30 May 2012
Five students at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) are making a musical contribution to the European Football Championship 2012. As the a capella group "So! ... und nicht anders," they sing about winning the championship and have made a quirky video that even professional footballers could learn from. In the interview, they talk about friendship, fans, and the art of making music simple.
The guys are getting ready, the air in the locker room is heavy with expectation. The second half is about to kick off. The sports reporter comments breathlessly: "Adugna is in great form today, he is continually getting on top of things by changing tempo ... After that exhausting first verse, Günster looks like he needs a break ... But what's this? It looks like SUNA are building up to something. They've got to sing, yes, what a great passage – and: It's a song. Sooong. What a fantastic sooooong!!!"
"We wanted to do something that everybody could sing along with," explains Christoph Günster, a 24-year-old media management student at JGU when talking about the song Reif für den Titel (Up for the title). The sun is shining, he is relaxing in a café in Mainz, and Josef Adugna and Benedikt Vogt are with him at the table. The three form the core of the a cappella group So! ... und nicht anders or SUNA for short. In 2007, they sang with two of their other friends at their class's graduation concert at the Alfred Delp High School in Hargesheim. "The response was overwhelming," recalls Vogt. "Man, that was great, you should keep doing it!"
"We didn't necessarily want be a cappella stars"
Three of the five kept at it. "We weren't like the Wise Guys, a famous German a cappella group. We didn't necessarily want to be a cappella stars," says Günster. But they decided to see how far they could get with their singing. "It also determined where we decided to live." They moved together to Mainz. Vogt is studying Business Administration, Adugna Musicology and Book Studies. They also found new members in Mainz: Nicolas Ries, student of Musicology, and Thomas Lang, studying Education, joined them.
Günster is the creative mind behind the band. He writes the texts and composes the songs, which are all ruthlessly catchy. The melodies are kept simple. "I always tell him - just make it simpler," says Adugna. "Simpler is usually also better." "I always thought it was easier to access a song through the lyrics rather than the music," says Günster. "And if the words work well, there is no need for a guitar solo or things like that."
"It's an anti-Carnival song"
The five SUNA members admit that their style is derived from that of the vocal pop of the Wise Guys. And just like the Wise Guys from Cologne, the Mainz-based group likes to put in a healthy dose of humor. This is apparent in one form or another in each of the songs of their first and (and to date) only CD Kopfkino.
They sing about anorexic models and about the Mainz Carnival: "It's an anti-carnival song, / I think everything the masses do is wrong... / This is a song against the boorish and the dotty, / A song against puke on the street and the port-a-potty." "We even sang that one at a a Carnival variety show here in Mainz, a so-called Kappensitzung," Adugna recalls. "The carnival crowd lapped it up." SUNA also performs love songs: "You bring summer in my mind," are the lyrics of one song with an easygoing melody that has a lot of momentum. "Your sandals are the sand, you are the sun, your eyes the stars."
"We can't hide behind our instruments"
Right now the boys are working on sprucing up their stage performance. "We love contact with the audience," says Adugna. "So we have moved beyond the announcement-song-announcement-song pattern. We try to establish contact with the audience and to include elements of comedy." A cappella groups tend to be very close to their fans. "There are no barriers between them and us. We can't hide behind an instrument. All we have is our voices," says Vogt. And with just their voices, these five have managed to come quite a way. SUNA has already performed as the opening band at a concert of the popular Austrian singer Christina Stürmer. They always have at least four bookings a month and their Facebook community is constantly growing. "We now even have an agent," explains Günster. "This was an important step as it means we don't have to do everything by ourselves anymore."
"Forget the euro bailout - we want the Mark back there's no doubt"
And then they made a song for the European Football Championship 2012, which is available for free on YouTube: "Millions on the street, a sea of flags in black-red-gold, / The last German champions are all pretty old. / The dream is finally coming true, / An end to football frustration. / The best team has an eagle on its shirt symbolizing the nation. / We are instigating defaults from Holland to Portugal, / And Spain's credit rating is dropping like the rest / Forget the euro bailout, / We want the Mark back there's no doubt, /We're gonna get the Euro Football Championship and prove that our players are the best."
Together with their friends, the SUNA singers worked to shoot a wonderfully weird music video that a professional would be proud of. "We took two meters of turf and rolled it out on our kitchen table," says Günster. They then added a complex hand-made model of a stadium and a crowd of fruit, vegetables, and other food that they stuck faces on. The band members play the soccer heroes and symbolically chow down on each opposing country. Cheese for the Netherlands, pizza for Italy, and a baguette for France. A hilarious culinary massacre is staged in front of the vegetable spectators.
"We're gonna win the title"
"The great thing is that we do everything together that is we go on vacation together and celebrate New Year's Eve together," adds Günster. "We have fun together and we don't pressure one another. On stage sometimes we seem to have more fun than the audience does. We laid it on super thick with our Euro Football Championship song."
"We're gonna take the title, / We're gonna fight and win, / The very next chapter / Is just about to begin," is the chorus of their song. But we will just have to wait and see how far the German team actually gets in the European Football Championship 2012 in Poland and Ukraine and how well SUNA does on the stages of Germany.