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Da Vinci's Notebook
By Cheryl Mullen - 06/22/2002 - 07:23 PM EDT

What do boy bands, fish sticks, and internet porn have in common?

They're all targets that have been wickedly and hilariously skewered by the deliciously warped minds of Da Vinci's Notebook, a 4-man a cappella group that's been described as "Weird Al Yankovic meets Bobby McFerrin". Imagine a cappella on crack with a heavy dose of the Bobs thrown in for good measure, and you'll have a pretty accurate picture of DVN.

It all started nearly a decade ago when a free classified ad in a Washington, DC newspaper brought together Greg "Storm" DiCostanzo, a financial analyst for a telecommunications company; Paul Sabourin, who was working for a law firm; and Bernie Muller-Thym, an accountant. Richard Hsu, a systems analyst, got sucked into the vortex courtesy of Storm (his University of Maryland classmate), And thus the creative monster known as DVN was born.

Many artists tend to give better performances when they stick with a format and a set list and generally act as though they know what they're doing. They actually pride themselves on behaving professionally. Not these guys. They are at their absolute best when they throw order, decorum, and good taste to the wind and just fly off the cuff. It works for them because these guys are FUNNY. I don't mean chuckle-politely-in-your-seat funny. I mean snort-milk-through-your-nose-and-pee-your-pants-maybe-even-at-the-same-time funny.

But listen carefully and you'll hear flashes of sheer brilliance underneath the idiocy. Although they do a few "straight" covers, their repertoire consists mainly of song parodies and satires depicting the styles of better known artists. For example, "Ally McBeal" is a wickedly funny Bob Dylan knock-off. Listen to "Three Little Words" and see if it doesn't remind you of a certain, um...beefy singer. And how many groups do you know that can pull off a medley of heavy metal tunes in barbershop style ("Metal Shop")? And here's a must-listen for all you aspiring songwriters out there (and I KNOW you're out there!)--"Title of the Song" is an actual step-by-step blueprint of how to write a boy-band hit!

Of course not all things hilarious are necessarily in good taste. There's a certain song off "Brontosaurus" (their newest release) that's been getting some airplay with a number of radio stations across the US. I can't mention the title here because it would give away the joke, but let's just say it deals with a man's most prized possession. (Click here to hear a clip.)

WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE:

Well campers, the best way to keep on top of all things DVN-related is to visit their website at www.davincisnotebook.com. There you will find all kinds of interesting stuff, including a complete guide to what's cool and uncool (and who would want to be without that?). While you're there, sign up to be on their mailing list. Not only will you be the first to know when they're coming to your neck of the woods, but you can also participate in the monthly "Cheezy Song Lyric" contest and maybe win some cool DVN stuff!

Good news for those of you on the west coast! DVN has a google of gigs lined up in California and Oregon (click here for their touring schedule). And if you happen to live in Oregon, I would HIGHLY recommend checking out their July 5th performance at the Britt Festival in Jacksonville. They'll be performing with Rockapella, my all-time favorite group and a guaranteed future subject of this column. This way when I actually do write about Rockapella you can feel smug while you're reading the column and say, "Hey! I've seen those guys perform! They're really great!"

* * * * *

OK folks, you might have noticed that this month's column was a little short. Some of you might be thinking, "Geez, I could have written a column like that about (insert your favorite obscure musical artist here)." Oh yeah? Oh yeah? Well PROVE IT, smarty-pants!

That's right--in my infinite generosity and kindness, I am opening up my space to YOU, my dear readers. Lately I've been getting lots of emails from folks suggesting that I write about certain artists. While I'm thrilled to be exposed to all that wonderful talent out there and equally thrilled that there are actually people out there reading this column, I can't possibly do justice to all the wonderful artists whose names have been passed on to me over the past few months.

"So what do I have to do to write a column, Cheryl?" Here are the guidelines:

Send me an email at cheryl@musesmail.com telling me in about 3 paragraphs or so why your chosen artist should be featured. That 3-paragraph guideline is a MAXIMUM. I don't want an entire column from you just yet. Include a link to their website so I can check them out. If I like the way you write and I like the artist, I'll send you an email telling you it's a go. THEN you can email me an entire column.

"What kind of artists are you willing to spotlight?"

This column is absolutely non-discriminatory with regards to genre. It doesn't matter what kind of music your artist does, as long as your artist is talented and worthy of being spotlighted. (And of course they're worthy, otherwise you wouldn't be writing about them, would you? :) )

The one thing I will be discriminatory about is accessibility. First of all, the purpose of this column is to shed some light on artists that you might not otherwise hear about, so don't write about anybody super-famous. The exception is if your artist is famous in your country, but not necessarily in other parts of the world. For example, eventually I plan to write about Great Big Sea. While they're insanely popular in Canada, they're virtually unknown in the US.

Secondly, your artist has to be accessible to the readers of this column. That means that they should have a website and/or be touring a wide geographic area. If your artist is based in Toronto, there has to be some way for a reader in Los Angeles to hear your artist's music without actually having to come to Toronto to hear them perform. Also, if your hypothetical Toronto-based artist has an album out, there should be a way for the hypothetical Los Angeles reader to obtain that CD without having to come to Toronto to buy it.

"How long will you expect the actual column to be?"

The Da Vinci's Notebook column that you just read was approximately 2 1/2 handwritten pages. While we can talk more about what you'll need to do once I've actually selected you to be a guest columnist, that length is about what I'll expect.

"I emailed you (insert length of time here) ago and you still haven't answered me! What gives??"

Be patient! Like I said, I've been getting so many requests for spotlights that I can't get to everyone immediately. And I won't be featuring a guest columnist every month. It will depend on the responses I get, and my own personal schedule. Besides, it's still my column.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to email me. That's it for now. I'll look forward to reading your suggestions.


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