The Other Guys: hitting all the right notes

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Photo: The Other Guys
Photo: The Other Guys
Photo: The Other Guys

Every icon comes from humble beginnings. The Other Guys (TOG) were no different. The a cappella group traces its roots to 2004, when a small group of friends recognised a shared proclivity for spontaneous song. Although a familiar sight to Americans, a cappella had not yet found its footing across the pond. The group’s very inception, therefore, was an innovative step towards the future, blazing the trail that many follow to this day.

Preceded only by Oxford and Cambridge, The Other Guys quickly established St Andrews as the United Kingdom’s leading force in all-male a cappella. Within a year of its formation, the group had crossed the Atlantic for an inaugural international tour along the east-most coast of the United States. Likely in reference to the resulting critical acclaim and unparalleled rise in popularity, TOG would go on to name their debut album Indecent Exposure.

TOG first achieved international attention in 2011 with their cover of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” restyled into the fittingly titled “Royal Romance.” An ode to the soon-to-be-married Wills & Kate, the song (and accompanying music video) placed the all-male group at the forefront of the British a cappella scene.

In 2012, the group proved it was no one hit wonder with ”St Andrews Girls,” a song and music video combination possibly more memorable than the previous release. Featuring lead vocals from Andrew Pattie and a quotable rap from Matthew Pattie, the song was for many aspiring students a first impression of St Andrews. The boys frolicked on the Old Course, jogged down West Sands, and sipped gin along the Scores, with every scene serving to further embed them into the town’s culture.

Today The Other Guys have continued to foster their esteemed reputation. Several more charity music videos have been released, notably 2015’s arrangement of “It’s Raining Men.”

2016 opened on a strong note: a tour of North America that took the boys from Los Angeles to New York to Toronto, with many more cities in between. This international presence has served to increase the recognition of St Andrews abroad, proving to the world that the University has produced more than just a royal couple.

A welcome (and fortunately frequent) sight at St Andrews events, TOG is now preparing to embark on their thirteenth year of ground-breaking work in the field of a cappella. After a gruelling round of auditions this year, five new faces have joined the team, each voice a breath of fresh air for the constantly evolving group. The ability to change their line-up every year contributes to TOG’s continued popularity: There is no chance of any one member overpowering the others, and every album has an entirely unique sound.

The a cappella group in 2014. Photo: Samantha Marcus
The a cappella group in 2014. Photo: Samantha Marcus

Charles McGlone, head of public relations, recalls that last year featured five new arrivals, too. “We’ve got people from all different musical backgrounds,” he tells The Saint in between sips of tea. “And every year it’s the same scope of second years to third years to postgrads. They all bring something really different to the group, and that’s what we want. We want variety and different experiences. There’s not a certain character who fits into TOG; it’s TOG that makes the character.”

One of these new boys is Arthur Chitnis, a first year medicine student. He attributes his initial desire to join to the vibrancy of The Other Guys, stating that the group “gives the most energetic musical performance in St Andrews.” The sentiment is echoed by second year international relations student Tristan Weller, who describes TOG as possessing “a unique brand within St Andrews a cappella. [The group] offers amazing opportunities to perform, not only in St Andrews, but across the UK and even internationally. Most important to me was that it just seemed like a great bunch of guys; not just an a cappella group, but a bunch of mates.”

Musical Director Laurence Pemberton said that “a cappella isn’t really the kind of thing you can do alone.” His words exemplify the innate camaraderie of The Other Guys. Both Mr Weller and Mr Chitnis have past experience in the realm of recreational singing. However, a cappella united them through a mutual reliance that is not necessarily present in choirs or musicals. No one man can carry the group. Even during solos, he requires the background support of his fellow performers, be that implemented via a vocal beat or choreography.

“[The new members] have been really great,” says Mr McGlone. “They’ve met the bar that we’ve set quite high for them, and we’re going to keep on going full speed ahead. I think people will see some things we’ve done before, but they’ll also see entirely new ventures that people have not yet seen  rom The Other Guys. This year we’re being much more ambitious, much more driven. It’s what The Other Guys does best, but even more of it.”

On Friday 14 October, The Other Guys made a guest appearance at one of Music Society’s weekly lunchtime concerts. Singing in support of Music in Hospitals, they were able to introduce their new members whilst showcasing a few old favourite tunes. Here, the recently inaugurated newbies proved their mettle as they seamlessly integrated themselves with veteran members of TOG.
It is early on in the year, yet already the boys appear to be working together in perfect harmony.

This concert was opened by a performance from Milk & Honey, whose wonderful renditions of “This Love” and “Riptide” nearly stole the entire event. Fortunately the songs were helmed by George Kakas, pulling double duty as general manager for Milk & Honey and long-time member of TOG. He went on to feature in the ensuing concert, his vocals serving to unite the folk quality of Milk & Honey with The Other Guys’ pop aesthetic.

When asked, both Mr Weller and Mr Chitnis name “St Andrean Skies” as their personal favourite TOG number. Specially commissioned for the 600th anniversary of the University, the Oscar Foxley-penned tune is a regular presence on TOG’s setlist. It is the bittersweet yin to “St Andrews Girls”’ yang, a hauntingly nostalgic glimpse at the future we will all share as graduates: “but as I lie here in bed, the dreams in my head take me back to St Andrews again.”

The line from which the song takes its title (“what I’d give to relive days beneath those St Andrean skies!”) carries with it all the beauty and individuality of our tiny town. No other sky quite matches that of St Andrews, and The Other Guys carry that spirit with every performance.

“We’re constantly pushing the boundaries of what all-male a cappella can accomplish,” says Mr Weller. “Music invigorates the heart; TOG invigorates the soul.”

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