Heavenly voices

Hella A Capella

From left, Nick Ramirez, Diana Ekins-Marx, Rodney Hurst, Monica Reed and Chas Dawes make up the singing group Hella A Cappella.

From left, Nick Ramirez, Diana Ekins-Marx, Rodney Hurst, Monica Reed and Chas Dawes make up the singing group Hella A Cappella.

Photo By amy beck

Hella A Capella performs on Friday, March 11, at Studio on 4th, 432 E. Fourth St., with the Atomiks and Schizopolitans. 8 p.m.

Bird squawks, monkey hoots and jungle calls—no, you’re not in a zoo or on an African safari ride. You’re sitting on a couch, in the practice space of local singing quintet Hella A Cappella, watching them rehearse a rendition of The Bob’s “Banana Love.”

The animal mating calls are only half the strangeness; the lyrics prove just as entertaining. Between chest pounds and finger snapping, the singers’ voices rise and fall with such lines as, “I wanna beat my breast like an ape man/I don’t wanna comb my hair/I’ll strip down to the waist/And up to the waist/And forget about the underwear … We gonna make banana love.”

To say the least, Hella A Cappella is here to put a smile on your face. They may work hard, but they sure have fun doing it.

Performance is key for Hella A Cappella, making the fact that three of the five members started out as actors quite convenient. Members Rodney Hurst, Nick Ramirez and Chas Dawes first got together while working on a show at Brüka Theatre. Hurst had a similar singing group a few years back, and after rediscovered the high of a capella singing again by piecing together a song, he decided to give it another go with a different line-up.

The three were soon joined by Monica Reed and Diana Ekins-Marx, which rounded out the music scale with voices capable of reaching the high notes. The women were drawn in after seeing the former trio live, Reed at Walden’s Coffeehouse and Ekins at Zephyr Lounge.

“I saw them perform, and I thought they were hilarious,” says Ekins. “So I dropped by Nick and nudged, nudged a little bit … It’s awesome because we can laugh and we can have a good time together as well work hard.”

Humor is another huge factor for the singers. While an a cappella group doesn’t typically make one think of funny ha ha, the element of surprise works to their advantage when trying to win over a crowd.

“The skepticism of the audience when we get introduced as an a cappella band [is one of the hardest parts],” says Reed. “I’ve seen people give that look like, ‘What? This should be a winner.’ Then they hear how hilarious these lyrics are and they loosen up and realize it’s OK to like an a cappella band.”

The typical reaction to an a cappella group is also the drive behind their chosen name. The performers wanted to make people aware of what they were going to be witnessing, as in no live instruments and a group of people standing up, singing in unison, but also throw them off a bit by poking fun at their own style of music.

“When you think a cappella, you don’t think of words like ‘hella’ and ‘the shit,’ it’s more like barbershop quartet,” says Reed. “Having that as our name does the main mission of telling people what we are, and then ‘hella’ just throws you off.”

While the group currently performs primarily covers of other a cappella groups such as The Bobs and The Exboyfriends, they aren’t ruling out the potential of writing their own tunes. The eventual addition of instruments also isn’t completely out of the picture—although that may be a bit more of stretch.

“I don’t play any instruments—but I just always wanted to be in a band,” laughs Hurst.

So in the meantime, they can continue making instrumental sounds and animal calls with their voices—which has proven hella entertaining in itself.