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Pentatonix 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 again.

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 Shop.”

Cover versions predominated in the group’s first two recordings, but Pentatonix’s upcoming EP “PTX Vol. 2? will stress originals.

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 time.

“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 show.”

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.”