“And now, due to circumstances beyond my control, I present to you the Friars.”
The Friars’ 54th Annual Study Break Concert
Saturday at 8 p.m.
For 54 years, that’s how the University’s oldest a cappella group has been introduced. It’s an appropriate warning to the audience that a group of eight young men are about to take the stage armed with silly songs and dangerous dance moves.
Their job description, according to LSA sophomore Aaron Bindman is to “attempt to be funny, dance awkwardly, sing occasionally and be as entertaining as possible.”
As far as a cappella troupes go, the Friars are about as unfettered, free-spirited and footloose as they come.
“We acknowledge that musicality is not the only factor in a successful performance,” LSA senior Dominic Merica said. “The fun we have on stage spreads through the audience, so I think that having fun is really the most important element in a good show.”
To give credit where credit is due, however, all members of the Friars are members of the Men’s Glee Club, an organization that upholds high musical standards. Even though their ability to be showmen onstage takes precedence, their capacity to hold a chord and hit a harmony should not be overlooked.
In addition to being a talented singer, tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and a healthy dose of self-deprecation are essential qualities for every Friar.
The Friars’ near-celebrity status on campus only helps to illuminate these qualities.
“Of course we don’t feel like celebrities,” Bindman said. “We prefer to be called educators. We help people realize that if given marginally good looks and minimal singing talent yet you also can be quite witty, women will actually pay attention to you.”
Engineering junior and first-year Friar Kevin Klinke expressed a similar sentiment.
“To be honest, no (I don’t feel like a campus celebrity),” he said. “To be not honest, I’d say that I’m ‘kind of a big deal.’ I’m sure that will change after my first concert this Saturday when girls are sure to start flocking and whatnot. But at this point I still wholeheartedly believe I’m a nobody.”
Merica reinforced this endearing self-loathing.
“I’ve been told an assortment of nice things about the Friars,” he said. “I believe these comments must have all been made by people who have not attended our concerts.”
LSA senior Sean Morris, however, realizes Friars transcend University recognition and have been praised on an international level.
“The best feeling is getting random emails in broken English from people in Korea or Germany who ‘love’ our YouTube videos,” he said. “It’s really rewarding to know that our message of abstinence, sobriety and piety crosses international boundaries.”
Among these YouTube sensations are “North Face Girl” and “Freshman Girl.” Both tunes exploit the subject matter the Friars most frequently revisit.
“It’s no secret, girls are usually our target demographic.” Morris said. “The unisex versions of ‘North Face,’ ‘Freshman’ and ‘Buckeye Girl’ didn’t make the cut. Eight guys singing a cappella have to assert their masculinity somehow.”
These satirical songs are all examples of what the Friars are best known for: writing original lyrics to familiar tunes.
“We take a popular song, ‘Lean On Me’ for example, and we decide what really piques us as college students — what do we know so much about that we can create multiple hilarious verses dedicated to it,” Bindman explained.
“That is (how) we created ‘Facebook Me,’ an original that will debut at this concert,” he added.
Morris has a similar take on the writing process for Friars originals.
“The formula is pretty simple: Find an easy target like sorority girls, make fun of everything about them and make them laugh at themselves,” he said.
Popular songs with no lyric alteration are also performed in addition to these parodies. The selection process for these numbers is lengthy and arduous to say the least.
“We all gather around and play the greatest game ever: Risk,” Bindman explained. ”World domination becomes song domination. We play the game as many times as songs needed for the concert with the winner of each round choosing a single song. After playing roughly 16 times (approximately 80 hours), we have our songs chosen and then start the process all over again to determine who solos.”
Past concerts have included songs ranging from Motown (“I Want You Back,” “ABC”) to modern radio tunes (“Better Together,” “Hey Ya!”) as well as hits by the Beatles (“Yesterday”), Beach Boys (“California Girls”), Barenaked Ladies (“It’s All Been Done”) and Backstreet Boys (“I Want It That Way”).
Choosing a favorite Friars song is like a parent picking a favorite child for the singers and audience members alike. Bindman, however, cited “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz as the tune he’s most fond of.
“We are not credited enough for our soft, sensitive side,” he said. “We are more than the class clowns — we are the class clowns who you can maybe see asking out, if no one else is available for that night.”
So whether you’re a young lady looking for a thoughtful guy with a sense of humor, an a cappella enthusiast or someone who likes laughing at white boys trying to dance, be sure to check out the Friars tomorrow night at Rackham Auditorium.