Not fast enough on the draw to snag a ticket for Straight No Chaser’s sold-out Hancher concert Friday night in Iowa City?
You can crack open a new six-pack, sit back and drink in the ensemble’s a cappella harmonies.
“Six Pack: Volume 3,” the third in a series of EPs from the wildly popular group, has arrived. It may only include six songs, but that doesn’t prevent the group from spanning eras and musical styles, sometimes within the same track.
The variety of “Six Pack: Volume 3” is no accident, and in fact, was meant to reflect what Straight No Chaser tries to achieve any time the group performs or goes into the studio.
“That’s kind of what we try to do in our live shows,” said Steve Morgan, one of the group’s nine vocalists, in a recent phone interview. “It’s what we try to do on our (full-length) albums. We want to have something there for everybody, so something new, something old. We never want to skew too young or too old. We want to give you a spectrum of things because ultimately, I think the consistency is that it’s a cappella. The consistency is the sound and trying to surprise people with what you can do without instruments.”
“Six Pack: Volume 3” has something truly retro in the 1962 version of the Sam Cooke “Twistin’ the Night Away”; something new in the versions of Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like,” Jon Bellion’s “All Time Low” and a “Beyonce Medley” featuring “Put a Ring on It” and “Crazy in Love.” In addition to the R&B/hip-hop stylings of those songs, it features country-tinged pop in the rendition of Bonnie Tyler’s ’70s hit, “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and pure pop in the group’s mashup that brings together the Eurythmics’ 1980s signature song “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and Fitz and the Tantrums’ recent hit, “HandClap.”
As with all of the group’s music, the songs on the new EP are rendered entirely with voices, as the nine members of Straight No Chaser harmonize, vocalize percussion and sing signature instrumental parts to the songs.
The group began as a college project at Indiana University, with its 10 vocalists banding together under the Straight No Chaser name to perform around campus.
For almost a decade, it looked like the ensemble would remain strictly a college group. But then came a 10th anniversary of the original group in 2006. To generate enthusiasm for the occasion, group alum Randy Stine made DVDs of a 1998 Straight No Chaser concert and posted a performance of the group’s wacky rendition of “The 12 Days of Christmas” to YouTube. It went viral and became 2007’s most viewed video.
One person who saw the clip was Craig Kallman, chairman and CEO of Atlantic Records, who tracked down Stine and eventually signed the group.
Since reforming, a few singers have left Straight No Chaser — each replaced by singers from later lineups at Indiana. Today’s lineup includes Stine, Morgan, Dave Roberts, Walter Chase, Jerome Collins, Michael Luginbill, Mechling, Tyler Trepp and Seggie Isho.
Thinking Christmas music was the perfect introduction to the group, Kallman and Atlantic had the group debut with the 2008 Christmas album, “Holiday Spirits.” It was an immediate hit. A second holiday CD, “Christmas Cheers,” followed in 2009 and went gold, while an EP, “Under the Influence: Holiday Edition,” arrived in 2013. A third full-length holiday album, “I’ll Have Another ... Christmas Album,” was released last year.In between those releases have come several non-holiday releases: the trio of six-song EPS, “Six Pack” (2008) and “Six Pack: Volume II” (2011) and now “Six Pack: Volume 3,” and the full-length albums, “With A Twist” (2010), “Under The Influence” (2013) and “The New Old Fashioned” (2015) — all of which have enjoyed similar success.
Morgan has been on board for three phases of Straight No Chaser’s history. He was part of the original ensemble at Indiana University. Then when the group was reformed after signing with Atlantic, Morgan joined up, remaining with the group until August 2009, when he left in hopes of creating a more stable life for his family.
He returned to Indiana University to get an MBA and went into finance, landing a job at a bank.
But when Ryan Ahlwardt departed Straight No Chaser in 2012, Morgan returned to fill that slot, having figured out that the group’s touring and recording schedule would actually leave him more time to spend with his family than banking.
The tour has the group on the road through the end of the year. Friday’s Hancher performance falls into the part of the tour where Straight No Chaser shifts its set to include its holiday material.
“We start putting in Christmas music right around a week or two before Thanksgiving, mixing those in,” Morgan said. “And then come the week after Thanksgiving, the whole second set is pretty much Christmas.”
WHAT: Straight No Chaser
WHERE: Hancher Auditorium, 141 E. Park Rd.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday (12/8)
TICKETS: SOLD OUT; (319) 335-1160, 1-(800) HANCHER or Hancher.uiowa.edu/2017-18/StraightNoChaser
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Sncmusic.com