WUPA
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WUPA

New York City, New York, United States | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
Band Rock Funk

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"Band of Friends Were Born to Sing Together"


Singing a cappella morphs into playing `funk-infused rock'

By CANDICE LEIGH HELFAND
STAR-LEDGER STAFF

They met as a cappella singers at Rutgers University several years
ago, as a group of musicians who took pride in using only their voices
as instrumentation.

However, five members of WUPA, a 4-year-old, seven-part band hailing
from New Brunswick, took the leap from singing guitar parts to playing
them, from vocalizing percussion to playing an actual drum set.

Last month at the Crossroads in Garwood, WUPA took their instrumental
act to the stage, with 45 minutes of high-octane music-making, in a
style the band describes simply as "funk-infused rock."

Songs such as their self-composed, upbeat "Walk on By" had the crowd
just as excited as their harder, funk version of "Superstition,"
originally performed by Stevie Wonder.

And there's no gloom-and-doom rock to be found on stage when WUPA's playing.

"We don't have that sad, angsty, typical sound — I don't think we're
really geared toward any genre or age group," said vocalist Patrick
Bridge, 26, of New Brunswick.

"And with the three singers, we really bring something different to
the show," added bassist Travis Nilan, 22, of New York City.

Unlike most bands, WUPA is fronted by three vocalists, backed up by
four instrumentalists. From their performance in Garwood recently,
they favor tight, belted harmonies. The band's name comes from the
initials of the first names of the four original members.

The band agrees these harmonies help give WUPA a unique appeal.
Vocalist Wilfredo Coriano, a 24-year-old from Highland Park adds that
harmonizing is a tradition for this collection of musicians.

"Our vocals trace back to our a cappella roots," he said. "In one form
or another, most of us had sung with each other (before forming the
band)."

In its collegiate, contemporary form, a cappella involves taking songs
by various bands and adapting them to be performed by only human
voices, taking instrumental parts and transcribing them to be sung, as
well as employing vocal percussion to keep tempo.

Most of WUPA's membership — Coriano, Bridge and Nilan, along with
24-year-old vocalist Uton Onyejekwe of Maplewood, and 22-year-old
drummer Jeff Fernandes of North Brunswick — met through the a cappella
groups at Rutgers.

Fellow band mates Mike Gonzales, 27 of North Brunswick and Archie
Joyner, 37 of Jersey City, who alternate between lead and rhythm
guitar, did not hail from the same a cappella background, but rather
from their connections to an earlier, acoustic form of WUPA known as
Kind Roots, which also involved Bridge's mother.

"It's interesting to note the instrumental evolution of the band,"
said Coriano. "But the set-up has always involved three voices."

And though their a cappella foundation also dictates that most of its
membership is used to an art form which mostly relies upon covering
songs by other artists — there is a dearth of original composing in
the collegiate contemporary a cappella world — WUPA finds inventive
ways to light a fire under the writing process.

"One rehearsal, we split up into teams, and in an hour, each group had
to write a song," Fernandes recalled. "Now, some of those are already
in our repertoire."

Joyner said he's optimistic about WUPA's future popularity.

"(We want to) make a product that we can sell to the radio, because .
. . we have really commercial songs that, when we play them, everybody
just loves them," Joyner said.

Fernandes added to the hope of completing a studio album by year's
end, with the goal of adding more original songs to their repertoire.

Over time, the members of WUPA have bonded and grown as a band, Joyner
said, bringing together their various backgrounds to create an
environment that has been mutually beneficial.

"I've definitely learned through them, and grown as a musician," Joyner noted.

"I've been performing with all these great players, and they have made
me 20 times the instrumentalist I could ever be," added Bridge. "And
all these people, they can sing harmonies from out of thin air — it's
like our group of friends was born to hang out and sing together."

And that camaraderie is the zenith of the experience for these seven musicians.

"Regardless of what is going on (in our lives), when we're on stage
together, nothing can bring us down," Gonzalez said. "And if one
person does get down, there's six other people there to pull him back
up."

- New Jersey Star Ledger


Discography

1. WUPA - Live at the Harvest Moon
2. WUPA - WUPA

Photos

Bio

WUPA is the by-product of a cappella vocalists teaming up with a funked-out acoustic guitar player. Weekly gigs playing classic tunes with a funk twist and 3-part harmonies brought friends together and free booze. Life was good.

But through these simple beginnings came bigger ideas. The cover music attracted early fans, but the itch to create original music began to take hold - the band grew. The band actually practiced. What started as 4 turned into 7, with the 3 singers now backed by a full band - further heightening an already high-energy group.

WUPA is a total and complete collaboration. The vocalists are powerful: each of the three more than capable to perform, and combining as one to steal the audiences attention toward their soulful, rock originals. The two guitarists compliment each other's slick and steady rhythmic stylings while the bold drumming and integral bass lines drive the rhythm home.

Because all seven members are songwriters, the music reflects R&B, soul, and classic rock influences from Stevie Wonder, to Carlos Santana, to John Lennon. In the few years they have been performing originals, they have headlined clubs such as the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ; Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ; and The Bitter End in NYC, NY. WUPA's live show validates that this band is hungry and wants to rock every crowd that it faces.