By Morgan Davis > Senior > Political Science and Journalism > George Washington University
Decked in plaid jackets and ties, the last thing you would expect from the Tufts University Beelzebubs would be enthusiastic singing voices and perfectly coordinated dance moves. But these gentlemen are not your typical a cappella group. Moving from their usual chapel stage at Tufts to a televised stage in Los Angeles in December, the group made audience’s heads spin “right round” as they became first runner-up in NBC’s Sing Off competition.
Competing with seven other a cappella groups from across the country, the Bubs, as they are affectionately known, performed a variety of popular songs with unique twists while vying for a recording deal as the first winners of Sing Off.
“I wasn’t sure if it was something we really wanted to do,” said Eric Morrissey, the Bub’s sophomore business manager. “We don’t usually compete and they were planning on possibly making us cut down our group [from 12] to 10 people.”
But after much discussion, the Bubs, a stronghold at Tufts for almost 50 years, found themselves amidst a flurry of paperwork and contracts at the New York auditions for Sing Off. “It was all just a little scary for just a group of college kids,” Morrissey remembered.
After blowing away the judges in New York, the Bubs were off to California. At first, the guys were nervous. “There were microphones, and hair, and makeup, and there were cameras lying around the stage and we were supposed look over there, look at this camera,” said Nick Lamm, the senior music director. But the second they hit the stage, the nerves disappeared and the Bubs were their usual, fun-loving selves. “I think that’s how we went into it,” said Alex Koutzoukis, the senior historian. “While it’s a competition, it’s still just us having fun on a bigger stage.”
While they were able to perform songs from their repertoire, the Bubs also learned new songs, like a medley of The Who songs, before going on stage. “A lot of this music was new and we had to learn choreography on top of that. There wasn’t much time to prepare for it,” said Lamm.
Fortunately, the Bubs didn’t have to worry about finding costumes and creating the choreography. “It was almost all the show’s doing,” said Eli Seidman, the junior president. “Each show was a synthesis of the ideas that we had as Bubs…that we thought would be goofy and that the audience would really like, and [the choreographer] put things we would never think of and all the important stuff for camera work.”
On camera the Bubs had the time of their lives, but it was the behind the scenes stories that the guys will always remember. Between hanging out at the hotel with the other groups and rehearsing late into the night, the experience was unforgettable. “It didn’t feel like a competition until the 30 seconds when someone got voted off,” said Seidman.
Meeting the judges Ben Folds, Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls, and Shawn Stockman of Boys II Men, and host Nick Lachey was another plus. Although they weren’t able to spend too much time with the judges, they were able to perform a song with Scherzinger for the contest. “She’s definitely the most beautiful person that we’ve ever collaborated with. So it was a little bit distracting at times,” Lamm laughed. The guys also spent one night in Folds’ recording studio with the other final groups, and grabbed dinner with Folds after rehearsal. “He’s just like a regular guy and it was a lot of fun to get to know him in that setting outside of being judged by him,” said Koutzoukis.
There were also some tense moments, like during the live performance of “Right Round” when soloist senior Paul Alvarez knocked his glasses off while dancing. “He is like literally blind and he had to do the rest of that song, including choreography and moving…with his glasses completely off,” laughed Seidman. But, the Bubs, with Alvarez looking mildly lost, were able to pull off yet another crowd-pleasing hit. “Our motto is fun through song and as cheesy as that sounds, it is what really motivates our performance style,” Lamm said.