Back to Pentatonix

World’s most popular a cappella group, Pentatonix, returns to North Texas Saturday

By SARAH BLASKOVICH Staff Writer sblaskovich@dallasnews.com
Published: 27 June 2014 09:54 AM
Updated: 27 June 2014 11:48 AM

They started out as “choir nerds,” says Scott Hoying, one of five members of the musical group Pentatonix.
These choir nerds are popular now, though: Pentatonix has 5.8 million subscribers on YouTube, just finished a 19-date tour in Europe in which all but two dates sold out, and is appearing in next year’s Pitch Perfect 2. The group specializes in singing covers from superstars such as Beyoncé, Daft Punk, Maroon 5 and Lady Gaga. As an a cappella group, Pentatonix uses its members’ voices as the only instruments.
You could call Pentatonix one of the most successful contemporary
a cappella groups in the world right now, says Ben Folds, a musician and judge on the NBC reality TV show The Sing-Off. Trace Pentatonix’s story back a few years and it begins in Arlington.
Hoying attended Martin High School with Mitch Grassi and Kirstie Maldonado, and they became singing buddies. They unspectacularly called themselves the Trio, but the music the 17- and 18-year-olds were producing grabbed the attention of hundreds of thousands of people on YouTube.
The three decided to audition for Season 3 of The Sing-Off, but Hoying and friends needed a minimum of five members. (And even with five, some of the larger a cappella groups offer a significantly fuller sound than such a small group ever could.)
With new additions Avi Kaplan (bass) and Kevin Olusola (beatboxer/rhythm) and a lot of hard work, the group won Season 3 in 2011.
Judge Folds considers it “a serious, here-to-stay band.” And what’s more, it has “brought a cappella to people who might not otherwise have self-identified as ‘liking a cappella,’” says Ben Stevens, president and director of the Vocal Foundation, an educational group.
Pentatonix has managed to harness continued interest in its music and launch an international career — a tough task for many reality TV show musicians. The group’s hook is to sing covers of popular songs — and to “turn them upside down,” Hoying says.
Covers “kind of became our thing.”
Take the band’s “Daft Punk” video, which has been watched more than 76 million times on YouTube. There are bright costumes, feverish beats (all created with Olusola’s mouth, of course) and interesting camera shots that make the four-minute video a feast for the eyes and ears.
Creating the arrangements can take weeks, during which the members obsess over harmonies and create “musical moments” that build and smolder within a single song, Hoying says.
No genre is off-limits. Pentatonix made a splash with its silly take on Asian rap song “Gangnam Style” but next offered a sassy mash-up of Beyoncé songs, then a stirring rendition of “Little Drummer Boy” near Christmastime. Pentatonix was even on Sesame Street