ITHACA TIMES (extended version)

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The extended interview with Pentatonix’s Scott Hoying.

Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 4:54 pm | Updated: 5:10 pm, Wed Feb 20, 2013.

Interview by Jesse Disbrow


The extended interview with Pentatonix’s Scott Hoying.

On coming up with a cappella arrangements:

“It’s a group effort. Usually the five of us just sit in a circle and we get the outline of the arrangement. We find out who’s going to solo and based on that we get the key of the song, exactly what key we’re going to do that song in. Then Avi learns the base on his own, and comes up with his own baseline. Kevin shows us some grooves, and we’re like ‘Oh we love that groove, we don’t like that groove.’ Then we just throw out ideas. For example, for the first verse is that going be (sings a few notes) and people in the group would say that’s cheesy or not. We’re usually honest with each other. So we throw out ideas and if the whole group likes it we put it in the arrangement. Then we just go through the whole song until its done. Usually by the end we have something pretty cool with the collaboration of the five of us.

On arranging for their first EP PTX Vol. 1:

For the album we do it a little different because when recording stuff you need more complex parts and more complex chords, and that’s hard to do just in person orally. So we’ll sit down with our producer Ben Brand and we’ll get on Finale and we’ll figure out what the best chords or coolest cords were throughout the arrangement. But it’s very collaborative, never does one person arrange. I don’t feel like that’s a good way to arrange because that limits the arrangement to one person’s ideas, and we have six people ideas and the end result is a lot stronger.

On what was the toughest song to arrange:

The one that initially comes to mind is “Aha”, that one that we really wanted to do because it’s a really cool song and it’s quick and I think it lends itself to a cappella. When we were arranging it we were pretty stumped. It was a very hard song to arrange and make sound full. It started out sounding empty and anemic. But after a while, a couple of week, working with Ben and the group, we finally got a really cool arrangement that we’re proud of. But that was probably our toughest one. Some of them come together in about an hour and some take weeks.

On filling out sound using only five voices:

There are a ton of challenges honestly. First of all if you’re a normal band, when you’re producing something there are a million different sounds you can use there’s a million different instruments. It’s easy to constantly keep things creative. But when you only have five voices, you’re very, very limited so you have to get especially creative in how you use your voice to make those arrangements sound full and different from the last. Honestly our fullness comes mostly from the combination of having Avi’s really low bass, which fills up the sound a lot, Kevin’s like growly and intense beatboxing, and then the three of us usually sing a three part harmony, which is this wall of sound and strong block chords. SO with those block chords and the foundation of the rhythm section we can get a pretty big sound. The real challenge is keeping it creative and keeping it fresh and new.

On the groups favorite show so far:

It’s different for all of us. My favorite place we’ve played so far is Boston. It was a pretty surreal show, because we had so many people there and the fans there are so intense. Any where in the East Coast can be pretty crazy but that was just a really fun show. But the fans on our tour are in for a real treat. I can’t wait to see what city we visit next gets real crazy.

On creating original music:

We did two songs of PTX Vol. 1 Last year and that was our little start; putting our foot in the water of originals and figuring it out. Now we’re more immersing ourselves in it. We’ve written tons and tons of songs and we’ll probably have four to six songs on the next album. We also do some originals on the show that you’ll see. We’re definitely getting there, we’re trying to slowly transition there from covers. We’ll always do covers, because that’s what people fell in love with, but we want to establish ourselves as an original artist, too.

On whether they thought they’d end up touring nationally and producing music when they were first trying to get the group together:

Literally, not at all. We went into the Sing Off thinking we were going to do it for fun. It was a hobby we didn’t think anything would really come of it. I mean maybe in the back of our mind we were hoping we would maybe win and blow up and do some stuff with it. But we never expected it. Especially when we got to the show and saw Afro Blue and other groups rehearsing we were like ‘there’s no way the five of us who haven’t even know each other that long are going to be able to compete.’ So as the show went on and we kind of figured out our sound and how to arrange, we started getting inspired and thinking ‘maybe this is something special, maybe this is something that can be revolutionary in the music industry.’ It’s funny, we were thinking it was ridiculous to think like that and then we were like, wait we’re young, and this is something cool and we’re on a prime time television show. Let’s do this; let’s really do this. So we committed to it after we won, we all moved to LA and we decided to start a YouTube Channel and tour and really try to pursue it at a high level. So far the investment has really paid off and we’re thankful for that.

On using social media to interact with fans:

We always talked about the number one way to connect with fans, and in this day and age connecting with fans is so important, so on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, we’re always loving talking and asking the fans questions, getting feedback and reading comments. We especially love setting up YouTube videos because there’s so many users on YouTube, that we can set up videos and if they go viral we get a bunch of new fans and we can hear if they like it or if they’re bored with it and what songs they want us to do. It’s international too, for instance we can see that there’s a ton of comments from Brazil or Europe. We’re like, cool maybe we can venture a tour out to Brazil or something. It’s a pretty cool thing to be completely interconnected by the internet.

