Charlie Kroll, a third-year biology student, was a sophomore in high school when he said the all-male a cappella group The Innocent Men performed at his high school and taught students how to beatbox.
“From that day, I kept Eau Claire in my mind,” Kroll said. “Innocent Men was one of the reasons why I chose to come to Eau Claire.”
Matthew St. Ores, a second-year sociology and transnational geography student, said The Innocent Men continues to perform and hold classes on how to beatbox at high schools and middle schools in Wisconsin and Minnesota each semester.
The Innocent Men’s mission statement is to enhance people’s understanding about music and present a cappella to audiences that aren’t typically exposed to that genre of music, St. Ores said.
That’s why he said sharing their music with audiences is important to the group because members of The Innocent Men have a “commonality that music is important” to them, and they want to give that to others.
Kroll said The Innocent Men have several other traditions that have remained since the group’s beginning in the spring of 1984.
Wearing red Converse Chuck Taylors is one of those such traditions, Kroll said.
“Each time we get a new member of the group, we take them out to get the shoes,” Kroll said.
The six founding members of The Innocent Men made an arrangement of Billy Joel’s song “The Longest Time” in 1984, Kroll said, and then debuted their performance of it in the fall at Varsity Night Live — a variety show that continues to be held during Homecoming week to this day.
Kroll said the group eventually gave themselves the name The Innocent Men because the Billy Joel song they had performed was from the album “An Innocent Man.”
During their three weekly rehearsals, totalling to about seven hours of practice every week, Kroll said The Innocent Men have a music director who tells the group what they will be singing, but he said members spend time just sitting and talking too.
“In my eyes, there’s two aspects to the group,” Kroll said. “It’s musicality and it’s brotherhood.
One isn’t ever more important than the other. They kind of coexist and eb and flow together.”
St. Ores said “having that brotherhood relationship” is his favorite part about being a member of The Innocent Men.
With only two music majors in the group, Kroll said he appreciates how diverse the group is.
“Everyone has different majors, everyone comes with a passion for music,” Kroll said.
St. Ores said he has always been passionate about singing, but wasn’t a music major himself. Yet he said he still wanted to be involved with music somehow, telling himself “there’s gotta be more out there for me.”
This is the second semester St. Ores has been a part of The Innocent Men, but he said when he performed at the Viennese Ball this past spring, he had a realization about his involvement with the a cappella group.
“Everyone was so high energy, everyone was just really excited, everyone was screaming, cheering you on,” St. Ores said. “It (was this) very ‘this is where I’m supposed to be’ (moment).”
Spencer Keith, a second-year computer science student, said he just recently became a member of The Innocent Men and has only been to one rehearsal and one performance, but that he is already appreciating how welcoming the group is.
“It seemed like a fun and inclusive group of guys,” Keith said, “and I found that to be 100 percent true.”
Van Sistine can be reached at [email protected].