We sat down with The Other Guys for a very candid, exclusive interview
Talking all things alumni, singing for J.J. Abrams and upcoming Royal Wedding performances…
The eleven eligible young bachelors who make up The Other Guys, have brought boundless amounts of energy and enthusiasm to their live shows with their incredible voices for singing acappella. Thanks to their dedicated fan base on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Wikipedia and even their own website, we're never disappointed! The names of the group members are Laurence, Duncan, Tristan, George, Davis, Thomas, Arthur, Iain, Charlie , Jackson and Charles.
But that’s not what we take away from their past live performances — something they’ve been perfecting since 2004. To get to know the group better, I decided to have a sit-down interview with them. In a church. So here is nothing but the truth, with God as our witness:
In 2004, how did the original group actually create The Other Guys and what's the origin of the group name?
We are very much in touch with our old members, we have a really good alumni network, so the story goes that they auditioned for another acappella group that was on at the time, but no one got in fortunately. And so, kind of disappointed, they thought, “Well, why not improvise”, and they started their own group and realised more people wanted to join. They got pretty good at standard and they were looking to name the group. Considering they didn’t get in with the “others”, they called it “The Other Guys". Today, Other Guys is the only all-male acappella group in Scotland, not just the university, and we're one of the best in UK, we have toured the world and lots of things. We made a lot of effort it's kinda like a Disney story.
What inspired the original group to make music together?
A lot of them did come from musical backgrounds. Yeah, a lot of them have done musical school or sang as children and they got here and had the standard resources needed to get into the other group. All of them were good singers and they obviously just wanted to carry on singing as a hobby. We try not to take this too seriously, we all do this as a hobby obviously, none of us study music here because St. Andrews doesn’t offer a degree in music. So, this is very much an extra-curricular activity.
But at the same time, we always strive to do our best. That is obviously something Charles (musical director) emphasises. He has pushed us to compete, given us harsh criticism and made us think about how we can do things better and really work towards the goal of being the best we can.
Going back to the original question, this group of students have a very strong sense of American influence, so we pride ourselves as a fusion of the American collegiate acappella tradition combined with the British choral tradition. That’s our mission statement I suppose.
How long have you all known each other?
Every year new people come in, people leave. So, Laurence has been here since his first year, Charles and couple of others joined us in the second year, so we have known each other for around three years. Others have known each other for around two years. One of us have sung with not just the guys here, but ten-fifteen of the other guys who were part of the group before and then left. It’s a very organic process. We start off with people from all kind of years, even PhD students. We do musicals together. It’s not just this group where come in, we spill out across St. Andrews. We also audition every year, so people leave and then we get new members at the same time. So, it is a constant process of going and coming in.
And I heard you all still work with your alumni? Did you go on the North American Tour with any alumni members by any chance?
We didn’t tour with them, but we have sung with them. Some of them host us, like our friend in Chicago for example asked us to stay with him and he also helped us with the concert there. One of the guys travelled across from Michigan. In DC too, there were guys getting in touch. It’s not like reaching out to all the people, it’s something much more familial, much more personal. They are not just our alumni, they're our friends. Every two years we have a weekend called The Other Guys Alumni Weekend, where we sing together, have fun together and socialise together and that really creates a fantastic group dynamic. This year during the alumni weekend, Charles organised an Other Guys Ball which was a really fun event. They are a really useful network to tap into because we don’t do music mainstream, we have academia as well.
Do you have any record label? Or are you a member of any music organization?
We are strictly not for profit and we are not managed by any company. We are first and foremost a university a cappella group and yes, we have toured the world, and yes, we met all kinds of people and we do get offers, but it would be wrong to change course. In 2011 we were offered a record label when we released Royal Romance and if we had taken it, we would not be able to do all the stuff that we still do.
Which is your favourite performance venue?
We all have a favourite venue from the past. One that left a mark is when we sang at the Royal Britannia in Edinburgh last year, that was a lot of fun. We do tons of different types of gigs, so sometimes we come in for like three songs for some of the administration and Lower College Hall. Sometimes we do a whole concert. So, we really have learned to adapt and put on a show, no matter what the atmosphere is. We sometimes put on shows for children, for example, recently the Jungle Book, where we need to watch our language. On the other hand we might sing to a room full of 50-60-year-old ladies. One of the memorable ones, on tour two years ago, and one of the guys came and said that once we were done, he would take us to perform for J.J. Abrams, the guy who directed the Star-Trek and Star War movies and we jumped into an Uber, went down and sang for him. It was so bizarre. It was insane.
Some of the best ones we do are St. Andrews is close to our heart. We have performed at the Byre and Barron a lot as well.
Which songs do you perform most frequently?
Other than St. Andrews Girls and Royal Romance, because we are Scottish we tend to perform Loch Lomond and such tunes. Any sort of vibe. We try and keep it current too – we have got tracks like Despacito, we try and keep it up to date, its constantly evolving.
Do you have any upcoming shows?
Yes, this summer we will have our final performance together at the Fringe Festival. We are also releasing one of our final projects this summer – our five-track album, this summer. With all new stuff, which kinda envelopes our past year as a group. We will also be releasing a series of videos with all the stuff and some of the more current stuff. One of the things we did is parody of the upcoming royal wedding. So, yeah. But for St. Andrews our time of the year is done! But online our presence is always going to be there.
Who are your musical influences? What are you guys inspired by?
Interesting question- we have the combination of the American and British. We have very diverse musical backgrounds. George, for instance, was in Eurovision for Cyprus. Most of us have been singing since high school, and we listen to a diverse range of stuff so we all come up with different ideas and we try and get a collective mix of musical influences.
Are there any particular groups you look up to?
There are some fantastic acapella groups out there. The Pentatonix are obviously at the top of the tree. The King’s Singers are a little more choral, but their fantastic in what they do. In acapella you cannot look up to one artist, we have to know all genres, we have to know the latest charts, we need to know what alternative music to listen to, we need to know what has been sung in the past- you can’t really look at one artist.
What has been your biggest challenge as a group?
We just get on each other’s nerves. Because we do spend a lot of time together and sometimes we have different opinions and trying to find a median between those opinions can be a challenge. We are going to have to be able to work with each other at the end of the day. The biggest challenge we face every year is recruiting the best people with continuing talent.
What’s the longest a group members have gone without speaking?
Probably around 24 hours, haha.
Have you considered girls joining your group?
We have a couple of pieces that have lines for girls. We do joint concerts in America with all female groups. We did that in London as well, but we also like the social aspect of hanging out with the boys.
Are you seeking fame and fortune or are you happy as you are?
What we want to do is entertain audiences and do the best we can. We do try to do everything we can to promote our image. It’s the music that comes first. One of the alumni was in the audience for our Leavers’ Concert and when some of us went up and performed the same song, we just wanted him to be proud. Someday we want to come back as alumni and feel the way that he did that night. That’s something that keeps us going.
How about any royal wedding performances in coming years?
Haha, that’s a work in progress! We have a man on the inside and we would love to be considered. So if you read this Royal Family, we're free!