By ERIC SCHELKOPF
With more than 50 million YouTube views, a cappella band Pentatonix is helping bring vocal groups to a new level of popularity.
Pentatonix, which emerged as the winner of season three of "The Sing-Off," will perform March 2 at the Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine Ave., Chicago. The show starts at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $24, available at www.jamusa.com.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Pentatonix member Mitch Grassi about the upcoming show.
Q - Great talking to you. How has the tour been going?
The tour has been going so well! We're having an amazing time performing every night and meeting all the great fans.
Q - Most of the shows on your fall and winter tour last year sold out. Did you expect such an overwhelming response to your music?
We really didn't! We were very unsure of the response we would get out on tour, but we are so glad it's positive.
Q - Of course, you guys were named the winners of season three of "The Sing-Off" Were you pretty confident of your chances to win it all? What did you think of your competition? What was the biggest thing that the group learned from that experience?
We actually weren't, ha ha ha. Every week right before we would perform, we would psyche ourselves out and be like, "We're going home, we're going home!" Our competition was all exceptionally talented!
We learned that our group dynamic is the most important thing. We couldn't let petty things get in the way of our job.
It couldn't have hurt to have had more time! But we pulled it together in a short amount of time, which I think speaks volumes about us.
Kirstie, Scott, and I have been singing together since high school, so we've really gotten to know each other's vocal habits. We sort of mimic each other's placement and vowels while we sing together, which makes for a fuller sound.
Q - The group has become well-known for some of its covers. How do you choose what songs you want to cover and what do you try to do with those songs? What should people expect from your new EP?
Typically, we will choose songs off of the top charts, or songs that are currently blowing up. We like to give well-known, popular songs a whole new spin and do something totally different with them.
People should expect a lot more original material for "PTX Vol 2." We are writing like crazy while on tour right now!
Q - Why do you think there is such an interest in a cappella groups? What are the additional musical challenges of being an a cappella group?
I think people nowadays are looking for a more organic sound in music. You turn on the radio and 95% of what you hear is auto-tuned, "wall-of-sound" -ish music that's been dumbed down so that virtually everyone can listen to it without having to think about or focus on it.
With a cappella, you have 5 or more complex parts to listen to, and to top it all off, they're all being produced with the human voice! Also, you typically have to be a strong singer in a cappella, because the voice is the foundation of the music you make. With radio-friendly pop songs, you don't necessarily have to be a good singer - the technology "sings" for you.
As an a cappella group, we have to get creative! We don't have synthesizers or instruments to fill our sound, so sometimes we mimic those sounds or we figure out interesting ways to add substance to our sound.
Q - The movie "Pitch Perfect" presented a sometimes humorous look at a cappella group competition. Was the movie true to life at all?
In some ways, it is. A cappella can be fairly dramatic and extremely competitive. However, a girl doesn't become a bass if she acquires vocal nodules. ;)
Q - Where do you see the band going from here?
We will definitely be touring more. I think we are still trying to figure out our original sound, as well, which I'm totally stoked for! I think it's time the world hears what we're really capable of.