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The UNC Tarpeggios' newest album 'Bloodline' explores friendship and legacy

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Maybe you’re friends with someone from the UNC a cappella group, The Tarpeggios, and they've recommended you listen to their new album. Maybe you’re an a cappella connoisseur, and have been enthralled with The Tarpeggios’ distinct harmonies and swells, their sound at times loud, at times soft, but always dynamic. 

Regardless, you find yourself clicking play on their newest album, “Bloodline.” And for 30 minutes, you’re embedded in their unique, a cappella sound. 

“Bloodline” was released in May, and it is the group’s first album in eight years. Founded in 2010, the mixed-voice group has sung everything from pop to R&B to indie, and their newest album is no different, featuring pop song "Into You," originally by Ariana Grande, indie song "Denim Jacket" by Sammy Rae & The Friends as well as indie song "Stand" by Yebba

"Bloodline" consists of 11 songs, including two interludes and two live recordings. In true a cappella fashion, all of the songs are covers. 

The Tarpeggios arranged the songs themselves, performing them live during their winter and spring concerts, Oliver Chen, The Tarpeggios' music director, said. The Tarpeggios decided to record these songs for the album because of the deep connection the members felt with these arrangements, he said

Chen said that he sees this album as having a very distinct identity compared to the group’s previous work. The group's sound changes as members graduate, and new members are selected to join, but Chen said that the group’s pursuit of musical excellence and sense of community are constant.

Elena Holder, The Tarpeggios’ publicity chair, said that the group's strong sense of community, and how much they have grown since their last album was released, was the reason they decided to produce "Bloodline."

“It’s a family and you want to remember your family and the work you did, because once you stop performing a song, it dies,” she said. “But if you record it, it gets to live on forever." 

A cappella is singing without instrumentation, which means that songs must be specifically arranged so that no instrumentation is required, Chen said. More specifically, arrangers reimagine how instruments would sound if a person were to mimic them. 

Modern pop songs often use electronic features, he said, which is often more than a cappella has the tools for. Thus, it creates specific challenges — and opportunities. 

“And obviously there’s a lot of creative liberty that goes into that, which is one of the great parts of arranging in college,” he said

The Tarpeggios recorded "Bloodline" at The Workshop in Durham, which is owned and operated by UNC music professor Pablo Vega. Vega said that he has recorded numerous a cappella albums since around 2013 and is a former member of the University's oldest a cappella group, the Clef Hangers. 

Chen had previously taken Vega’s music production courses and was Vega’s studio intern during the spring semester. Thus, Chen helped Vega with some of the recording process, Vega said.

“I just opened up the studio for him and gave him the keys and said ‘go at it,’” he said. “And he got a lot of really great hands-on experience, and is able to make these incredible albums out on his own.” 

After getting all the individual recording tracks, the Tarpeggios sent the album over to Colin Egan, Chapel Hill native who owns Five Spice Records, to edit and mix the individual tracks into the finished song, Vega said

Recording a cappella songs gives them a new energy, compared to live performance, Holder said. More specifically, the bass line — the lowest voice — is heard with more clarity, especially since many of the Tarpeggios’ songs are particularly bass-heavy, she said

Some members from the past school year have since graduated, so The Tarpeggios are looking forward to welcoming a new class of Tarps in the fall, Holder said

Chen said that the group makes music interpersonally, by working together and combining everyone's separate creative contributions and endeavors.

“I feel like we do tend to get very perfectionist,” Chen said. “And I find that it only really works because we actually really enjoy being around each other, and, specifically, making music with each other.”

@dthlifestyle |

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