'The Sing-Off's' Pentatonix on Going From Newly Formed Group to the Show's Winners

The Sing Off Pentatonix Finale 2011
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It seems appropriate that the winners of NBC’s The Sing-Off’s third season was Arlington, Texas quintet Pentatonix. More than any other season of the a cappella singing competition, Season 3 was characterized by a very diverse group of contenders who are trying new things with the genre. And, possibly, no other group in the competition better represented that innovation better than the five-person group who finds its musical inspiration in electronica like dubstep and garage house.

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What’s even more impressive about the group is that they fully formed just a day before the show’s auditions after childhood friends Scott Hoying, Kirstin Maldonado, and Mitch Grassi discovered Kevin Olusola and Avi Kaplan, their two-person rhythm section, on YouTube. And now, the group that still hadn’t truly figured out if it was gelling two episodes into the competition are the Season 3 champs winning a Sony Music recording contract and $200,000.

The Hollywood Reporter was at the live finale taping and spoke to the members of Pentatonix after the show just as their win was still sinking in.

The Hollywood Reporter: What do you think was your breakthrough performance?

Scott Hoying: I think our breakthrough performance was “Video Killed The Radio Star.” I think that’s when we really figured out how to arrange together, what we were going to do and what our style was going to be. And finding our niche then is really what set us on a track to this victory. Because from then on, we kind of had strong performances. It was absolutely surreal to watch our style unfold in front of us.

THR: Mitch had his own breakthrough moment last week when the group went quiet and allowed him to highlight his strong falsetto. How long have you all been holding that in your back pocket?

Kirstin Maldonado: He’s our secret weapon!

Mitch Grassi: They were just like, ‘Hey, do you want to sing this bridge, because people have said that it’s not one of the most memorable parts of the song.’ I can’t speak for that person, I think the song is fantastic. But, the fact that they gave me the opportunity to kind of stand out on my own and sing the bridge by myself completely alone and it was responded to so positively, I was very grateful.

THR: The group formed pretty recently. How close to The Sing-Off auditions did Kevin and Avi join?

Kevin Olusola: Avi and I came in the day before the audition for the show, so that was very nerve-racking. When I got the call from Scott, I wasn’t sure. I never thought that I would pursue a cappella music. I went to Yale College and I was going to go into the medical field. But after we got together the day before the auditions, I think we all realized we had something that was very different. I had no idea we could connect like that instantaneously. We had this musical synergy that I had never felt before.

THR: The group needed the two new members and their unique talents to make it complete. So, who was auditioning for whom in the beginning?

Avi Kaplan: I don’t know. It was really cool. I felt we all came together on equal ground. It was kind of like we wanted to jam together and see where it all went. And it just turned out like magical. It was really unbelievable to sing with these people. My bravado is the same as theirs. We have the same style, we listen to similar music. I mean Kevin and I are like brothers. Now, we’re all like family. I mean four hours of rehearsal done, trying out for The Sing-Off, and now winning is just a dream come true for all of us. And I just feel so blessed to have the opportunity to sing with them, hopefully for the rest of my life.

THR: What are your musical influences. Who do you listen to?

Hoying: We all have very distinct musical tastes.

Maldonado: I think the only musical genre we don’t listen to is country. I’m just being honest. Texas, sorry! What I think is nice is that we all have different favorite artists. So, we bring all those into our songs and into our style. Yeah, that’s how we had a lot of different ideas for different songs. Especially when we had challenges during the weeks, we’d say, “Let’s try this,” and “Let’s do a little of this.” I think that really helped.

THR: Are the songs you’ve performed on the show a good indicator of the album you want to make?

Grassi: It’s hard to say. It’s kind of an indicator of what the album is going to be like, but…

Hoying: It will definitely be electronic influenced.

Grassi: Yes, definitely. We have some ideas. We’re going to throw some more together and see what we come up with.

THR: The top three groups were really doing something innovative with a cappella. What do you think that says about what America wants in its music?

Hoying: I think we all made the top three, because we all had a special style and innovative way of doing our music. That was really eloquent [laughs]. I think our style is kind of an electronic thing and it’s really big on the radio right now. So, I think that people just react well to that. Also, it was kind of a unique thing having just one bass and one beat-boxer with huge sounds and just a three-part harmony always doing parallel stuff. I just think audiences reacted to that very well.

Email: Jethro.Nededog@thr.com; Twitter: @TheRealJethro