This past week, Duke’s Out of the Blue released their new album “Youth.” “Youth” is the latest in a rapid stream of albums that OOTB has released in the past few years. Unlike many collegiate a cappella groups, OOTB has been prolific in recording and releasing their material.
The group currently has five albums on Spotify and also appear on many compilations, including several “Best of College A Cappella” compilations dating back to the mid-1990s. Their recordings have been critically acclaimed and have garnered the group multiple awards, making them the most decorated a cappella group at Duke.
“Youth” follows in the stead of OOTB’s previous successes. The album highlights the group’s talents in multiple genres, and includes original arrangements of stylistically varied songs. Music director Sophia Santore, a senior, explained the that the variation in styles contributes to their success.
“Our albums must be diverse and showcase strong soloists, arrangements and variety of genres while telling a cohesive story,” Santore said. “We don’t just plop a few of our favorite songs onto an album every two years.”
The diverse talents of the group’s members play into this strategy. All members are encouraged to either learn how to arrange or how to beat box.
Santore also describes the technical complexity of OOTB’s music as including “difficult rhythms, dissonance, weird syllables, and instrumental noises like trumpets.” These techniques are employed to great effect throughout “Youth,” and give the group’s arrangements a unique and interesting sound. Some of the best songs on the album demonstrate this, including the folk-rock ballad “I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons and Clean Bandit’s pop-house anthem, “Rather Be.”
“Youth” is also well-produced, a fact that can be attributed to collaboration between OOTB and Dave Sperandio, a well renowned a cappella music producer. Sperandio edits, mixes and masters the tracks with the help of Santore and previous music directors.
However, the album is not complete when recording and mixing have been completed. Business Manager Samantha Kisare, a junior, handles logistics of album production, which includes licensing, distribution, communicating with editors and finalizing album art.
“The whole process was completely new to me, and it was definitely exciting to play a big role in the album production,” Kisare said. “I could not contain my excitement when I got the boxes of our completed albums at my door.”
The process of creating an album is both costly and time-intensive, which makes producing one every two years a difficult task. The recording process takes months, involving hours in the studio for group members, in addition to normal performances, rehearsals, and other commitments. Putting albums together is made more difficult due to the financial commitment of production, because Duke does not provide funding to the group due to its audition-based selection process.
“One of the biggest challenges is funding,” Kisare said. “Out of the Blue is completely funded by ourselves, and considering it takes $10,000 to produce an album, it is a lot of work to raise money.”
The group raises money through concerts, album sales and our annual fall break tour, Santore said.
OOTB also released their first-ever music video in conjunction with the release of the album. The video was for the titular song of the album, “Youth,” originally by Daughter, and features Duke’s Momentum Dance Company in addition to OOTB.
“Over the course of a month, we met with Momentum and Freewater Productions to select a song, discuss a concept, and create a game plan for this video,” Santore recounted: “We could not have done achieved such an amazing video without the other groups, and we so thankful to have had the opportunity to collaborate on such an exciting project.”
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