Juniors Anthony Neves and Brendan Tierney took their fondness for percussion and turned it vocal with the a capella group Rhody Rhapsodies. 

Neves and Tierney both grew up singing in choruses prior to college, and even met each other through high school chorus. While they do still sing as members of Rhody Rhapsodies, both as basses, they are also occasional and experienced beatboxers. For the both of them, it began as something fun to do while listening to music, picking up on the beat and rhythm. 

Tierney remembers “messing around” with vocal percussion during chorus in his sophomore year of high school. 

“People told me it sounded good so I just kept doing it,” Tierney said. 

He went from drumming along to songs with his hands at “any chance” he got to discovering what sounds he could make with his mouth.  

Neves said that he has always had a fascination with music, beats and rhythms since he was a kid. He was a part of high school chorus as well, and even met Tierney during those years because of it, but it was the movie “Pitch Perfect” and the popular a capella group, Pentatonix, that brought beatboxing to his attention as something he could really develop as a skill.

“It took something I did in my spare time just randomly, to practicing,” Neves said. 

Joining Rhody Rhapsodies as freshmen allowed them both to really further hone this skill and show off their talents.

“When I got into the group, they said ‘if you could beatbox, show us what you got,’” Tierney said. “This group is the first time I’ve ever done beatboxing for a purpose instead of just doing it in my own free time.”
The Rhody Rhapsodies make it a point to not have set beatboxers, partly because not every song requires beatboxing, and to give everyone the opportunity to try their hand at it. The group holds auditions at the beginning of the semester, and once becoming a member, you have the additional chance to audition for solo and beatboxing parts in each song they plan on performing. 

“We heavily encourage experimentation with your voice with beatboxing,” Neves said. “If you want to better yourself in any way, we are all for that.”

For them, that’s what beatboxing is all about, trial and error, discovering all the sounds you can make with your voice, seeing what sounds good, filling the gaps in songs where you can. The most important part is to keep the beat for the rest of the group, which isn’t always easy. 

“Personally, I’ve struggled with [that] while trying to do some stylistic things,” Tierney said. “I’ll get carried away and lose it and consequently possibly get the entire group off track.”

Neves describes beatboxing as a layer system with the base being the tempo of the song, the priority for the beatboxer. 

“You layer on top of that and as you keep going up, it gets more complex and it sounds better, but if you start to go off track, you have to go back down to the basics,” Neves said.

For people who are interested in beatboxing, Neves said that they shouldn’t be afraid to get goofy with it. Tierney added that some sounds may seem impossible to make, but if you break the sound down and start with the basics, it becomes much easier to attain.

After years of working on their craft, neither of them see themselves progressing much farther in their skill sets post-college, but believe beatboxing and what they’ve learned in doing it will always be a part of them. Neves said he analyzes the percussion of songs even subconsciously and Tierney said that he’s not able to listen to the beat of the song and not “have fun with it.”

All of Rhody Rhapsodies’ invitationals are free for University of Rhode Island students. Their first one of the semester is in Edwards Auditorium on Nov. 2. They also will be performing at a mystery themed Musically Inclined invitational on Sunday, Oct. 26.