In short, a quartet of musicians, serious about their music without taking themselves too seriously.
Their instrumentation: voice (soprano), voice (alto), voice (tenor) and voice (bass), with a little bit of vocal percussion thrown in. They have a beautifully distinct sound and style, but they cross many musical genres: jazz, folk, gospel, pop, classical, comedy - exactly what you see and hear at a concert is difficult to describe.
With twelve albums in the catalogue, a significant local and international fan base, and increasingly regular local and international work, it would seem that despite the difficulty, people are getting better at describing The Idea of North to their friends. You may have heard and enjoyed the CDs (some of them award-winning), but the best stuff actually happens live and can't be recorded onto plastic, no matter how shiny it is.
The group's sole remaining founding member, Nick has a rich history of singing in piano bars, vocal groups, jazz trios, big bands and musical theatre, and his passion for live performance has seen him through artistic famine and flood with his musical baby, The Idea of North.
As the group's first non-founding member to join, Naomi came on board as alto just four months after graduating from her music degree. She then took on the role of The Idea of North's musical director shortly after that.
Emma struggles to live up to the 'diva' reputation many sopranos spend their lives either avoiding or encouraging, and yet her incredible voice almost commands the reputation without the attitude. The group's newest member, Emma has taken up the challenge of pro-a cappella and wrestled it into submission with grace and poise.
A frequent (but not yet full-time) addition to The Idea of North, this incredible artist creates all the sounds of a full-size acoustic drum set as well as a plethora of other percussive sounds and sound effects. An amazing addition to TION, expect to see more and more of Kai at these two artists work collaborate more and more.
In 1993 four students from the Canberra School of Music (Australian National University) befriended each other. They began to hang out together, at the lake, each other's houses, the skate park. Then they began to sing together. For fun. They jammed on some songs, came up with some arrangements. They sang these to other friends and family. There were requests for more songs. So they learned more. Not many more, but a few (there were too many other things to do back then). In four years, 'the quartet' had put together arrangements for only about six songs, but they were good. The songs, the arrangements, the singing. It was all good.
With one of the four about to move to Sydney to pursue career, the still nameless 'quartet' thought it wise to record the songs they'd learned - for posterity. They also thought it wise to find a name to put on the album - anything more interesting than 'The Quartet' would do. 'The Idea of North' was agreed on - borrowed from a radio show from the 1960s - an album was made and launched, and some offers of work started coming in. It was late 1997.
In 1998 the four friends decided to transform solo careers into a full time 'gig' as The Idea of North. At the end of 2001, after two albums and more and more requests to perform in a surprisingly wide variety of settings, much had been achieved. A solid fan base, regular gigs at legendary clubs, annual national and occasional international touring.
The first personnel change in early 2002 saw The Idea of North move into another gear (a higher one). Touring schedules increased. Local audiences grew. The group got better.
The third album, a re-record of the best of the first two, with the new line-up, proved a good move. It reached #8 on the national jazz chart and was the highest ever seller in jazz for the label (ABC Classics & Jazz). Further evidence for the group that they were onto something. The fourth album ushered in a new era of international invitations. Festivals, concert performances, vocal clinics. The Idea of North was an overnight success - after only six years.
The Idea of North continue to produce many award winning recordings (their 2010 release, a collaboration with jazz great James Morrison, won the 2010 ARIA award (Australian Recording Industry Association) for 'Best Jazz Album'), and then the 2013 ARIA award also for 'Best Jazz Album', and are best seen live to appreciate their passion for music and ability to connect with their audience. As James Morrison so aptly puts it: 'A cappella is sometimes thought of as being minimalist, but when you can sing and entertain like The Idea of North, a band would just get in the way'.