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Exclusive Interview with Pentatonix
by After5 on 04/24/13

After5 Contributor Nicholas Janes was able to chat with an incredible and wildly popular
five-vocalist a cappella group coming to Fargo's The Venue @ The Hub next Tuesday, April 30th, PENTATONIX. The band won the third season of NBC's "Sing-Off" with the winning song being "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor. Their debut album and Christmas EP have climbed to the top of the Billboard and iTune charts.


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NJ: What made you decide that you wanted to be an a cappella group? How did you come up with the name?
PE: We always loved harmonies and choir, so when the sing-off was created, we decided to try out for fun! I came up with the name because the Pentatonic scale has 5 notes and there are 5 members of our group. Also, that scale is universal and used in many cultures. The 'X' just made it cooler ;)

NJ: How did the band come together? Did you all know each other?
PE: 3 of us (Scott, Mitch & Kirstie) grew up together as we're really close. We found our bass, Avi through a mutual friend, and found Kevin, our beat boxer, on YouTube!

NJ: You were winners of “The Sing-Off,” what was it like being unknown to the world and immediately put on the spotlight? Were there ever times you second-guessed your decision to audition for the show? Did you ever feel intimidated?
PE: It was a whirlwind! everything happened so fast, it was hard to take a second to realize it was even happening! We are all so happy though, because being professional musicians was a dream we all had! When we first arrived at sing-off, we were scared and intimidated by the giant and talented groups around, but over the weeks we grew more confident!

NJ: Did you always want to be a musician or did you have other childhood aspirations?
PE: I wanted to be in music since I was 8 years old! Nothing's ever changed :)
NJ: Who are your musical influences?
PE: Personally, Beyoncé, John Legend, Jazmine Sullivan, Justin Timberlake, James Blake

NJ: One of the best reasons I have read as to why people should love you is because you take songs you like or sort of like and turn them into great musical arrangements. How do you, as a band, decide what songs to cover? Afterwards, are they any songs you think will sound great and once you rehearse them your like, “ah never mind?”
PE: We will do any song that we are really inspired by; We love taking pop songs that everyone has heard a million times, and completely changing them so people can hear a brand new take on it. Sometimes arrangements don't work, and we throw them out!

NJ: For Avi. How are you able to achieve the overtones you do? It almost sounds unnatural. Are you classically trained or was it something that just came natural?
PE: Accentuate the natural overtones from my voice with my tongue and lip movements. It takes a very specific placement of the tongue, almost like an embouchure of a trumpet or trombone. The lips act as the valves or slide. Yes! I was actually an opera major before Pentatonix and have sung in many different classical choirs over the years.

NJ: For Scott, Kirstie and Mitch. You three have amazing voices. How do you keep the pipes so in tuned? I would imagine touring as much as you have since 2012 would put a strain on your vocal cords.
PE: It definitely becomes a struggle keeping our vocals rested show after show; We drink a lot of tea and water; we are constantly on vocal rest, and we sleep a lot!

NJ: For Kristie. Not to put you on the spot but being the only girl in the band and knowing how guys act sometimes, do you look the other four and just want to kick their butts sometimes? Or is life in the band all fun and games?
PE: Haha, I think being around the same people for a long time will have anyone wanting to kick them at some point, but generally we all have a lot of fun together. So a combo of both I guess! But they never do anything to ostracize me as being the only girl!

NJ: For Kevin. I always viewed the cello as an underrated instrument. Most people want to play the guitar, bass or even violin. What made you choose the cello? On that note, how difficult is it to beatbox and play the cello at the same?
PE: I never wanted to do the cello at first! I was always interested in the saxophone! But my mom tricked me into doing it at 6 by saying if I didn't want to do it after the first 6 months of lessons, I could quit. I never said anything to her...and I still haven't! The combination is difficult to do! It takes a lot of focus and concentration, but I love challenging myself!

NJ: You have over 720,000 YouTube subscribers. With shows like “The Sing-Off” and sites like YouTube, do you feel you have more of an advantage at getting your name out there to the masses compared to bands and musicians from say 25 years ago?
PE: Absolutely! Social Media is HUGE these days and it allows artists be able to promote themselves for nearly no cost. YouTube has been such an awesome platform for us to stay in the spotlight and be able to share our music with the masses in a efficient way!

NJ: Since September of last year, you have been on a rollercoaster ride of touring. What has your first impression so far? Is it everything you have ever imagined or is it more difficult then you thought it would be?
PE: it's definitely incredibly fun and everything we'd hope it would be. It is much more difficult than I thought it would be though, because a cappella is so difficult and it takes full vocal and physical health to pull off. So things get tricky sometimes when a member gets fatigued or sick. We make it work though!

NJ: I grew up wanting to be a filmmaker, so this really is a personal question for me. Your latest video for “Radioactive” is amazing. I really enjoyed the end of the world look and Lindsey Stirling’s violin playing put the song on a whole other level. Is this something we are going to start seeing more of? Were you the ones to come up with the idea for the video?
PE: Thank you! Fifgen films is an amaaaaazing film company that came up with the concept and filmed/edited the video! We love them. As for collabing more, we plan on doing a lot of it in the future; It allows us to create new interesting creative music and expose one another to each other's fans!


NJ: During “The Sing-Off,” you visited The Trevor Project. Every time I turn on the television or go online, all I see is negativity. about?
PE: There is a lot of negativity in the world. Bully and cyber-bullying are a huge issue these days (esp in the LGBT community) and we picked to work with that charity, because we wanted to help kids realize that they're life is worth something no matter what horrible things people may say. We are 5 examples among millions that it gets better and that staying strong is key :)
NJ: You’ve brought a cappella to the mainstream, what’s next for Pentatonix? Will there be a complete album of original material?
PE: You bring a positive light to the world. Are they any other organizations or foundations you support that you would like your fans and anyone reading this to know. We plan on creating content constantly, and slowly but surely transitioning to an original band! Expect many EPs and full length albums in the next couple years! Thank you. That is definitely our goal with our music. We definitely plan on doing more charity work in the future, with Trevor Project again, and many more!