Bullet Point Bio:
The House Jacks are a pioneering a cappella rock band whose music has been the soundtrack for NBC’s “The Sing-Off,” ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” and the 2012 Sony sound system demo for Ford automobiles. Their arrangements have been used for the smash hit moving Pitch Perfect, and the group’s founder, Deke Sharon, is widely recognized as “The Father of Modern A Cappella.”
The band has been featured in top media outlets including The New York Times,Rolling Stone, CNN, and ABC World News Tonight; the band has performed with the likes of Ray Charles, James Brown, Train, LL Cool J, Jay Leno, and Crosby Stills and Nash, at venues including Carnegie Hall, Candlestick Park, The World Expo, and The House of Blues; and the band has performed and/or recorded commercials for celebrity and corporate clients like President Bill Clinton, Larry King, Aaron Spelling, Coca Cola, and Verizon Wireless.
Having been leaders in the contemporary a cappella world for 25 years, the group has transcended simple “band” categorization, and is now a thriving institution, always featuring some the best vocalists in the world.
So what is a House Jack? One of the strongest things in the world!
Areas of Expertise:
- Explosion of a cappella in pop culture
- The business of a cappella, and the broader music industry
- Secrets for improvising audience mash-up requests
- 21st century technology for “virtual” bands
- Technique for impersonating musical instruments
- Keeping the love alive in a long-term band
- Group dynamics, and good rehearsal practices
This Ain’t Yo Mama’s A Cappella Group
A cappella music has come a long way, baby, since barbershop quartets and doo-wop bands. With the influence of hip hop, R&B, rock, and world beat, and with singers now imitating the sound of percussion, guitars, horns, and electric bass, a cappella music has hit the mainstream and shot up the charts. From Glee to The Sing-Off to The Office, and with college a cappella groups getting millions of hits on YouTube, a cappella is suddenly ubiquitous. The House Jacks trace the history of a cappella, revealing the factors leading to its meteoric comeback.
Sing on Your Toes
At each performance, The House Jacks take audience requests – if, and only if, they are for songs never rehearsed. Improvising a Cajun-Reggae blend of “Bohemian Rhapsody” (think Bob Marley yodeling) or a Middle Eastern rap mix of “Like a Virgin,” The House Jacks leave audiences howling with laughter and screaming for more. Band members share the techniques they developed for singing on their toes – enabling them to improvise music without rules or boundaries.
The 21st Century Band
Marriage, jobs, and other life changes have scattered The House Jacks clear across the United States, during their two decades together. Combining technological savvy with musical talent, the band uses mp3 recordings, ProTools, music scoring apps, Skype conference calls, and quickie in-person rehearsals to stay together and gel their one-of-a-kind sound. The House Jacks reveal how 21st century technology radically has altered one’s ability to write, rehearse, and perform music worldwide.
Keeping the Love Alive
The loudmouth. The quiet one. The organizer. The flake. Bands are notorious for falling apart as a result of personality clashes, never mind fights over musical direction. Implementing techniques from corporate America, however, The House Jacks have kept a handle on group interactions – enabling members to understand each other, minimize friction, and work together in harmony (literally) for 21 years. Band members share how they have kept the love alive, over two decades of personal and group changes.
How do you do this?
With modern a cappella sweeping the world, often times the simplest question is, “How can I do that?” The House Jacks can explain everything from how to bring your friends together, to running rehearsals, getting involved in festivals and competitions, showcasing, pushing the boundaries of “vocal music,” and everything in between. One of the requirements of being in the group is that each member bust be a competent, confident teacher as well as performer. The first rule in vocal music? Communication is everything.
Sample Interview Questions
- A cappella used to be all doo-wop and barbershop quartets. How did it take on an urban edge, and what was your role in changing a cappella’s image?
- What factors contributed to the sudden explosion of interest in a cappella music?
- You only take audience requests if you haven’t rehearsed the songs before, and you encourage people to ask for crazy mash-ups – like a Middle Eastern rap mix of “Like a Virgin.” How do you make these improvisations work?
- Tell us about how you each got into a cappella music and how you came together as a band.
- Your band has been together almost 25 years, which is longer than most marriages last. What were some of your struggles over the years, and how were you able to overcome them?
- How has 21st century technology changed the ability to write and perform music?
- What is special about a cappella music?
- How do you beat box and impersonate musical instruments?
- Do any of you play musical instruments, and does it influence your a cappella writing or performance?
- What sets you apart from other vocal groups?
- Who did you most enjoy working with — Ray Charles or James Brown?
- How do you keep your voices in shape?
- Is it still fun for you guys to work together, after such a long run? How do you keep it fresh?