but the group is already planning promotion.

“Once the CD is out, we’re gonna have a big CD release,” said Beckett. “We’ll have a couple groups from Western Washington come down and do a big release concert, and try and get the CD out in the local community before we get it out anywhere else in the country.”

If CD sales generate sufficient revenues, the group will also try to break out of the Walla Walla bubble and hit the road.

“We were discussing this earlier this year, about going on a tour to Colorado, but then the CD took most of our energy,” said Bash. “So we’re hoping to sell the CD, make some money, then go on a tour.

The album will include arrangements by Arand, as well as arrangements by Whitman alumnus Kaston Griffin ’09 and one by a producer friend of Hollens’. Highlights of the album will include versions of “This Side” by Nickel Creek, “Soldier” by Steven Curtis Chapman and “Snakes on a Plane.”