Male a capella group Straight No Chaser blows the jacket-wearing stereotype out of the water with its contemporary and classic tunes and energetic stage presence, all of which will be brought to the F.M. Kirby Center tomorrow night.
The group has found major success in three studio albums, with a fourth disc on the way.
Dave Roberts, fresh off a Straight No Chaser cruise that took the group and fans through Florida and Mexico, chatted with us about the guys' longevity.
Q: You guys started back in 1996 at Indiana University as a college a capella group. Did you have any idea you would blow up to be this big?
A: You know, when we first started we were 19- and 20-year-old college kids just doing it for fun, for another outlet, for a way to meet girls. We had no idea it would become anything close to what it is now, but we are so thankful it has.
Q: Part of your success can be attributed to YouTube, where a video of 12 Days of Christmas went viral. Is social media still a big part of the group today?
A: Oh, absolutely. We reach out to all of our fans on Facebook and Twitter; we encourage everybody to post videos on YouTube and photos wherever. There's a photo up on Facebook now from the cruise, when our friends got engaged. It's really fun to go back and watch that, get a little teary-eyed again.
Q: What sets Straight No Chaser apart?
A: We've been trying to answer that for probably 15 years now. I think it's just that we're genuine. The guys that you see on stage are, for the most part, the same guys you're going to see off stage. We love to crack jokes, we love to have a good time. … We have a lot of interaction with the audience, which makes that fun for us, and it makes everybody feel like we're all on the same ride together.
Q: You cover everything from Weezer to classic Christmas tunes. How do you decide?
A: We go with the songs that speak to us the most. When we find songs that do that, it's really easier to translate them into an a capella version. We look for songs that are fun for us but also fitting with the stride of pop culture. We try to have things for your grandparents and parents but also stuff that's going to get our high-school audience jumping around.
Q: After all these years, do you have the process of turning a song a capella down pat?
A: Some songs are more difficult than others. The pop tunes today tend to not have a whole lot of chord structure; they tend to be more beats heavy, and those can be challenging. I think this goes back to what makes us stand out; we've got four, five, six guys in the group that have been arranging for a capella now for 15 years, and all that practice is really starting to pay off.
Q: What's been your most memorable moment of this whole experience?
A: I'd have to say the cruise. It was a lot of fun to get to hang out with our fans. We did a lot between stage shows and autograph sessions. We had a big party at the end where we all got together and dressed up like idiots in '80s outfits and danced the night away. Also, any time we perform in someone's hometown it's special.
Oh, no, wait – the day I quit my job. I was working for a global bank in New York, just on spreadsheets all day. To be able to step away from that and do something more creative, that has been infinitely more enjoyable for me.
What: Straight No Chaser
When: 8 p.m. tomorrow
Where: F.M. Kirby Center, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Tickets: $29.50 to $39.50
More info: 826-1100