Stayin’ loose

Published 2:05 pm Saturday, January 17, 2009

Loose Change isn’t your typical barbershop quartet. Yes, they sing a cappella numbers in four-part harmony, don stylish costumes, and compete — but if your concept of barbershop ends there, you’re in for a shock.

“We like to lampoon the lawyers of the world, airline pilots, aging superheroes and gangsters,” lead singer Mike Curry said.

Loose Change, or “Loose” for short, is known for taking well-known barbershop songs and parodying them. For example, their version of “Blue Bayou” is actually “Blew By You,” about the wind blowing off a man’s toupee. Then there’s the Christmas number “You Ain’t Gettin’ Diddly Squat.”

The musical numbers are interspersed with comedy bits that each have their own costumes and props. The props include wheelchairs, pots and pans, and tenor Don Johnson’s hilarious Bat-walker, which is used during the aging superheroes bit (as opposed to the Batmobile driven by Batman).

It’s obvious that the boys in Loose love what they do.

“We have so much more fun than anybody else does, audience included,” Curry said.

“We also fight like brothers,” added bass singer Mike Schiermann.

With more than 500 performances under their belt, Loose has their act down to a fine art. Their act typically lasts 29.5 minutes and doesn’t vary more than 15 seconds.

But what truly sets them apart from other quartets is the closeness between the four, which is more important than any championship. The group, formed in 1990, has had the same lineup since 1994.

“That’s very unusual,” Curry said.

“The four of us are very, very close,” Schiermann said. “We have rehearsed three days a week for two to three hours a day.”

The four have stuck together through thick and thin — strokes, open heart surgeries, lost wives and marriages.

“We’ve spent hundreds of hours in the car together,” Curry said.

Both Curry and Schiermann call Clanton home. Curry is the owner of Whistlestop Coffee & News, and Schiermann owns his own advertising company. The other half of Loose — Johnson and baritone Sam Hooton — reside in Hoover.

While some groups compete and others do not, Loose is a mixture of the two. They have placed fifth in their district and have performed all over the Southeast, and as far away as St. Petersburg, Russia.

In many venues, an introduction is not needed as the crowd begins chanting, “Loose! Loose!”

“Barbershopping is a lifestyle,” Schiermann said. “It’s just like pageants, or gospel music.”

“Or fishing,” Curry interjected.

Loose Change is coached by Jeff Selano, tenor in the No. 3-ranked quartet in the world, Storm Front.

“He keeps us from jumping out of windows when we don’t win contests,” Schiermann joked.

Not long ago, Loose came to a turning point in their career. After several years of giving it everything they had in competitions, they sat down together to decide the quartet’s fate.

“We had to redefine ourselves,” Schiermann said. “We had to ask ourselves, ‘Why do we do this?’ And the answer was because we are performers, and we love what we do.”

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