BOSTON HERALD

Back to Pentatonix

A cappella group Pentatonix in perfect pitch .

February 22, 2013
By
Jed Gottlieb / Boston Herald

A cappella has ?graduated from fad ?to phenomenon.

A decade ago, a few college music geeks in matching sweaters made up the a cappella scene. Today, the genre is blockbuster entertainment: The film “Pitch Perfect” topped $100 million at the box office, vocal group Straight No Chaser sells out 3,000-seat venues, the NBC a cappella contest “The Sing-Off” ran for three seasons and spun off versions in China, France and the Netherlands.

But Pentatonix aims to be a cappella’s first superstars: The quintet’s House of Blues show on Sunday has been sold out ?for weeks.

“Out of everything we’ve accomplished, what I’m most proud of is debuting at No. 14 in the Billboard 200 with our EP,” singer Scott Hoying said from Los Angeles. “To be on the charts with Rihanna and Adele is the closest we’ve come to breaking through.”

Most TV singing competition champions flop after a year or two. But since winning season three of “The Sing-Off” in 2011, Pentatonix has slowly, methodically built a sizable cult. In the past year, the group racked up 200,000 Facebook fans, 70,000 Twitter followers and 50 million YouTube views.

Ironically, Hoying credits the YouTube visual with selling the Pentatonix audio.

“And it’s our simple videos, the ones of us just sitting on a couch singing, that do the best,” Hoying said. “When people can see that it’s just five people creating all this noise, they’re sold on what we do.”

Hoying, Kirstie Maldonado and Mitch Grassi easily handle vocal lines from Gotye, fun. and ’N Sync. But it’s when Kevin Olusola and Avi Kaplan’s drum and bass kick in that Pentatonix’s performances become astounding. The pair can re-create anything from “Gangnam Style” k-pop beats to the ’80s synth grooves of “How Will I Know.”

As an integrated unit, Pentatonix proves the power of a cappella — brave-but-slick arrangements full of “How are they pulling this off?” moments.

“We think we can take this music to the mainstream,” Hoying said.

If that seems unlikely, think about how far the group has come already. Hoying recruited Kaplan and Olusola just days before “The Sing-Off” audition.

“I had sent everyone their parts online, but, two days before the audition, we had still hadn’t sung together,” Hoying said. “We hadn’t even all met face-to-face.”

The strangers gelled instantly, and eventually beat out 15 groups for the crown. Next came the recording contract, sold-out club tour and YouTube smashes.

“Now we’re working on signing a deal to be an opening act on an arena tour, and then maybe Europe,” Hoying said. “We’re taking this music to places it’s never been before.”