Nearly twenty years ago, Ross Lynde and Carl Berger, who had been college friends at York University in Toronto, had the idea of forming an a cappella group. As Lynde recalled, they envisioned, “just four guys singing songs and having fun.”
In 2015, the guys are certainly upholding that standard. Though the group line up has changed over time, Cadence has evolved into an a cappella institution devoted to good music and good times. On November 10—upon the release of the group’s new music video for their cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”—Lynde took some time to discuss his group’s latest work with me.
“I grew up with Gordon Lightfoot playing in the background,” Lynde said. Cadence was a part of an annual Lightfoot tribute concert three times Lynde recalled that on one of these occasions, the group felt compelled toward “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” “It’s a song that tells a real story—an epic tale of something that really happened, and I thought it would be cool to tackle this piece.”
The performance was a success. “People loved it,” Lynde recalled. “We put it in our regular repertoire. It was connecting to the point that it would get a standing ovation in the middle of a show. We decided we had to record it.”
The track features a variety of sounds. “It was a different process for the recording part,” Lynde explained. Cadence takes pride in performing live without special effects—just four human voices singing into microphones. “We went into the studio with that bare bones arrangement,” Lynde said. “When you’re in the studio you have the opportunity to have all sorts of studio fun. We could see what parts sounded like as a duet rather than a solo, adding drum layers, adding windy sounds on the top and at the end. The effects from the studio all came into play.”
The recording process proved highly iterative. “Each step we took was realized on the track,” Lynde said. “It bled over to more ideas. Near the end of the song—verse seven, I think—we sing about the Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral and we thought it would be cool to have bagpipes in there. We all took turns jumping in there making sounds and with a little bit of mixing and production we made it so the sound is there, but not at the forefront. It creates a mood. We had a lot of fun with tracking and mixing the song.”
With the song recorded, Cadence set its sights on recording a music video. “Because the story is so profound, I wanted that to be the focal point of the material,” Lynde said. “You can get married to having your faces in the video, and I get that some people want to see who is singing that verse, or what do they look like, or what are they conveying. But ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ is such an epic tale of this ship going down.” The group considered quite a few ideas which didn’t seem to do the story justice. “I didn’t want it to be cheesy,” Lynde articulated. “I was having a hard time wrapping my head around how to tell the story without us getting in the way. That led me to animation. We thought about doing a cartoon, but we didn’t want it to be funny or cheeky, then I remembered seeing this sand art that was floating around the Internet of this woman doing a piece, creating visuals on the fly in front of an audience telling a poignant story.” Lynde researched the artist and fond Kseniya Simonova, the 2009 winner of Ukraine’s Got Talent, who has uploaded a wealth of videos online and garnered millions of views. Cadence explored other options, but “we kept coming back to [Simonova] and the level of detail she was able to bring, and the emotion was just a perfect pairing for telling story effectively.”
The video marks a remarkable new accomplishment for Cadence, and an impressive follow up to their impressive cover of Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” for which they released a video earlier this fall.
The group arrived at covering Bieber based out of their work in a cappella education. “There’s something about the voice that crosses ages and genres,” Lynde said. In their workshops and visiting schools, “We don’t try to talk down to anyone or be heady.” The group has worked with students from kindergarten through college and beyond. “Everyone’s got a voice, everyone can do it,” Lynde said. ”It comes back to the fun factor—we try to make sure everyone’s having fun and singing along. If we get kids to participate that way, it’s such an immediate pay off.”
With no shortage of success live on stage, in the studio, and working in the community, Cadence is clicking on so many different fronts. Given his range of experiences with Cadence and longevity in the a cappella world, Lynde offered some valuable insights on how groups should approach their craft. “Of course, you want to say, ‘who is my audience’ and ask how to reach them and what do they want to hear?” Lynde said. “But make sure you’re vested in the product or presentation. If you’re not digging it and having fun … it makes more sense to do what you want to do. You have to be your genuine self.” He went on to say, “If people watch see you aren’t interested, they can smell that. You have to love what you’re doing.”
It’s clear that Lynde and Cadence love what they are doing, and that this passion has facilitated remarkable work from the quartet. You can learn more about Cadence at their official site.