Local music group MICappella out to bust a cappella stereotypes

MICappella comprise (from far left) Eugene Yip, Calin Wong, Juni Goh, Tay Kexin, Goh Mingwei and Peter Huang.
MICappella comprise (from far left) Eugene Yip, Calin Wong, Juni Goh, Tay Kexin, Goh Mingwei and Peter Huang.PHOTO: CROSS RATIO ENTERTAINMENT

MICappella have come out with a new album of original works to prove that a cappella groups can also compose and arrange

Home-grown act MICappella have a point to prove with their new album MICappella Reloaded.

Band leader and vocal percussionist Peter Huang, 34, says: "Most audiences might think that a cappella groups perform only covers. We hope that they can give us the space to present our ideas as we can also compose and arrange."

He was speaking at dance club Avalon last Friday at the launch of their first full album of original works, MICappella Reloaded. It will be released today.

They had previously dipped their toe into songwriting with two tracks, Forget It and the title number, on their debut record Here We Go (2013). In part encouraged by the success of Grammy-winning American vocal group Pentatonix, they have gone big on original material this time around.

Tenor Juni Goh, 30, says: "A cappella is becoming more widespread and more popular. It has become mainstream and can be heard on television shows and in movies."

MICappella were formed in 2009 and broke out on the TV singing competition The Sing-Off China in 2012 when they emerged as runners-up. The line-up includes soprano Tay Kexin, 28, alto Calin Wong, 30, bass Goh Mingwei, 29, and baritone Eugene Yip, 34.

Having performed hit songs by popular artists such as G.E.M., Hebe Tien and Maroon 5, they have learnt a thing or two about crafting songs by looking at the lyrics, rhythms and arrangements of those songs.

Says Juni Goh: "When we cover other people's songs, we change things and make them our own. It is very different from writing your own material as there is no base to build on. It's like starting from scratch."

When it comes to recording, the most challenging tracks to nail down are not the busy-sounding numbers.

Yip's vote goes to Hello Again, a track by Wong about a friend who committed suicide. He says: "It's not a typical pop song where you have drums and bass. It's slow and everybody needs to be extremely accurate and very on-point."

Meanwhile, the group has been hard at work building a fanbase as far afield as Europe and the United States. They have toured Germany, played at festivals in America, China and Hong Kong and were the first Singaporean group to perform at the London A Cappella Festival in January last year.

Tay, younger sister of singer- songwriter Tay Kewei, joined that same month after her friend Lee Ein Ein left to study music in Los Angeles.

"I was a little stressed as I had to learn more than 20 songs and then it was off to Europe to tour."

She and Goh Mingwei, the newest additions to the line-up, can take comfort in knowing they have since blended seamlessly in. Their vocal work is so tight that at a gig in China last year, there was an audience member who was convinced they were singing along to a minus-one tape.

It was also announced at the album launch that MICappella were signing to major label Universal Music Group.

Huang says: "We want to bring our music to more people and Universal Music will help us to broaden our market."

•MICappella Reloaded will be released today.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2016, with the headline 'Reloaded starting from scratch'. Print Edition | Subscribe