The extended interview with Pentatonix’s Scott Hoying.

On coming up with a cappella arrangements:

“It’s a group effort. Usually the five of us just sit in a circle and we get the outline of the arrangement. We find out who’s going to solo and based on that we get the key of the song, exactly what key we’re going to do that song in. Then Avi learns the base on his own, and comes up with his own baseline. Kevin shows us some grooves, and we’re like ‘Oh we love that groove, we don’t like that groove.’ Then we just throw out ideas. For example, for the first verse is that going be (sings a few notes) and people in the group would say that’s cheesy or not. We’re usually honest with each other. So we throw out ideas and if the whole group likes it we put it in the arrangement. Then we just go through the whole song until its done. Usually by the end we have something pretty cool with the collaboration of the five of us.

On arranging for their first EP PTX Vol. 1:

For the album we do it a little different because when recording stuff you need more complex parts and more complex chords, and that’s hard to do just in person orally. So we’ll sit down with our producer Ben Brand and we’ll get on Finale and we’ll figure out what the best chords or coolest cords were throughout the arrangement. But it’s very collaborative, never does one person arrange. I don’t feel like that’s a good way to arrange because that limits the arrangement to one person’s ideas, and we have six people ideas and the end result is a lot stronger.

On what was the toughest song to arrange:

The one that initially comes to mind is “Aha”, that one that we really wanted to do because it’s a really cool song and it’s quick and I think it lends itself to a cappella. When we were arranging it we were pretty stumped. It was a very hard song to arrange and make sound full. It started out sounding empty and anemic. But after a while, a couple of week, working with Ben and the group, we finally got a really cool arrangement that we’re proud of. But that was probably our toughest one. Some of them come together in about an hour and some take weeks.

On filling out sound using only five voices:

There are a ton of challenges honestly. First of all if you’re a normal band, when you’re producing something there are a million different sounds you can use there’s a million different instruments. It’s easy to constantly keep things creative. But when you only have five voices, you’re very, very limited so you have to get especially creative in how you use your voice to make those arrangements sound full and different from the last. Honestly our fullness comes mostly from the combination of having Avi’s really low bass, which fills up the sound a lot, Kevin’s like growly and intense beatboxing, and then the three of us usually sing a three part harmony, which is this wall of sound and strong block chords. SO with those block chords and the foundation of the rhythm section we can get a pretty big sound. The real challenge is keeping it creative and keeping it fresh and new.

On the groups favorite show so far:

It’s different for all of us. My favorite place we’ve played so far is Boston. It was a pretty surreal show, because we had so many people there and the fans there are so intense. Any where in the East Coast can be pretty crazy but that was just a really fun show. But the fans on our tour are in for a real treat. I can’t wait to see what city we visit next gets real crazy.

On creating original music:

We did two songs of PTX Vol. 1 Last year and that was our little start; putting our foot in the water of originals and figuring it out. Now we’re more immersing ourselves in it. We’ve written tons and tons of songs and we’ll probably have four to six songs on the next album. We also do some originals on the show that you’ll see. We’re definitely getting there, we’re trying to slowly transition there from covers. We’ll always do covers, because that’s what people fell in love with, but we want to establish ourselves as an original artist, too.

On whether they thought they’d end up touring nationally and producing music when they were first trying to get the group together:

Literally, not at all. We went into the Sing Off thinking we were going to do it for fun. It was a hobby we didn’t think anything would really come of it. I mean maybe in the back of our mind we were hoping we would maybe win and blow up and do some stuff with it. But we never expected it. Especially when we got to the show and saw Afro Blue and other groups rehearsing we were like ‘there’s no way the five of us who haven’t even know each other that long are going to be able to compete.’ So as the show went on and we kind of figured out our sound and how to arrange, we started getting inspired and thinking ‘maybe this is something special, maybe this is something that can be revolutionary in the music industry.’ It’s funny, we were thinking it was ridiculous to think like that and then we were like, wait we’re young, and this is something cool and we’re on a prime time television show. Let’s do this; let’s really do this. So we committed to it after we won, we all moved to LA and we decided to start a YouTube Channel and tour and really try to pursue it at a high level. So far the investment has really paid off and we’re thankful for that.

On using social media to interact with fans:

We always talked about the number one way to connect with fans, and in this day and age connecting with fans is so important, so on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, we’re always loving talking and asking the fans questions, getting feedback and reading comments. We especially love setting up YouTube videos because there’s so many users on YouTube, that we can set up videos and if they go viral we get a bunch of new fans and we can hear if they like it or if they’re bored with it and what songs they want us to do. It’s international too, for instance we can see that there’s a ton of comments from Brazil or Europe. We’re like, cool maybe we can venture a tour out to Brazil or something. It’s a pretty cool thing to be completely interconnected by the internet.