Interview: Straight No Chaser (Randy)

Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Oasis and Jason Mraz "With a Twist"
By Rick Florino
April 21, 2010

When Dan was working on the arrangement to "I'm Yours," he was trying to find something that would put a twist on things. His girlfriend at the time happened to be in the room and she said, "It sounds like you're arranging 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow!'" He ended up playing with it and found a way to work it into the song.

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Straight No Chaser Covers Pop Faves With a Twist

By Jay Swartzendruber
April 21, 2010
With voices like these, who needs instruments?
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(Edit: The link is no longer active, so the full text appears below.)

Artist: Straight No Chaser
Title: With a Twist
Label: Atlantic Records

With voices like these, who needs instruments?

When ten guys at Indiana University formed the a capella group Straight No Chaser in 1996 to "wow the girls," they became so popular regionally, they chose replacements before graduation so their namesake could continue. Everything went according to plan until an old video of the original line-up's "The 12 Days of Christmas" found its way onto YouTube seven years later and an Internet sensation ensued.

After Atlantic Records saw the humorous clip garner millions of views, the major label stepped forward ready to offer a five-album deal. Just one problem—Straight No Chaser was in its fourth generation of undergrads, and Atlantic wanted the Internet phenoms. Thanks to the founders agreeing to a long-term reunion, today, there are two incarnations of the group: Straight No Chaser and Indiana University's Straight No Chaser.

The Atlantic Records act released two Christmas albums and a six-song EP with significant success, including a couple holiday radio hits and a Top 40 entry on The Billboard 200 album sales chart. With this table set, Straight No Chaser—who takes its name from the jazz standard by Thelonious Monk—releases its first non-holiday full-length album, With a Twist. This time, a wide range of pop and rock's modern classics get the royal treatment. Co-produced by Straight No Chaser, Deke Sharon (The House Jacks) and Steve Lunt (Britney Spears, The Cheetah Girls), With a Twist features adventurous interpretations of faves such as Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over," Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under The Bridge," Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," Coldplay's "Fix You," Queen's "You're My Best Friend," and Oasis' "Wonderwall.

Relying solely on the human voice, vocal percussion, snaps, claps and stomps, this instrument-free endeavor leans heavily on doo-wop, jazz, and soulful stylings. Immediately evident is why Straight No Chaser's versatility, innovative arrangements and overall sound draw comparisons to predecessors like Rockapella and The House Jacks. Featuring sophistication and textured layers of their God-given gifts, With a Twist captures the ten men at their harmonizing best.

For Mike + The Mechanics' moving reflection on father-son relationships, "The Living Years," the Chaser's vocal tricks substitute convincingly for keyboards and percussion as tenor Ryan Ahlwardt emotes regret. And when the group covers Barry Manilow's easiest of listenings, "One Voice," Chaser not only enlists him to oversee the song's arrangement, Manilow makes a cameo appearance on lead vocals. While the men's performances retain each classic's famous melody, at times the interpretations are off the mark emotionally. Instead of conveying angst for Soft Cell's "Tainted Love," Chaser delivers mostly upbeat finger-snapping fun with big band vocals and rhythmic treatments. Given that a bartending term serves as the group's name, it should come as no surprise that adult beverages are a thematic fave. Consider the celebratory rendition of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's "You & Me & The Bottle Makes Three" or the version of "Joy to the World" the Hoosiers chose to perform—yes, Three Dog Night's song about Jeremiah the bullfrog drinking "mighty fine wine."

Original ‘Straight No Chaser’ finds its way home to IU Auditorium

April 13, 2010
Throughout the performance, the act repeatedly mentioned how “it was great to be back” and acknowledged some IU notables in attendance such as men’s basketball coach Tom Crean.

“We’ve been on tour to 60 different cities, places like New York and LA,” one group member said, “and there’s only one thing we can say. It’s good to be home. Years ago we had our first show just 200 yards from here at the HPER. Now we sold out the IU auditorium.”

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Found via Google

Straight talk with two members of a cappella group Straight No Chaser

The link has expired, so the full text appears below.

By Erin McCracken
York Daily Record
This article was originally posted April 12, 2010:  

A cappella singer Walter Chase wants to get one thing straight.

"There is sort of a stereotype of the dorky choir nerd," Chase said.

But he and his group -- Straight No Chaser -- are out to break the mold.

The group of 10 guys formed in 1996 while they were students at Indiana University.

At the time, Jerome Collins didn't know anything about a cappella singing. The Allentown native grew up humming Motown tunes in the back seat of his family's car.

He was introduced to other singers in college. They wanted to form a group. The mission: Wow the girls.

"I was like, 'I'm in,' " Collins said.

