Pentatonix Talks Holiday Album, Touring Goals and Teaching A Cappella to Teens
"These kids just want to sing with other people who share that passion, but some are from small towns where no one else sings; they just sing in the shower and that's all they've got"
Christmas has come early for Pentatonix.
The viral a cappella quintet released their holiday effort That's Christmas to Me on Tuesday via RCA Records, which opens with a modern take on "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" and closes with a full-fledged cover of "Let It Go" from Frozen. In between, the 11-track album blends "Winter Wonderland" with "Don't Worry Be Happy" alongside Tori Kelly, introduces the band-penned title track, covers Fleet Foxes' "White Winter Hymnal" and tackles classics like "Mary, Did You Know," "Silent Night" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," among others.
"I think this album's more creative than our last one," Scott Hoying tells The Hollywood Reporter of the new release, comparing it with their 2012 EP, PTXmas. "Our last one is just typical Christmas songs with really pretty a cappella arrangements. But this one, I feel there's more concepts and ideas."
"It's always really fun — there's only really one or two months where you can sing Christmas songs, so we put all this hard work into this album," adds Kirstie Maldonado. "I love singing our Christmas songs every chance we get. It's really cute."
T he group worked on their new Christmas album and their first major-label release, PTX Vol. III — which debuted last month — at the same time. "People want totally different things out of each album, so getting the spirit of each one was interesting," says Avi Kaplan. "The whole time, we felt really productive, even if it was stressful. That we finally did it, it still blows my mind."
Adding to the stress, the group headed straight into the studio after wrapping a massive international tour, which came with its own performance lessons. "One thing I do because we do a lot of choreography — and I can't usually do it while beatboxing because I get out of breath — is sometimes, I'll run and beatbox in the morning so I can be cardiovascularly ready for the show," explains Kevin Olusola. "Scott told me Beyonce does that, so I started doing that for the tour and it really helped."
"The main thing is just saving our voices and pacing ourselves — we don't sing nearly as full-out, and we let the microphone do the work sometimes, and we drink so much water, it's a joke," says Hoying, with Maldonado adding: "I sleep forever."
Still, the group can't help but look forward to returning to the road. "Personally, I want a more conceptual show — after watching the On the Run tour!" laughs Mitch Grassi, energetic during the band's packed press day. "We want video. I want to make it more produced but still want to keep the integrity of the band, because I don't want it to be like, 'Are they even singing anymore?' " Adds Hoying: "It's my dream to come out of a toaster. Not an actual toaster, but that's the name of the platform!"
Watch more Pentatonix Singers Cover Disney's 'Frozen'
Their globetrotting tours and viral YouTube videos have a notable trickle-down effect to even the smallest towns (like their own hometown, Arlington, Texas) that they're not ignoring. This past summer, Kaplan co-founded a youth camp in Los Angeles called A cappella Academy, and as its first artist-in-residence, Pentatonix worked with 66 "talented and next-level" teens from over 900 applicants, said Grassi.
"A lot of these kids just want to sing with other people who share that passion, but some are from really small towns where no one else sings, they just sing in the shower and that's all they've got," says Hoying of the camp. " 'Here are people just like me, let's sing together and create music and harmonize' — there's such a connection when you sing with other people like that."
"It was the most unbelievable experience I've ever had in my life," adds Kaplan. "The bar continues to be raised for this genre, but the camp's not just about a cappella, but music in general, and music's about bringing light to others. That's what we really wanted to teach at the camp: Whenever they do perform, it's to brighten someone else's day or brighten their own life."
Watch the video for "White Winter Hymnal," the first off their holiday album, below.