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Six-pack of songs

Alan Sculley
newsroom@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado
Andrew Zaeh/Special to the DailyStraight No Chaser has its roots in an a cappella group of the same name at University of Indiana in Bloomington. Several of the singers in the group today were in the inaugural edition of Straight No Chaser at that university.
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The a cappella group Straight No Chaser has returned with new music in the form of “Six Pack: Vol. II.”

As the “Volume II” suggests, it follows a 2008 EP called “Six Pack,” which, like the new release, included six songs. And while Straight No Chaser vocalist Randy Stine said a full-length CD would have been nice, a busy schedule caused the group to think in terms of a “Six Pack” sequel.

“We haven’t had a whole lot of time just to sit down and record another full-length album. We’re constantly hearing from fans, ‘When’s another one coming out?'” Stine said in a recent phone interview. “We wanted to get something out there new for the fans after they had been so patiently waiting.”

So the solution was to go the “Six Pack” route, which Stine said ended up working well. And to the group’s surprise, “Six Pack: Vol. II” turned out to also mirror the first “Six Pack” EP in a couple of ways.

First off, like the first “Six Pack,” the second EP includes two fan favorites Straight No Chaser has been performing throughout the year (a medley of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison” and Madonna’s “Like a Prayer”), a couple of songs the group added to its set this past summer (The Temptations’ “Get Ready” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”) and a pair of songs that are new to the group’s show (Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” and the medley of the Plain White T’s “Rhythm Of Love” and Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love”).

“(The first “Six Pack” EP) was a good mix of different songs, different genres, different decades, and that’s what this is, as well,” Stiles said of the new release.

In other words, Straight No Chaser is giving its audience more of what attracted fans to the group in the first place. And why not? This 10-member all-vocal ensemble has become one of music’s more unusual success stories.

Today’s Straight No Chaser has its roots in an a cappella group of the same name at the University of Indiana in Bloomington. Several of the singers in the group today were in the inaugural edition of Straight No Chaser at that university.

They fully expected graduation would mean the last of their a cappella days together. But then a decision by the University of Indiana to have a 10-year reunion of the original Straight No Chaser in 2006 helped changed that. To mark the occasion, Stine posted a video on YouTube of a 1998 concert that included the vocal group’s wacky rendition of “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

To everyone’s surprise, the video went viral. By December 2007, views of the video had reached 7 million. One of those who tuned in was Craig Kallman, CEO of Atlantic Records, who called Stine to discuss a record deal. Soon, former members of University of Indiana’s Straight No Chaser were meeting with Atlantic and signing a record deal.

Because of the success of the “12 Days of Christmas” video, Atlantic had Straight No Chaser debut with a Christmas album,” Holiday Spirits,” in 2008. The CD featured the group’s vocally inventive versions of Christmas classics such as “The Christmas Song,” “Carol of the Bells” and, of course, “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

Straight No Chaser was now off and running, and in fall 2009, the group released a holiday sequel, “Christmas Cheers.” Sandwiched between those CDs was the “Six Pack EP,” which served as something of a teaser for the first full-length pop CD, “With A Twist,” which arrived in 2010.

Now, “Six Pack: Volume II” figures to further establish that Straight No Chaser’s main priority is not Christmas music but, rather, recasting pop songs into its own unique style of a cappella, which in addition to layered vocals, often features bass lines and beats, which, to the amazement of those who encounter the group for the first time, are created vocally by Tyler Trepp, Seggie Isho and Dave Roberts, with occasional contributions from Stine and Walter Chase.

The group’s other five members are Ryan Ahlwardt, Jerome Collins, Michael Luginbill, Charlie Mechling and Don Nottingham.

On this spring’s tour, fans can expect to see Straight No Chaser perform fan favorites from “With A Twist” and “Six Pack” and a few tunes the group developed for its three-month run this past summer at Harrah’s Casino in Atlantic City, plus some material from “Six Pack: Vol. II.”

“This is probably our most diverse, I think, musically and most visual tour we’ve done yet so far,” Stine said. “We have the movie lights and light trusses and even some video elements in the show. There’s a lot more to look at on this tour than there has been before.”


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