At the time, Straight No Chaser was one of the only singing groups on campus. Most of the members had been in the university's Singing Hoosiers, a mixed show choir that boasted 120 members.

Soon, Collins became a big fan of a cappella, mostly because Straight No Chaser wasn't like other singing groups.

"They actually wanted to sing songs that we heard on the radio," he said. The group emphasized their own sound rather than trying to emulate other singers. They also infused some humor into their arrangements.

The difficulty, Chase said, is that they had no backing instruments to help them find notes.

"It's just voices," he said. Adding soloist-caliber singers including Collins, Mike Luginbill and Ryan Ahlwardt made the group stand out, he added.

The group sang on and off campus and participated in national competitions. After graduation, the members went separate ways, but they remained friendly.

Some went to grad school or started jobs. Five of the singers, including Collins, formed the group Ten2Five and signed with RCA Records.

"All of us had put (Straight No Chaser) to bed a long time ago," Chase said.

But they left a legacy.

Younger members stepped in to keep Straight No Chaser active at Indiana University today. Other a cappella groups popped up on campus including an all-female group Ladies First.

In 2006, the singers held a 10-year reunion and member Randy Stine posted a clip from a 1998 concert on YouTube.

The video of the group's rendition of "The 12 Days of Christmas" infused with Toto's "Africa" went viral. It has racked up 11 million views and counting.

The music industry took notice. A short time later, the group was soon contacted by the Atlantic Records CEO.

The group was asked to get back together and record a holiday album.

"I think when you get a call like that there is only one answer," Collins said, even though he added that the members knew they were taking a chance.

The group's first CD "Holiday Spirits" nabbed top spots on and iTunes, and the group hit the road to promote it. They released another holiday CD in 2009, "Christmas Cheers."

But recently the group has moved away from its holiday base. It's third release, "With a Twist," is due out April 13. It includes a cappella versions of Queen's "You're My Best Friend," Oasis' "Wonderwall" and Coldplay's "Fix You."

Chase said that the group looks to cover songs that are "a cappella-friendly" or don't have drums or a lot of electronic instruments.

Sometimes, they find songs by accident.

"I was listening to 'Under the Bridge' in a barbershop," Collins said. The song made its way onto the album.

The group is looking forward to touring when it's warm outside, something they weren't able to while promoting their holiday releases.

They stopped in April 2010 at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in York. The show, like several others on the tour, is already sold out. Collins and Chase are both from Pennsylvania and are looking forward to coming back to their home territory.

"It's one thing to see us on video," Collins said. "It's another things to see us live."

And hopefully, Chase said, the group along with other vocal-heavy TV shows including "Glee" and "The Sing Off," will show people that a cappella is anything but dorky.

For details about Straight No Chaser, visit

Straight No Chaser members:

Name: Michael Luginbill
Age: 28
Hometown: Indianapolis, Ind.
Voice part: Tenor

Name: Randy Stine
Age: 32
Hometown: Naperville, Ill.
Voice part: Bass

Name: David Roberts
Age: 33
Hometown: Indianapolis, Ind.
Voice part: Baritone

Name: Charles Mechling
Age: 32
Hometown: Bloomington, Ind.
Voice part: Bass

Name: Jerome Collins
Hometown: Allentown
Voice part: Tenor

Name: Walter Chase
Age: 32
Hometown: Easton
Voice part: Tenor

Name: Daniel Ponce
Hometown: Chicago
Voice part: Baritone

Name: Ryan Ahlwardt
Age: 28
Hometown: Fishers, Ind.
Voice part: Tenor

Name: Sargon "Seggie" Isho
Age: 27
Hometown: Rochester Hills, Mich.
Voice part: Baritone

Name: Tyler Trepp
Age: 25
Hometown: Urbandale, Iowa
Voice part: Tenor

Straight No Chaser escapes the pigeon hole

In the next episode, they escape the rabbit hole.

Did you notice the credit on the photo?  Maria Ponce, Dan's sister.

By Mike Chaiken
The Southington Observer
Friday April 9, 2010
And you shouldn't expect to see a single musical instrument on stage.  From the harmonies to the percussive sounds, Jerome said the sound of Straight No Chaser is all about the voices.  "We don't cut any corners (by padding things with instruments)," said Jerome.  "What we are is what we are. It's straight music."
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'Straight' to Harrah's

Casino will bring acclaimed a cappella group to town this summer
By Lori Hoffman
Atlantic City Weekly
Posted Apr. 1, 2010
“Back in college, we started this group just for fun — no one ever thought of it as a possible career path,” says SNC’s Randy Stine. “It was hard to comprehend that ten years after our last performance, we were back together recording for a major label, with an album that reached number one on iTunes, heading out on an international tour. Along with all the fun is a lot of work, but it’s a complete labor of love, and one that we never dreamed possible.”
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