Music without instruments. Vocal band. A cappella. No matter how you say it, the genre of vocally created music has come a long way in the past 10 years. And while it’s begun to pique the interests of the masses, and while much could be said about the journey of this genre up until now, the more important question for us is, “Where is it heading?” In our humble opinions, the word “A cappella” has become sort of taboo. An immediate reference is drawn to specific sub-cultures within the genre, such as doo-wop, barbershop, or collegiate chorus. While all of these forms are great, MO5AIC represents a much different face of the A cappella experience – and one that is not easily definable. I suppose that’s why we stopped using the word “A cappella” to describe our sound. It’s true – we don’t use instruments. Fine. Great. Next. We don’t use that as a way to attempt to draw distinction. In fact, we’d like people to forget about that aspect. For us, the voice is the instrument. It’s the raw starting point for the sound. The way the voices are then arranged, tweaked and manipulated are how we define our sound. The way we choose to amplify, or distort, or alter the voice is really no different than how a guitar player might route through a distortion pedal or effects bank. The voice is the block we build upon. So in that regard, we are a sort of hybrid between a band and an A cappella group. At it’s core – we create “vocally driven” music that could sonically hold it’s own next to any full instrumentation. That’s what we are. That’s what we do. Vocally Driven Music. But how did this all start? Read on if you’re interested. Otherwise, just click on contact and book us already
I’ll never forget the day I first heard “7″ by Prince. I was in high school at the time, driving my Plymouth Satellite to lunch, when I heard these expansive and somewhat complex harmonies blasting from the radio. In that moment, a strange light turned on in my head. Goodbye basketball. Goodbye mathematics. Hello future. I’d realized that the voice can be more interesting than the instruments accompanying it. It was a foray into a new kind of sound. But it was more than that. The voice was the sound. An idea was born. From that point forward, I began studying the use of layered vocals and unique harmony to achieve specific sounds and textures. I became passionate about vocally created music and started searching for it. Take 6, King Singers, AVB, Charles Ives’ a cappella studies, Anuna and many, many other obscure artists became daily listening for me.
Here’s what I discovered. For as complex as it was to create this type of music, it seemed like the genre hadn’t been able to honestly stand on its own in a mainstream capacity. While artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Rockapella and occasionally Boyz II Men were delivering vocally created music that would pop up in radio or TV from time to time, the genre always seemed to stay in this sort of “niche” position within mainstream acceptance. It’s somewhat sad and frustrating to me, when the most recognizable a cappella song of all time is “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” followed closely by “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Why couldn’t a group take this sound even further? Was the concept of “no instruments” truly a limiting factor? I have honestly never believed this. But what I began to realize is that maybe it wasn’t the concept that was flawed. Maybe it was just a matter of assembling the correct grouping of individuals, all having the same focus, like-mindedness and skill sets to make it work. Could that correct combination take this sound to the mainstream in a way never done before? Time will tell, but it’s no exaggeration to say it’s been an almost 11 year journey up to now. Countless hours of thought and revision on the subject, and test group after test group eventually led to this quirky group you see before you called MO5AIC. While the full biography would be an epic tale (and possibly an epic fail), filled with wonder and non-wonder, to try to give the full story is most-likely a pointless endeavor. So I won’t bore you. Instead, I’ll just talk about the important stuff! Let’s jump around chronologically for a bit, shall we? And a one, and a two, and a…
The phrase “facelift” seemed to be the best way I could describe my intentions. Since my college days I’d wanted to rejuvenate and reface the notion that A cappella couldn’t go mainstream. Door after door after door seemed to shut, with phrases such as “unmarketable” or “add instruments” surfacing to the top. Frustrating as it was, the project gained momentum. In 2004, well into the early years of the concept group, I remember seeing an individual do a beatbox solo at the West Coast A cappella Summit that literally blew me away. I remember thinking at that time, “how do I work with him?” That beat boxer was none other than Jake Moulton. It was immediately obvious – he was on another level. I now understood that this group needed a powerhouse percussionist like that to really push the A cappella sound beyond the stereotype. There are lots of people that can keep a beat with their mouths, but there are few mimics out there. Jake is the ultimate mimic and in 30 seconds of listening to his skill set, you will understand what I am talking about. I am happy and thankful every day to be working with this crazy man. Let’s continue jumping.
