Straight No Chaser
Straight No Chaser (SUBMITTED)
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 Amazon.com 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.emccracken@ydr.com; 771-2051


On the Web

For details about Straight No Chaser, visit www.sncmusic.com.


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

Age:

Hometown: Allentown

Voice part: Tenor

Name: Walter Chase

Age: 32

Hometown: Easton

Voice part: Tenor

Name: Daniel Ponce

Age:

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