Throughout the first semester, The Bates Student interviewed many a cappella groups throughout campus. This week, the fun-loving guys at the Manic Optimists sat down to share their thoughts about performing and working as a group.
The Bates Student: When were the Manic Optimists founded, and what’s the story behind the name?
Robert Charpie: There were four guys who started the group in 2004 who didn’t get into the Deansmen and then a bunch of guys joined.
Danny Birkhead: It started as an improv/sketch comedy-a cappella group originally.
TBS: Is it hard to learn the style of a cappella if you haven’t done it in high school, even if you’re good at singing in general?
Mark Charest: I think it’s easier, because when you do choir in high school, there’s a lot more of a rigid structure to it, and going into a cappella is easier after that.
TBS: How often do you arrange new songs?
Nick Strunc: Honestly, new songs are always in the works.
TBS: What are some artists whose songs you frequently use? What genre do you typically turn to?
Grady Hogan: Unfortunately we end up doing a lot of Maroon 5 and John Mayer.
Cody Tracey: And I’m saying fortunately we do a lot of Maroon 5 and John Mayer.
Grady Hogan: And I’m shaking my head.
TBS: What are some of your favorites that you’ve done?
Danny Birkhead: “Knife” and “Nantes” are everyone’s favorites.
TBS: What events have you done so far this year?
Grady Hogan: We did a tour! We went to Smith College, Connecticut College, BU, Northeastern…We just sort of crashed on floors and couches and rode around in a mostly functioning van. Smith College was the best. We did our regular songs. Conn College was also really fun, and we learned some of their songs too.
TBS: Do you like performing on-campus or off-campus better?
Grady Hogan: On-campus, definitely. We like to perform for our people.
Robert Charpie: Bates is the best crowd.
TBS: Do you prefer doing solos or being in the background?
Zaq Shabman: I love being in the background because I love being with the boys, but solos are fun because you get to put your own spin on the song.
TBS: When did you last record for an album?
Grady Hogan: We have a brand new CD coming out this spring, unofficially named Post-Chordal Bliss. Come to our concerts to get hold of a CD. Within a month and a half the CD will be in every freshman dorm room.
TBS: Do you try to stick to a “dress code” or unified look for concerts?
Grady Hogan: We have what’s called Man-tire: jeans, button-down shirt, tie, any color suit jacket, any shoes…
Jonah Greenawalt: Shoe variety is encouraged, in fact, we try to contrast to the style of the Deansmen and have collections of different attire.
TBS: What made you decide to try out for the ManOps rather than the Deansmen or the co-ed groups? What do you think is unique about the ManOps?
Robert Charpie: I loved the energy of the group. I wanted to be in a guys’ group where there’s a lot of camaraderie and it seemed like a bunch of goofy-fun guys, and that’s what I’m all about.
TBS: What do you think Bates students don’t know about you?
Max Alley: We didn’t see Pitch Perfect.
Grady Hogan: We would love to have female members, but we never got any auditions.
Jonah Greenawalt: I think even though we put a huge emphasis on the flashy performance aspect [during concerts], we spend just as much time on musicality.
TBS: What’s the best part about being in the Manic Optimists?
Max Alley: The best part of being in the group is MOFOs, ManOp Fun Opportunities.
Danny Birkhead: MOMMs, or ManOps Mini Moments, which is when we’ll sneak in to the library or Pgill and sing a song. Also, I love being revered by the entire student body.
Grady Hogan: Hanging out with the boys. There’s no drama, it’s all fun. As soon as you’re in the group, you’ve got twelve new friends.