I first came to hear of Pentatonix (aka PTX) when I was going on my binge of covers of ‘Radioactive’ by Imagine Dragons. They paired up with Lindsey Stirling and her amazing violin skills to produce an out of this world version of the smash hit that I’ve listened to many times.
As I’m writing this I’m actually watching the above linked video for the first time, admiring how they’ve captured the Imagine Dragons aesthetic but still made the song entirely their own, from their a capella talents to celloboxing.
I also just read the word ‘celloboxing’ for the first time while researching this article, so here’s the backstory.
Pentatonix evolved from three high school friends from Texas into the current quintet in a progression that seems like Glee meeting Pitch Perfect. In fact, the original trio—Kirstie Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, and Scott Hoying—originally began performing a cappella together as a competition entry to meet the cast of Glee. Unfortunately they didn’t win, but it was the beginning of something special.
Hoying found the opportunity to further the group’s career when he was told of American a cappella competition The Sing-Off by a friend from his college a cappella group the SoCal VoCals (punnish names is one of my favourite things about a cappella groups). The trio added Avi Kaplan and Kevin Olusola to their number—Kaplan through a friend and Olusola via his viral YouTube video of himself celloboxing – and named themselves Pentatonix after the musical pentatonic scale.
Oh, yes, the explanation: Celloboxing is when you play the cello and beatbox at the same time. Here’s Olusola doing it:
Two very different musical talents showcased by one performer!
Pentatonix only met in person for the first time the day before the auditions for the 2011 season of The Sing-Off, but not only did they successfully audition, they won. Their victory song was their take on ‘Eye of the Tiger’, but over the course of the show they covered a variety of styles from hip-hop to country to R&B. They continue to perform a wide range of types of music both in their array of cover songs and in their originals. While they’re best known for their covers of songs such as Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ and Fun’s ‘We Are Young’, Hoying has said that the group are moving towards more original songs on the album that they’re currently working on.
The last video I’ve chosen is Pentatonix’s cover of Fun’s ‘We Are Young’, because apart from showcasing the band’s vocal and musical talents, it showcases the fact that these five friends are having a lot of fun together.
Pentatonix are performing at Vector Arena on Thursday September 10. Click here to purchase tickets.
If you like pun-tastic a cappella band names, click here to check out an a cappella band name generator that I had fun playing with. (My favourite? Chord of the Rings).