Mark your calendars: The University may be a hotbed of a capella culture, but it’s not every day that the most exciting act in instrument-free music sweeps through town. Pentatonix is gearing up to jam out at the Jefferson Theater Sunday, bringing their energetic arrangements of top-40 hits to the Downtown Mall in what will likely be some of the best a capella Charlottesville has ever seen.
The young quintet, made up of Scott Hoying, Kirstie Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, Avi Kaplan and Kevin Olusola — all in their early 20s — formed in 2011 to audition for NBC’s singing competition The Sing-Off, which they went on to win. They have since gone on to transcend their not-so-humble network television beginnings: Their new holiday EP PTXmas immediately topped the iTunes Holiday Albums Chart, and they are currently in the middle of headlining their first national tour.
A&E caught up with Olusola by email in advance of the group’s Dec. 2 show. (No instruments were harmed in the making of this interview.)
A&E: How has your group dynamic evolved since meeting for the first time before The Sing-Off auditions?
KO: When we tried out for The Sing-Off, we didn’t know each other or how this group would work. Since then, we’ve grown so close … We now have inside jokes galore, we hang out with each other constantly, and we feel comfortable talking to each other about our ups and downs. It’s nice to know you can rely on the people you work with and be a family.
A&E: You’ve said before in interviews that you want to become the first mainstream a capella group. You’re obviously on the right track — what steps are you taking to achieve that goal, and how will you know when you achieved it?
KO: It first comes down to our sound. When we decided to audition for The Sing-Off, we wanted to create an innovative sound that was also marketable in this current musical climate. We listen to lots of genres (like pop, dubstep/electronica, folk, hip-hop) and try to fuse them in a way that makes our a capella music reach the widest audience. That idea gave us a competitive edge on The Sing-Off.
Also, social media is such an important part of our strategy. We try to engage the fans as much as possible through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so that they keep up-to-date with us and feel like they are a part of our family. Plus, we have an incredible team (label, manager, agent, publicist, etc.) that helps us make the right decisions business-wise to build our brand.
A&E: You guys are all very young, and you’ve sacrificed a lot to pursue this dream — do you ever worry about missing out on the typical college experience? Do you have any desire to return to school in the future?
KO: We all realize how amazing and rare of an opportunity this is. So many people dream [of being] recording artists and tour[ing], so we will do what is necessary to make this work. Some of us definitely desire to go back to school and some are even taking online classes. But for now, our goal is to grow as a band and make amazing music.
A&E: If you could go on tour with one modern artist, who would it be and why?
KO: Collectively speaking, we would love to tour with Beyonce. We love her artistry, and she’s an inspiration. She’s the most hard-working woman in the industry, and we would grow a lot from being around her.
A&E: What are your plans for the future — ideally, what will Pentatonix be up to in two years?
KO: We want to continue to grow our fan base by touring and putting out a lot more music, especially original material. We are writing a lot to hone in on our original sound. As long as we’re making music, we’re great!