Trads energize, polarize, terrorize campus

By Amy Lebowitz

Similar to multiculturalism, President Brian Rosenberg and the ringing of the bell, the Trads are a Macalester institution. Known officially for being the only all-male a cappella group on campus, the Trads are regarded and remembered largely for their persona. “People kind of sense it,” said Ben Faulkner ’14, a Trad since his first semester. “It kind of reverberates off of us when we roam around campus.” Famous for their theatrics onstage, the Trads kick off the year with the orientation event Welcome to Your Life at Mac. They go on to perform at ACappellooza, Family Fest, Founder’s Day, end-of-semester concerts and some shows at other colleges. No matter the venue, Trads shows are characterized by their humorous antics. “We don’t second-guess ourselves. We just go for it,” Faulkner said. Trads make it a point to make their presence known. For Faulkner’s first experience singing in the dorms, “we terrorized everyone, essentially,” he said, pounding on doors and singing as they walked between dorms. They also sell Singing Valentines, charging $5 to sing with shirts on and $10 to sing with shirts off, “which is an option the Sirens do not have,” Faulkner said. To him, Valentine’s Day is one of the best Trad performances each year. “Interrupting classes and embarrassing people in front of everyone was one of the best times I’ve ever had.” “I’ve also never been paid to take off my shirt before,” he added. Aside from the crazy reputation, the Trads occasionally depart from what is expected from them. For instance, half of the money raised by the Valentines went to charity. “People thought we were joking [when we said that] because we’re the Trads,” Faulkner said. People said they figured the money would all go toward beer and pizza, but “only half of it went to beer and pizza.” When Faulkner set out to join the Trads, he had a background singing independently and in chorus groups since elementary school. However, “I wasn’t looking for anything that was too structured,” he said. “I didn’t want to worry about it. I just wanted to have a good time.” Compared to other Mac a cappella groups, the Trads stood out as the best fit. “I thought of myself as too serious, and taking myself too seriously sometimes … I thought it would be good for me to let loose and see if I had it in me,” he said. Mickey Davis ’13, also a Trad since his first semester, saw the Trads as an opportunity. “I’ve always been a performer, but I’ve never been good in front of people, and I thought a group like this would help with that, as well as be a great time,” Davis said. Faulkner said that the Trads gain a certain energy and “momentum” while they’re together. Singing alone, he said, he would never be able to grab people from the audience and swing them around or encourage them to slap him with a belt. “That’s the real essence of being a Trad, is doing stuff like that,” he said. Trads try to strike a balance between practicing music and polishing the group persona. “As concerts get closer, there’s more focused rehearsing,” Davis said. “But an integral part of the Trads, and something we never overlook, is building community within the group.” They try to make people happy and entertain them with their performances, but “the bottom line is, this s—‘s crazy, and that’s why we do it,” Davis said. “It’s f—ing awesome taking your shirt off in front of the entire student body.” With the showy group mentality comes certain expectations from people on campus. “Being a Trad, we’re in character,” Faulkner said. “Some people love it and some people hate it,” Davis said. “I’m sure some people think we’re douche bags.” Either way, Trads enjoy being well known by the student body. “Walking around campus when we’re all boisterous and singing and seeing the terrified looks on the first year girls’ faces—I love that,” Faulkner said. From singing shirtless to encouraging innuendo-ridden audience participation, “we love our traditions,” Faulkner said. “There are traditions that everyone knows about, and there are some not everybody knows about, and we like it that way.” No matter what you think of them, the Trads undoubtedly make a bold statement with their exuberant performances, penchant for embarrassing audience members and each other, and tendency to extend their performances offstage. “We’re a polarizing group,” Faulkner said. “We’re like Occupy Wall Street in that way,” Davis said.