Despite the name of the student a cappella group at West Orange High — Noise Complaint — its members never get complaints. They get standing ovations.
And now, for the first time since Noise Complaint’s inception in 2015, its current members have the chance to record their first full-length album.
“We’ve been interested in doing a recording project and started off tackling a single — which was ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel,’ two years ago,” said Daryl Yasay, director for Noise Complaint and associate choral director at WOHS. “The year before that, Macy’s put on a contest with Pentatonix, and everyone had to sing The Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back,’ and it was makeshift (production) with GarageBand and things like that.
“We wanted to be in the studio, record music videos and give them the experience of the other side of vocal music — not just behind a microphone,” Yasay said. “We decided this year we would take the project of doing an actual, full-length album with eight tracks.”
The members of Noise Complaint — including its 10 graduating seniors — are set to hit the studio between June 10 and 14 to record. They will produce their album with The Vocal Company, a leader in a cappella production and education. However, the cost is hefty — $16,000.
Currently, the group is at the beginning of its fundraising for the project. However, Yasay said, every penny is worth it for these students’ music education.
“This year, we wanted to do this project with this group,” he said. “We’ve been working on marketing a lot now, too, and it’s a good curriculum for them to have. They learn music theory and vocals in choral (class) but very rarely do high-school music programs talk about the actual pop-music industry. Luckily, we have a great relationship with The Vocal Company. … We need certain amounts by specific deadlines.”
A DREAM COME TRUE
Having previously recorded a single — Jess Glynne’s “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself” — the students in Noise Complaint have gotten a taste of studio life. But there’s still something so special about stepping into the booth and putting the headphones on, senior Zander Adkins said.
“I was very excited to know that we would be recording, because we did ‘Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself,’ and that was a great piece itself,” Adkins said. “The feeling of going in and recording something with my voice and the end product being what it is, I was shocked. There’s this one part where we sing with Mekelya (Griffin), and it brings tear to my eye every single time, because it’s my friends and I, and we love to sing with (one another).”
“It was so beautiful,” said Griffin, also a senior, of their first recording experience. “It was like everything had come together in that moment. I felt everyone else’s energy through the music they sang, and all the notes on the page came to life.”
For senior Julian Carpio, the opportunity to record a full-length album is one he never thought he would have.
“You grow up hearing these people on Spotify and iTunes and stuff, and it’s like, ‘These people are celebrities,’” Carpio said. “You never think you’re going to be in that studio. I met this group and felt how much everyone puts into the music and things like that, so once I got into the studio it was the most incredible feeling in the world. …When (Yasay) told us about the album I couldn’t believe it. It’s the best thing in my life so far.”
Sitting in the school’s choir room surrounded by the members of Noise Complaint, Yasay still gets emotional when he recalls the day he told them about the album project.
“Just the way they lit up, it was a humble but also very grateful reaction,” he said. “It’s the kid opening the Christmas present they’ve always wanted type of thing, and that fuels us as teachers. It was all sorts of emotions.”
PUTTING IN THE WORK
Now that recording is less than a month away, it will be a whirlwind of a month for Noise Complaint between rehearsals — and graduation for 10 of 12 members.
Student artistic director Darby Lestin is in charge of ensuring the group’s arrangements are mastered before bringing them to Yasay for input. With 12 different voices and ranges to consider with each piece, she said, it can take a good chunk of time to nail things down.
The group practices daily in class and rehearses three times a week — plus sometimes on Saturdays. Additionally, members will learn their individual parts of the arrangements on their own time.
“The different colors and things that were going into the album were what really excited me about it,” Lestin said. “Obviously, creating art with my friends (was exciting), but so was deciding what kind of art we were going to create and what The Vocal Company was going to do with that.”
But until recording begins, it’s all about two things: rehearsing and fundraising. Both are crucial ingredients for the album’s production, but Noise Complaint is asking for the community’s help with the latter. The group is pushing out a Kickstarter-style fundraiser through Orange County Public Schools’ SchoolPay, and each sponsorship level comes with different perks.
“We are very fortunate as a choral program to receive opportunities because of the kids’ work, the support of the administration, and the time and investment everyone pours into the program,” Yasay said.