Dylan Bell of Retrocity

Get Ready to Party Like It's 1989

Retrocity (rhymes with velocity) is a seven-member group that has been performing all '80s songs all a capella for over 10 years.

Retrocity plays tonight at Lula Lounge with their new lineup of all-star vocalists: Dylan Bell, Daniel Galessiere, Jenn Hadfield, Aaron Jensen, Lanie Treen and Suba Sankaran.

In addition to singing and providing a number of instrumental vocals (think beatboxing top '40s tunes) Bell also plays keyboards, bass, guitar and a little percussion with Autorickshaw and FreePlay Duo.

Continue reading for a Q & A with Dylan Bell, where he talks about Ferris Bueller, parachute pants and his favourite influences from the 1980s....

BlogTO: How did this vocal group come about?

Dylan Bell: "It was formed 10 years ago by a bunch of students from York University. We all sang in a student jazz choir there. After we graduated, we decided we wanted to continue singing together. People really liked our first show, which sold out."

What's it like singing a capella '80s songs?

"It's more challenging than other types of singing. It's more rewarding. There's something empowering about being able to make music with only your voice."

Were you a big fan of Bobby McFerrin?

"He was an example of the types of vocalists we aspired to at the time. Take Six was another. As Cadence, we won the Harmony Sweepstakes international competition in New York City in 2003. The next level of the competition was in San Francisco, in which we placed third."

Who is your favourite '80s band or artist?

"The Police would definitely be among my favourites. Everybody in the group has a different favourite, a different experience of what 1980s music meant to them. I like groups like The Police and Paul Simon. Others prefer Cyndi Lauper, XTC and Michael Jackson."

You create vocalized sounds of all the instruments too. What's your favourite instrument to impersonate?

"Probably the drums. I often act as the vocal drummer in the band. With vocal beat-boxing, people often think of things like hip-hop sounds, versus rock or jazz sounds. We incorporate some Public Enemy in our oldskool repertoire. We have a medley that covers our favourite dances and hip-hop pieces."

What's your favourite '80s film?

"Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I think Ferris Bueller's my hero. When I grow up, I still want to be Ferris Bueller."

When you grow up? How old are you now?

"I'm 36."

Do you guys ever go to karaoke bars and wow the unsuspecting audience with a duet or group performance?

"The only time we've ever done that was when one of our newest members was getting married. It was at a stag-and-doe and a bunch of us got up and sang Let's Hear It For the Boy by Denise Williams. I sang Kashmir by Led Zepellin. It's the longest karaoke song ever. I did everything in my power to keep the crowd involved."

You guys dress up '80s at your gigs too? Where do you get your outfits from?

"Some of us go to Goodwill. Some of us find stuff we never just threw away."

What '80s clothes do you still have?

"I've got a full-length, white trench coat. And pink parachute pants. We don't do the full '80s regalia. Maybe just a bit of '80s bling."

Have any of your '80s idols shown up to one of your shows?

"I heard that Larry Gowan may have come to one of our shows. We cover Strange Animal."

Tonight's show at Lula Lounge (1585 Dundas St. W.) has doors at 7:00 p.m; showtime at 8:30 p.m. Tickets $12. Retrocity will also be performing with Sankaran at Hugh's Room on Friday as part of the Kate Bush tribute night.

Photo courtesy Dylan Bell.


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