Pentatonix are on the verge of making history with their first non-covers LP: the self-titled set is currently battling to be the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 with fellow pop force Demi Lovato. If the vocal quintet can pull off a chart-topper, it would mark a huge moment for a cappella and a major victory for the self-described "underdogs."
In the midst of Pentatonix's chart battle, Fuse talked to Avi Kaplan, the group's key bass voice (a.k.a. the dude holding down all the looow notes), about the new LP, some key tracks, their feelings about Demi and whether or not a certain Taylor Swift romance inspired one of their new tracks.
Read on for our interview with Avi and stream Pentatonix below while you're reading.
Fuse: Congratulations on the new album. It's such a landmark in your guys' career. How are you feeling right now?
Kaplan: Honestly, I've been feeling so, so, so blessed and honored by our fans and the public. The way people have been receiving it, all the good reviews and press we're getting for it--it's just a really, really amazing experience.
The big headline going around is how Pentatonix and Demi Lovato are going head-to-head on the albums chart. Have you talked to her about releasing on the same day
We've never actually met her, but she's a great artist. It's just one of those things where we had just been put head-to-head. It's exciting and it's really, really cool. Honestly, it's a really big honor to be competing against her and people on her level. It's a really cool thing. At the end of the day, whoever sold the most albums or whoever charts No. 1, we'll be happy and I'm sure she'll be happy, too.
“We really, really, really, really want this. We're doing everything possible to make sure we secure the [Number 1] spot.”
You had a No. 2 album with That's Christmas to Me, but what would a No. 1 album mean for Pentatonix?
A No. 1 album would genuinely make history. It would probably be the biggest thing we've done so far. I mean, it'd be up there with other things we've done, but we just want this so bad. We're always the underdogs. We really, really, really, really want this. We're doing everything possible to make sure we secure the spot.
It feel likes you're doing some innovative things to get people to check out the record.
Yeah. We're doing streaming parties. We're getting fans involved on Periscope. We're using every single social media platform we possibly can—Facebook, Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes. Anything we can do to make sure our fans are involved and people are seeing our album, are buying our album, are streaming our album, we're doing it and we're getting creative. We have a really great social media guy. We all grew up in this industry on social media—that's kind of how we've done all the things that we've done. It's all been through social media, so it's kind of our forte. It's just really cool to use that to our advantage.
Getting into some tracks on the album, why was "Can't Sleep Love" the perfect song to show as your first "original" single?
I feel like it's just a throwback, '90s-type thing, in a really cool. It kind of has a Justin Timberlake-type of thing going on. We just felt like it could be on the radio. It's very vocal, it's very obviously vocal, but it has kind of a swag to it, this chillness, this humbleness. It's really, really cool to put that on the radio.
You have Tink on the "Can't Sleep Love" remix. Were you nervous about asking a rapper to jump on an a cappella track?
We have a reputation of being a little cheesy, so it was a little like, "Hey, maybe some rappers will be on this. If not, it's totally cool." She jumped on it, she sounds amazing on it, and I feel like it brings an extra swag to it. I think it's really tasteful.
Was she with you in the studio when she recorded her verse?
No, actually, she recorded her part separately and we arranged our parts underneath her after the fact. Usually, it goes the opposite direction.
"Light in the Hallway" is a standout, and you're singing lead on it--something you don't always do. What was different for you while recording it?
Usually, I'll wake up super-early in the morning, go in and record my parts because that's when my voice is the lowest. For this one, I had to actually warm up and I never, ever, ever warm up anymore. [laughs] It was a totally different experience. I'm always trying to use the lowest end of my range, never the highest, so it was very interesting to go back to the basics, to when I was an opera major and warming up. You know, it was funny to think that, as a singer, I never, ever warm up.
For all the other basses in a cappella groups: what are your tips for a bass to shine?
I feel like it's really about being extremely, extremely versatile and being good at utilizing your full range--sounding like a bass when you need to, and not sounding like a bass when you don't have to. You know, you don't just want to be a bass. Basses have a bad reputation of just being clumsy, like, "they don't really sing in tune," "they just sing loud." But be accurate. You can be in tune, you can have a nice tone and a full tone, but you can also take away that full tone and really have a beautiful tone and sound like a normal vocalist. That's the key to really stand out.
The other day, Scott tweeted to Taylor Swift that he had her in mind while writing "Rose Gold." That set off a wave of fan theories that it was inspired by her and Harry Styles. You wrote on this one too. What was the songwriting process like?
The writing process for it was really, really cool. It's probably our most "indie-vibey" song on there, [and] it was really cool to go down that road. I personally hope we go down that road a little more. I feel like a cappella can be used in a really cool way with voices to create a really cool vibe...It's really cool because it's sort of like a movie scene. So, even though the lyrics set the tone, it has this really beautiful sheen over it.
But no mention of Taylor while you guys were writing?
Oh, I think Scott was just joking around with that!
What else are you looking forward to this year? Not only for yourselves, but for the rest of the year's releases?
Oh man, for ourselves, we're really excited to go on tour, and we're going to a bunch of different countries to do that so I'm really excited to do that. As for albums, we're all super, super excited for the Adele album. I'm not exactly sure who's coming out before the end of the year, but we're all huge fangirls, so we're always super excited to see what's coming out in the industry.