I settled myself on a couch in Havens Lounge. The space had been transformed into a makeshift recording studio for the Midnight Ramblers, who were warming up across the room.
‘Morning, Leah,” junior Alex Perry called out.
‘Morning, Bear,” I replied.
‘Morning, Leah,” echoed fellow junior Mark Sobel.
‘Good morning, Leah,” Ben Folds said.
‘Uhh…” I slouched further into my seat and managed a weak wave.
‘Leah’s with the Campus Times,” senior and musical director Nick Hamlin explained.
‘So you let the press in here,” Folds said with a laugh.

Yes, they did. About a week before, Hamlin asked me if I would be interested in sitting in on this recording session. Um, yeah, sure, Nick. Don’t do me any favors.

The Midnight Ramblers have serenaded audiences with their arrangement of Folds’s ‘Army” for years. Last fall, their rendition caught the songwriter’s attention when they posted a video on YouTube, hoping to land a spot on Folds’s charity album due out this spring.

Hamlin explained that Folds had publicized for this album on the Internet.
‘It was a call for collegiate a cappella groups to do covers of his songs for a charity album,” he said. ‘We had to put a video of ourselves on YouTube and upload the link to his Web site, and then he would review the videos.”

Though around 200 college a cappella groups submitted covers, Folds only chose 18, including the Ramblers. Wellesley College’s Blue Notes performing ‘Annie Waits” and Ohio University’s Leading Tones singing ‘Brick” were two other groups selected, just to name a couple. A complete list can be found on Folds’s MySpace blog.

Junior Chris Aguilar broke the news to the group from Vienna on the morning of their fall show in November. According to Hamlin, Aguilar called incredibly too early, exclaiming that he could not really talk because of the expense of the phone call but that Folds had seen their video and sent a message via YouTube that he would be in touch.
After some exciting phone tag, arrangements were made for Folds to join the Ramblers in Rochester on the morning of Dec. 5, 2008 to record ‘Army.” I have never been in an actual recording studio, let alone a pretend one, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

But the entire process was so relaxed and ran smoothly. The Ramblers were joking with each other in their recognizable semicircle formation; Hamlin had assumed his position as soloist in the middle. And Folds was, well, he was cool. Laid back. Unassuming and friendly, offering suggestions and adjusting microphones. And he was right there, completely into the music.

‘We’ll start with a slow groove which may make it suck the first few times,” Folds commented as they prepared for the first take. ‘Otherwise I’m just gonna shut the hell up because you guys sound great musically. We’re gonna make a hit record. One, two, three everybody play.”

Folds joined his recording engineer Joe Costa and put on his headphones. Hamlin offered the starting pitch and the group launched into their chorus of ‘Ben, Ben, Ben” (naturally accompanied by a few well-placed fist pumps).

The first few run-throughs truly reflected the Ramblers’ characteristic presence that anyone knows from their live performances. They cannot resist dancing.

‘The dancing sounds great,” Folds said, after the second take. Folds had a hard time standing still, too.

On the third recording, he did not even bother putting on the headphones but instead danced around the room.

But I soon began to understand why the Ramblers are such accomplished musicians. They’re perfectionists.

They ran the instrumental break countless times. I have a new appreciation for their precise harmonization and the syllables ‘mos cato.”

Folds offered his own advice: ‘Dance with your mind still keep it fun, but we’re moving into technical takes. The dancing causes you to do something really cool with the dynamics, really exaggerated. So, don’t forget that when you’re not dancing.”
‘Dance in the mind,” Sobel intoned.

It became almost like a mantra for the session, and though they ran the song nine times before calling it a wrap, the Ramblers never lost their focus or their energy. Sophomore Andrew Polec kept punching the air, and beside him, junior Matt Myers could not desist from shaking his hips.

At the end of the final take, Folds raised his arms in the air like a champion.
‘That was rocking.”

Of the 18 groups he records, Folds plans to only use 12 to 15 for the actual album. The Ramblers are not sure when they’ll be hearing back from Folds, but that morning is not one they are likely to forget.

‘It’s been a very exciting process,” senior and general manager Asher Perzigian said.

‘Hands down, meeting Ben was the most humbling experience I’ve ever had within music. Throughout the day, it fully transitioned from him being Ben Folds, the amazing pop star, to someone who was just creating music with us.”

Squires is a member of the class of 2010.



Dinner for Peace was an unconventional way of protesting for Palestine

The dinner showcased aspects of Palestinian culture. It was a unique way of protesting against the genocide, against the Israeli occupation, against the university’s involvement with the genocide.

Time unfortunately still a circle

Ever since the invention of the wheel, humanity’s been blessed with one terrible curse: the realization that all things are, in fact, cyclical.

An open letter to all members of any university community

I strongly oppose the proposed divestment resolution. This resolution is nothing more than another ugly manifestation of antisemitism at the University.