finds time is right
BY GARY CHUN
Thanks in part to Pentatonix,
a cappella music is back in the limelight.
In 2011, Pentatonix was
the overall winner of NBC’s “The Sing-Off” in that
show’s third season. “The Sing-Off” helped kick-start
the nation’s love for a cappella, and the competition show is
returning later this year after sitting out the 2012-2013 season.
The popularity of “Glee,” which also premiered in 2009,
as did “The Sing-Off,” and the 2012 hit musical comedy
“Pitch Perfect” have also helped make vocal music popular
The outfit’s popularity has risen exponentially since Pentatonix
won “The Sing-Off,” thanks to YouTube.
Pentatonix’s channel has more than 550,000 subscribers, many
of whom devotedly term themselves “Pentaholics,” addicted
to the group’s harmonic vocal bliss.
The a cappella group has garnered close to 62 million views of its
videos of entertaining cover versions of “Somebody That I Used
to Know,” “We Are Young,” “As Long as You
Love Me,” “Gangnam Style” and, more recently, “Thrift
Cover versions predominated in the group’s first two recordings,
but Pentatonix’s upcoming EP “PTX Vol. 2? will stress
Some of those songs are being featured on Pentatonix’s extensive
tour, which started in January.
The five-part group is made up of lead singers Scott Hoying, Kirstie
Maldonado and Mitch Grassi, and a rhythm section of vocal bass Avi
Kaplan and beatboxer Kevin “K.O.” Olusola.
We caught up with Olusola earlier this month before a run of dates
in Texas (including a couple at South by Southwest in Austin), where
he enthusiastically spoke by phone about playing Hawaii for the first
“We’ll be taking a brief break from touring while we’re
there,” he said. (After Hawaii the group flies all the way to
the East Coast for an April 4 date in Rhode Island.)
Olusola, a native of Kentucky, has never been to Hawaii. He said he’s
eager to “check out the island vibe and the food and the people.”
The singers will try to get some needed extra rest, as there is no
set end date for this current tour.
Pentatonix hopes to continue the run of sold-out shows that dominated
last year’s fall-winter tour.
“For those that saw us on that tour, you’ll see how much
we’re stepping it up this year,” Olusola said. “There
are so many changes in the staging, lighting and especially choreography.
“We went through intense eight-hour dance sessions for a week
before this tour. Overall, I think we’ve created an amazing
In Pentatonix’s latest video, a cover of Imagine Dragons’
“Radioactive,” you get a sampling of Olusola’s musical
prowess: He beatboxes while playing cello.
The guy’s got mad skills, having appeared on National Public
Radio’s “From the Top” and has performed at Carnegie
Hall as a soloist on cello and saxophone.
“I still get the occasional solo opportunity to play and travel
abroad to places like Amsterdam and Tokyo,” he said. “It
was an honor to be picked by Quincy Jones to represent him in concert
at the 2012 Montreux Jazz Festival.”
Pentatonix is a major part of his multifaceted music career. “This
year reminded me how much I want to be in this band and for us to
be respected as vocalists,” Olusola said.
“It’ll help that new original material will be featured
on the EP, which should be out sometime after May.
“The songs are really cool, and I hope the audience will respond
well to them.”