Entering the lobby of Logan Center last Tuesday, the members of a cappella group Run for Cover represented a motley crew: 14 male undergrads varying in personality, age, and style. As the group spilled into the practice room for a weeknight rehearsal, the room quickly came to life. One member practiced his beatboxing; a second sauntered in with a plastic Coke bottle in the pocket of his jeans; third-year Ben Donvan yelled, “I’m wearing black because I was rejected from an internship!” After the clamor of conversation subsided, warm-ups began, and the group proved its most admirable feature: having smooth, beautifully blended voices—and a lot of fun.
The group has exercised their talents in their new album, Dawn, which features nine tracks and was released last month. “Dawn is basically a story about the fall and rise of a person in a relationship,” said third-year president George Saieed. “Looking at the different song themes and titles, you can see that this relationship hits a rocky point and then more or less plunges downwards…. Eventually, things start to get better, but the album lends emphasis to the idea that it is often darkest before the dawn.”
On this theme, the album begins darkly with the minor-key melody of “Battesimo del Fuoco” and continues with songs that relate to the melancholy theme of failing relationships. The last track, “Gold,” features former Voices in Your Head member Kari Wei (A.B. ’16) and was the Recorded A Cappella Review Board’s 2017 single of the year. The album also includes covers of popular tunes, including “Chains” by Nick Jonas, “Krwling” by Linkin Park, and “Collide” by James Bay.
“I thoroughly appreciated recording this song in particular,” said second-year Aidan Coffey about “Collide.” “I was told to have energy, and sing with excitement. It’s pretty awesome to see that come to life. Of course, who wouldn’t love Alex Yu physically screaming at the mic?”
To third-year Alex Yu, screaming at the microphone symbolized something greater. “Soloing is a special experience both for yourself and for other people,” Yu said. “For me, it was an opportunity for artistic expression. I got to take ownership of a song and put my own thought and meaning into it.” Yu performed the track for the first time at a fall concert in 2016, and he remembers being moved by his friends’ positive response to his debut. “I was really surprised and proud that by being a soloist, I was able to make friends happy for me; it bonded us,” Yu said. “Performing ‘Collide’ at that concert was one of my favorite experiences at UChicago.”
Three years in the making, Dawn encapsulates the group’s evolution since 2014. “[Ziv Kraus], the member who spearheaded the making of the album, graduated last year,” says the musical director, Alex Hummels. “The album feels generational.”
Part of this evolution, of course, comes in the form of humor. “We were founded 10 years ago in 2008,” said fourth-year Alex Yoo. Yoo chuckles, “A group of friends were too lazy to register an a cappella RSO so they reregistered an abandoned one, called Run for Cover, which may or may not have been for dodgeball!” Today’s Run for Cover, however, is anything but lethargic. The group’s spirit in discussing the creation process for Dawn exists even when recognizing the obstacles.
“Creating an album requires a lot of money, and communication can get muddled,” said Saieed. “It’s an arduous process,” agreed Hummels. “It can take up to 16 hours to record and mix a single song, but the great reward is looking at this album and being able to take ownership.” In fact, the group’s funding efforts involved selling many churros—almost 5,000.
Although the two first-years of the group, Zack Crenshaw and Itai Fruchter, as well as exchange student Steve Howell, did not experience the album’s creation, they credit the group for shaping their experience at UChicago and look forward to the future. “Run for Cover is a place for me to grow as a singer and a person,” said Fruchter.
The group has its eye on the pinnacle of competitive a cappella: The International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCAs). “I’m one of the current members who has competed,” Yoo said. “We’ve been working on our album these past couple years, but we’re trying to hunker down and work towards ICCAs without losing our camaraderie,” said Saieed.
An hour into Tuesday night rehearsal, Hummels called for a break. The room filled with chaotic energy. Members started spinning in chairs. Saieed practiced his beatboxing, and Fruchter tried to jump over a wooden box he found at the side of the room. Yu and Yoo debated the spellings of segue and segway. But when the break ended, Hummels stepped into the center of the room, and the group formed effortlessly around him. From calamity to harmony, Run for Cover shows what they do best.