Stepping back a few years, to 2002, I was attending a church service in Orlando, FL, a place where I’d experienced all sorts of interesting firsts in my career (another bio altogether). I see this dude with spiky boy-band blond hair step up on the stage (not his fault – boy band fever had hit hard and Orlando was the mecca. I had the same hair, except dyed red). Heath Burgett was his name, and I’ll never forget the riffs that came out of this white boy’s mouth. Effortless and flowing. It’s hard to come by legit solo artists, especially within the A cappella community, so to hear a guy do what he was doing got my wheels spinning. I remember thinking then, “how do I work with him?” I’d heard he had a record deal, so I unfortunately didn’t immediately pursue the idea. Little did I know then, that Heath would go on to become a major contributor, proponent and believer in this project, and I proudly share the stage with him at each and every show. The groundwork was being laid. Jump!…
The first time I’d heard Roo is a fantastic and hilarious story. A prior configuration of Mosaic was at a rehearsal, when in walks this model-esque dude. Enter Roopak Ahuja (huh? who?). Unbeknownst to me, and for reasons not important, he had been called to come train with us. Despite my initial confusion, and looks of “who the heck is this guy,” which we still laugh about to this day, Roo delivered a solo/audition that impressed me immediately. He’d also made a few theory nerd comments along the way about an arrangement of Closer (Ne-Yo) I’d just completed, so it caught my attention that I was talking to a fellow nerd. (Nerd is the highest form of compliment you can give in this group btw). Roo was instantly placed on the short list of “people to break down the mainstream door of a cappella acceptance with” from that point forward. Oh, and he’s a vegetarian. Probably the largest vegetarian I’ve ever known. I frequently use the phrase WWRE (what would Roo eat?) and it has served me well thus far. Thanks Roo. Jump. (wait. Roo. Jump. Kangaroo? Sorry – that was dumb).
Lastly, but not least-ly, we have C. I’d crossed paths many times prior with Corwyn Hodge without even realizing it. We both got our roots in musical theatre and nearly missed each other in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar in a small little theatre all the way up in Pennsylvania. Amish country to be more precise. Due to a scheduling snafu, I’d arrived a month later to this same theatre, just after C had left. All I’d hear about were the stories of “Corwyn Hodge” and that “silky smooth voice.” I literally would hear about him daily. Who was this man? This myth? Skipping ahead a few years: One morning, while still singing at my then, full-time job for Walt Disney World, in walks a mustache-laden individual in red wind pants and and an all red Cardinals T-shirt. Baseball player? Gang member? As I was looking for a hint of a grill, or gold teeth somewhere, I hear him say, “Hi, I’m Corwyn Hodge.” No way. The Corwyn Hodge? Turns out he was training in as a sub for the show I sang for at Epcot. For years, all I’d heard about was how good this dude was, yet I’d managed to never actually hear him sing. From the second he started, I understood what all the hoopla was about. Yes. I said hoopla. Even though he was a fresh new-hire to the company, I began to think to myself, “how do I work with him?”
In December of 2007, we submitted a video to CBS News’ The Early Show, in their nationwide search for “The Next Great A cappella Group.” The contest would be judged by our personal idols Boyz II Men. We won. That was truly a surreal moment. Boyz II Men were pioneers in the very genre we were trying to change. Through that experience we gained the respect and mutual admiration from a group we’d looked up to. I’ll never forget the day when Wanya Morris (Boyz II Men) pulled up his iPhone and started playing one of our tracks. We were on to something.
In 2008, MO5AIC garnered more attention through a show called MTV’s Top Pop Group. It was a premise similar to any talent show, but with “pop groups,” as the contestants. MO5AIC was the only “A cappella” group, and in retrospect was most likely thrown in for pure entertainment value. We were immediately asked to use instruments by execs and had to fight to keep our all-vocal sound. This reinforced every notion that a cappella was still being viewed as a novelty by most. While the show was ultimately cut-short due to lack of viewership, we won the contest, much to the surprise of these executives who’d been insisting we use instruments. This most definitely got some wheels spinning in the minds of those very producers. I’ll never forget when one such executive approached me about a spin-off show, but this time using ONLY a cappella groups. I remember stifling a slight internal chuckle. Welcome to the party. Welcome to our world Mr. Producer. This show would go on to become NBC’s The Sing Off. (Ironically, we were unable to participate in the show due to our connection to MTV’s Top Pop Group, but a small victory took place that day and we’re ok with it).
Since that time, MO5AIC has opened for such superstars as Prince, Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas, Stevie Wonder and Jay Leno. MO5AIC performed alongside Joey Fatone for TV Guide Network’s 51st Grammy Awards red carpet event, and later for the Academy Awards. We’ve comfortably made Las Vegas our home and if you ever happen to be on an RCCL cruise, you might spot us. We occasionally headline aboard the Allure and the Oasis of the Seas (think Titanic x 2, minus the iceberg).
As for our future – all I can say is hang on tight. We have some crazy stuff in the works.
Thanks everyone! Your support is appreciated. I’ve got to go now. My eyes are starting to blur.