“We can imitate anything”

Once they sang in the windsbacher boys' choir, today they are a well-known a capella formation: viva voce. They have been touring through germany for around 13 years, delighting audiences with pop songs without any instruments and only with their voices. On saturday, 2. June, the quintet will once again give a guest performance in bamberg, namely on the cathedral square.
However, they are not coming to the open-air alone, but have the two french comedians heibmann and rassau in the pack. In an interview with the local editorial team, they reveal what they will be performing together and why a guitar in particular is so difficult to imitate.

FT: from windsbacher boys' choir to professional singing group. Please outline the history of the band with the help of selected milestones.

Heiko benjes: the exact beginning of viva voce can no longer be reconstructed. I think it's an 80. Was the birthday for which the windsbacher chor was booked. But since the whole choir had not found room in the living room, a quartet was put together. That must have given rise to viva voce.
At the beginning still without names. Back then, they simply called the four singers from the windsbacher boys' choir. And when they no longer belonged to it, they called themselves the former singers from the boys' choir. In the course of time a name was found and the quartet became a quintet. And eventually it became professional musician. Musically viva voce has moved away from classical music to pop over the years.

Let us follow up again. How did the name come about and what is behind it?? When did you decide to become a full-time singer and what was the reason for this??

To find the name, one of the boys from back then opened the music encyclopedia and leafed through it. He stumbled on the term viva voce. In musical language, it means to raise your voice a little in opera. He, however, liked the term so much, especially because it was very sonorous.
As for professionalism, we were all students at the time and had to balance our gigs with our studies. At some point, however, we got so many requests that we decided to take a semester or two off. This was also the start of our professionalism. The whole thing is now eight years ago and we have never regretted it.

They call their kind of music "vox-pop". What does that mean?

Vox pop is pop music made with the mouth. But the term is also inspired by a british a cappella band that released an album of the same name. We, on the other hand, liked it as a style name.

Hand on heart. Is everything really mouth-made for you, or is there not a secret, hidden musician behind the stage??

(laughs) no, no. The a capella scene is sometimes a bit too dogmatic. We do not shake this dogma. But we really do everything with our mouths. There is nothing coming from the tape, there is nothing recorded and there is no trickery. But we are technically supported. We have microphones and a man at the mixing desk who produces the sound with effect devices. But that's about it.

What is the difficulty, but also the attraction, of playing songs without instruments??

It is very attractive to get as close as possible to a band without musical instruments and only with the voice. This is sometimes very sportive and challenging. Also, in my opinion, the voice is the most beautiful instrument.

Which instrument is the most difficult to play??

It's all a question of how sportingly you take it. In principle, there is nothing you can't imitate. But it is difficult with instruments that sound like the guitar in several voices. A guitar has six strings that sound simultaneously. A voice, on the other hand, can only make one sound at a time. So when we need a guitar sound, all five of us have to sing the chord at the same time. And nothing else can sound at the same time. However, it is possible to make a sound that sounds like a guitar without the need for six individual tones.

Have you ever tried to play a concert with "real" musicians? To create with instruments?

Each of us plays an instrument. If only to train yourself. And of course we have also played with instruments on stage. But actually we do not need them. But we have the possibility to use a drummer if one of us is sick. But so far it has not been used with us yet.

One advantage is that they don't have to spend hours setting up and tearing down, and they don't have to carry heavy instruments? But for that they must carry tons of tea, sweets and throat compresses, or?
We are not on the road without a pack. Alone what we carry around with us as stage outfits fills a whole trunk. And also the microphone equipment takes up a lot of space. And of course we also fulfill the cliche: the sanger has a whole arsenal of lozenges with him. But we don't have to carry the tea with us, it is usually provided by the organizer.

Is there an artist or musical genre you avoid and if so why??

We have no fear of contact at all. That's the beauty of a cappella music, that you can imitate everything. A rock band could never imitate a schuhplattler, because they simply didn't have the wind instruments to do it. We, on the other hand, can do that if we want to be spontaneous. We don't have any prejudices about music styles at all. Of course we never sang songs from racist bands.

How hard it is to be a boyband nowadays? Do you use it to attract crowds of female spectators to the concert halls??

I can't say how hard it is to be a boyband, because we haven't been one for the last four years. The days when we sold ourselves as a boy band are long gone. But I also think that this cliche is a bit exaggerated. It's not like being a boy band means being overwhelmed by teddy bears and love requests. We ourselves have definitely grown up and some of us already have a family. Of course it happens sometimes that a female fan writes a personal letter. But most of the time it stays that way…

Speaking of spectators? Who listens to their music? Or to put it another way, which fans are sitting in the front row with you??

Basically everybody listens to us. We have an incredibly diverse audience from six to 96 years old. Whole families come to us. In the first row are often the same people. We already have a few fans following us around. But even that is limited.

What can the fans in bamberg expect at their guest performance at the cathedral square?? There will also be a stand with waltrau and marie?

The visitors could look forward to a brilliant firework of spab and beautiful music. We make a groovy open-air show. And of course there will be some numbers where we will be on stage together with heibmann and rassau. But we will be doing more than just singing along with the two of them. I was given away too much now when I say that we are not above costuming ourselves and making nonsense of ourselves.