Starting out as an a cappella quartet over 30 years ago, the Nylons have changed membership many times, but the human voice remains the core of their music.
Garth Mosbaugh, who joined the group in 1994, said the Nylons perform with instrumental accompaniment on occasion.
“A cappella with a 60-piece orchestra, obviously it’s not really a cappella,” he adds.
“Primarily, that’s not really our thing.”
Tenors Mosbaugh and Claude Morrison, baritone Gavin Hope, and bass Tyrone Gabriel make up the men’s vocal group.
The Nicola Valley Community Arts Council will present the Nylons at the Merritt Civic Centre on the evening of Dec. 12.
Merritt is the Nylons’ final stop on a Christmas tour across Canada’s western provinces, Mosbaugh explained in a telephone interview with the News from Regina.
“Basically we’re going west until we do a couple of tapes on Vancouver Island and then we go shoot back to Toronto for a couple of Christmas shows. I think Merritt’s the last one before we head to Toronto for those Christmas shows.”
Gabriel, Morrison, and Hope live in Toronto while Mosbaugh makes his home in Squamish.
“We fly everywhere,” said Mosbaugh.
Mosbaugh said their performance would consist of songs from their new album, Skin Tight, as well as two of their Christmas albums. He added that the Nylons would also include a sprinkling of “oldies you can’t get away without singing.”
“Skin Tight” consists mainly of covers of popular songs from the past, such as the classic 1960s Spider-Man theme song and “Orange-Colored Sky” and more recent hits like KT Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See.”
Mosbaugh said, “We’re not the most prolific writers in the world. We choose mostly covers with a few original songs.”
No instruments can be heard on the album save drums and cymbals in the background.
“They certainly bring a lot of life to their music,” said Kurt Christopherson, head of the arts council’s concert committee.
“I think everybody’s looking forward to it.”
Asked what are the most difficult styles of music to cover with voice alone, Mosbaugh replied that many fans have suggested covering a heavy metal song, but the Nylons have not tried it.
“Heavy metal is so based on guitars and effects.
“When you’re singing all night, you don’t want to blow your lungs out.”
Mosbaugh said, “Skin Tight is one of the most challenging things we’ve done so far.”
While typical vocal-group oldies from the 1950s and ‘60s tend to have simple triad harmonies, the harmonies in the Nylons’ new album are far more complex, Mosbaugh said.
“Skin Tight is our 16th album. Every time you do an album, it defines your sound.”
Christopherson said the arts council will present the Nylons in a cabaret-style show.
Rather than seating in rows, the audience will be seated at tables. In addition, there will be a cash bar serving beer and wine for guests 19 years and older. Hors d’oeuvres are available by donation.
“We’ve done it occasionally, but this will be a little different,” Christopherson said of the cabaret format. “It’s a bigger venue.”
He said creating more of a party atmosphere made sense in light of the time of year.
“It’s the time of Christmas parties, so we thought we’d bill it as, ‘Come have your Christmas party with the Nylons.’”
Attendees can purchase individual seats or full tables of eight.
The pressures of the holidays and the uncertain state of the economy also inspired the arts council to get creative with the show’s format and marketing, Christopherson said.
“You don’t know if people are putting their money elsewhere.”
So far, the approach seems to be working.
“I’ve had to have another printing of tickets made,” he said. “Buy ‘em early.”
Tickets are available Black’s Pharmacy, Baillie House, and at the door. Tables can be reserved by calling 250-378-6266 or 250-378-4153.
The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Merritt Civic Centre.