Joseph Llanes for AOL When last we spoke with Ben Lee, the Aussie…
- Posted on Aug 31st 2010 4:00PM by Steve Baltin
Collin Erie for AOL
A good-looking, fun-loving chorus with an ear for indie music is going to draw a lot of comparisons to a certain hit TV show on Fox of the moment. But for Ben Lee, who's producing the debut album for the Silver Lake Chorus, the musically uplifting brainchild of founder Sam Rader, it was a past TV phenomenon that inspired him to want to work with the group.
"It felt like when you watched 'Friends' and you were like, 'That's kinda what it should be like moving to New York in your 20s,'" Lee told Spinner when we dropped by one of the group's rehearsals. "You find a group of friends, you all live together in two apartments across the hall -- a complete fantasy. Silver Lake Chorus just felt like that but real for L.A. It was like all these disparate people, all these different backgrounds who love to sing, who came together."
They came together because of the exuberant Rader. "I was in a chorus in high school and just singing in harmony with other people is kind of just my favorite way to make love to the universe," said Rader, who started the chorus after being unable to find one to join.
"I'm a little go-getter, and I was like, 'Why don't I just start my own chorus?'" she said. "There was an event that goes on twice a year downtown called Unique L.A. It's an independent crafts fair with 500 local indie artists and crafts people and they sell their goods. I made like a couple thousand flyers and started handing them out. I went down there, there was like 10,000 hipsters. I was like, 'These are my people. Let's do this.'"
What started out as Rader's baby has quickly taken on a life of its own, with successful shows in L.A. and Lee's support turning the chorus' in-the-works debut album into one of the indie projects of the year. Tegan and Sara, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and Sia wrote material for the ensemble, and more might be on the way. "It looks like Cat Power and Jenny Lewis are writing us stuff right now," Rader said. "We've been blessed to work with these incredible indie musicians who are our heroes and we can't believe they're writing original songs for us to arrange."
For Resident Arranger Heather Ogilvy, who now finds herself working with the music of indie titans, the project brings her full circle. "I arranged a Ben Lee song when I was in college, which is so embarrassing," she said, laughing. "It was one of the first things Sam told him when I met him, which was really just so funny."
A spirited band, the Chorus is always laughing and having fun. "We're a party group," Ogilvy said. Part of that comes from Choral Director Mikey Wells. "I like jokes. I think of jokes and I say them to them and they bring me sandwiches," Wells said. "It's sort of a give-give situation, which is great."
Wells also helps keep the project's rapidly growing success and reputation in perspective, as he isn't concerned with the star power of those crafting songs for the group. "What's really rewarding and exciting about it for me is that music and working with people is universal and very simple," he said. "As much as different levels of totem poles can seem very deep, crazy and hard to climb if you are yourself and you love what you do and keep it real, people come and gather and do music and nobody cares. Nobody's some big untouchable thing. People come and we write a song and we'll arrange it."
Lee is helping make sure that happens, and so far he's found it an easy task. "There is something about the Silver Lake Chorus that it's intriguing," he said. "All these kids have this amazing taste in music, their aesthetic is just so great and there's no veil of cynicism. That enthusiasm is not something you find every day. I think that's really infectious and that's what's drawing all the artists in."
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