The Royal Madness, an acapella group made up of eight Tuks alumni, took my breath away at the Tuks Serenade finals a few weeks ago. I had to find out more about this contrasting group of artists (in both style and personality) and how they have succeeded in creating medleys of popular songs that land so perfectly on the ear (even one as untrained as my own).
The Royal Madness was a dream born in 2013 from the members’ love for Serenade. The group has a strong University of Pretoria ATKV Serenade background, with all of the members having been part of a Serenade for at least one of the Tuks residences. Their style is however very different from traditional serenade and some might relate it more to what you would see on Pitch Perfect. Unlike the Hollywood acapella dream, for this group the music is central, which makes sense as all of the members have been singing since a very young age and are still immersed in the world of music. The group’s introduction video (below and which can be found on their Facebook page) is a testament to how intensely music is interlinked to their characters.
I sat down with the members, Nica Schultze (founder), Zander Fick (composer and coach), Pieter Bezuidenhout (composer and coach), Laura de Bruin, Emilië Rossouw, Douglas Davidson, Henry Matthews and Marli Neuhoff to talk about where The Royal Madness started, their influences and dreams, with a few jokes to boot.
The Loud Library: The Royal Madness is a very diverse group and you all come from different Tuks residences. Where did the idea for The Royal Madness come from and how did all of you come together to form the group?
Zander Fick (First tenor): The idea for The Royal Madness started in October 2013 when Nica approached me and Pieter with the idea of a mixed acapella group. She was suffering from post-Serenade blues and we both thought it was a fantastic new adventure. She wanted us to be members, as well as the composers/coaches for the group. We discussed the idea and the concept for quite a while, until we chose a group of 8 members from friends and co-singers that we all knew. Initially it was quite a tedious process to get started, figure out how to do everything, balancing lives filled with other obligations and work, and to keep 8 members in sync. Along the way we lost a few members and then had to replace them. We held auditions for these instances; specifically looking for people that were young, that had a Serenade background and whose personalities suited our group. Once again we relied on people we already knew and who [we] knew would be able to do the job! We officially kicked off with the magnificent group that we have now in November 2014 and what an amazing journey it has been thus far.
TLL: The Royal Madness is quite an eccentric name, how did you decide on it?
Pieter Bezuidenhout (Baritone): The name for the acapella group “The Royal Madness” was decided to be the best option for our group seeing that it was the first song we sang together. We had a meeting at our first rehearsal venue, which was 20 Ivy Street at the beginning of last year and ran through so many different names, we could almost write a book. From the top three contenders, The Royal Madness was the most appealing, and as a name it has an innate visual-ness to it. So therefore The Royal Madness was born.
TLL: How would you describe The Royal Madness’s sound and what are your influences?
Nica Schuzte (First soprano): Our sound is definitely something unique and fresh. There are quite a number of acapella groups in the world; most of them are same sex groups. The fact that we have 4 female and 4 male voices makes our sound much more well-balanced, fuller and we have a very big vocal range to work with. We can play with all the best parts and elements that every single voice has to offer. And we also write our music according to everyone’s techniques and abilities. The fact that we compose our own music also immediately puts us on a next level. Pieter and Zander are absolutely fantastic composers and writers and we are so honoured to have them as a part of our musical training team. We are most definitely all influenced by the world and sound of Serenade, but we are trying to take it to a next level, and simply by mixing it up with male and female voices I believe we have already achieved that! We are influenced by any and everything, we bounce ideas for songs off of each other and try to think of new and innovative ways to sing songs that are old and well-known. We also strive to create a sound that is true and “live”, we do not want to become another acapella group that simply sounds great in the Studio when they are mastered to “inhuman abilities”, we want to keep our sound real and true to how we sound when we perform live. I am biased, obviously, but I must say I just love our sound and the way our 8 voices gel together! (and so do we at The Loud Library Nica)
TLL: The Royal Madness is an acapella group that does a lot of medleys. How do you decide on your songs and what is the process for putting the songs together so they flow so effortlessly?
Emilië Rossouw (First alto): All of The Royal Madness’s songs are arranged by our very own Pieter Bezuidenhout and Zander Fick. We choose our songs based on what might complement our voices (individually, and as a group), what we believe could capture and entertain an audience, and sometimes we simply choose songs because we fall in love with them. Our repertoire is diverse and entertaining, including a wide range of contemporary songs, evergreen pop songs, quirky numbers, and ballads, as well as an Afrikaans number written by Nica Schutze. We offer up suggestions and bounce around ideas until we land on something we can all be excited about , but it is ultimately Pieter and Zander who succeed in arranging songs in unexpected and creative ways, which challenge us on different levels and always results in unique and special numbers. Our repertoire is ever expanding and we look forward to possibly adding more of our own numbers in the future.
TLL: Every person in the group is part of a different voice type which makes for a very balanced sound, was it important to have all these different voice types in the group or did it just work out that way?
Henry Matthews (Second tenor): Our acapella group does indeed have a very balanced sound. We work extra hard to achieve those perfectly balanced cords. We do however have each group member sing in a specific voice part and each member was carefully selected because they really sing their specific voice group so well. So with the right dynamics this comes naturally. The members I sing with are very talented and each member has a very impressive vocal range. I wouldn’t be surprised if some members would be able to sing all of the voice parts.
TLL: How do you feel about people saying The Royal Madness is a real life Pitch Perfect and what is your favorite part of being part of this group?
Douglas Davidson (Bass): I guess people can draw a resemblance between us and Pitch Perfect. It’s the same vibe in terms of stage appearance but with a more wholesome, live acapella sound. And of course, no Hollywood antics. The goose bumps I get when the music is on the spot. It’s very difficult to describe that particular feeling, but oh man it’s addictive.
And of course we strive for world peace……………….haha, jokes! (always a winning answer there Douglas)
TLL: What are your dreams and future plans for The Royal Madness? Do you have any future shows coming up soon?
Laura de Bruin (Second alto): For us, making music and being able to sing together as a group, is in itself such a reward. Like any new group, however, getting out there and making a name for ourselves is the ultimate goal, and can be quite challenging. In the next few years, we aim to take the world of acapella by storm and hopefully win South Africa’s heart before taking on the rest of the world! For now, we create medleys with existing famous songs, but we aim to compose more of our own songs and medleys in the future (we have very talented composers and arrangers within our group). We have a prospective official launch at the end of October and details about that will be given on our Facebook page @The Royal Madness. We are extremely excited to show South Africa what we can do!!
TLL: Everyone in the group has some kind of Tuks Serenade background, do you think this has had an influence on The Royal Madness’s sound and do you think it will help you in the future?
Marli Nauhoff (Second soprano): I definitely think all the members will agree with me if I say that we all surely must give credit to our Serenade experiences in some or other way. Specifically with regards to our sound I would say that although we also sing acapella, our quality of sound does differ from that of serenade. We strive to produce a wide variety of different sounds in our music, we use a number of different techniques and the fact that we make use of microphones for our performances also adds a different quality to our sound than that of a Serenade performance.
I was struck by The Royal Madness‘s remarkable respect for their art form and for each other and I believe this could be their winning card. I wish you all the luck and success in the world and who knows, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to see you in the UK in the future again (totally world class style in these kids).
All photos and videos used in this article have been provided by and is the property of The Royal Madness.