Choruses date as far back as Antiquity, so it’s rare that a self-defined “chorus” could also be described as novel and unique, let alone cool. Meet The Silver Lake Chorus, a collection of twenty young, dynamic, seriously talented Angelenos, whose debut album features original songs written exclusively for them by all your favorite indie artists, including Sia, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie, Postal Service), Tegan & Sara and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver).
Stodgy concert choir this is not – though the musicianship excels and the chamber-filling harmonies are clearly the product of accomplished, studied arrangers. Nor is TSLC a high school glee club or college a cappella group – their enthusiasm and obvious camaraderie are just as infectious, but they’ve left the saccharine sweet dance numbers and costumes at home. And while the audition process is way too selective for this to be a community choir, The Silver Lake Chorus is unquestionably a reflection of the place it calls home – an East Side LA neighborhood that celebrates human connection and community as much as it does free thinking and the creative arts.
Formed in 2010, it wasn’t until Australian singer-songwriter Ben Lee hopped on board that the chorus’s already narrowing focus truly hit its mark. Friends with a founding member, Lee heard the chorus sing their arrangement of Beck’s “Lonesome Tears” at an early rehearsal and was blown away by how the song had been “reinvented into this massive Russian Gregorian chant.”
The Silver Lake Chorus – ‘From The Snow Tipped Hills’ (written by Justin Vernon)
Immediately, he got an idea: instead of singing covers, Lee suggested the chorus take a completely original indie rock approach to the ancient choral art form. He signed on to produce their debut album and reached out to other artists and friends, asking them to write new music for the chorus. “Most people would think they can’t approach Beck or Tegan and Sara, but as a songwriter, it’s such an honor to have your song sung by someone else, especially twenty people with great voices. So I just started putting it out there,” Lee remembers. Lee knew he could provide TSLC with “access to a level of songwriters who could set this apart from other choral experiences,” and he was right. Songs soon poured in from artists like Sia, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Aimee Mann, Tegan and Sara, The Bird and the Bee, Ben Gibbard, John Roderick (The Long Winters), A.C. Newman (The New Pornographers), The Flaming Lips, and of course, Lee himself.