By MIKE CHAIKEN
Most music albums have the gestation period of an elephant.
Often, the time that passes between conception to release is months and months and months.
So, it’s often hard for a group itself to keep its finger on the pop music pulse.
But Straight No Chaser’s new album, “The New Old Fashioned,” finds the a cappella group releasing an album filled with songs that not only just cooled off, but are sizzling hot at the moment.
For instance, the group tackles The Weeknd’s ultra hot track, “Can’t Feel My Face,” as well as Charlie Puth’s “Marvin Gaye”—both of which still have legs on the radio and Spotify. The album also finds the a cappella group from Indiana taking on this past summer’s sleeper hit, “Take Me To Church” by Hozier.
Seggie Isho said Straight No Chaser, which is coming to the Mohegan Sun Friday night, was able to include their renditions of these hot tracks because their albums are always taking shape.
“We record all year, in different cities and stages, and different studios. It’s a work in progress at all times,” said Seggie in a phone call from Tulsa, Okla.
For instance, Seggie said the group was in Los Angeles when they first heard “Marvin Gaye” on the radio. The Charlie Puth track immediately caught the collective ear of Straight No Chaser. “It was easily translatable to a cappella.” And so they recorded it.
That’s one of the key criteria for a song by Straight No Chaser, which is Seggie, Jerome Collins, Walter Chase, Michael Luginbill, Charlie Mechling, Steve Morgan, Don Nottingham, David Roberts, Randy Stine, and Tyler Trepp. They ask themselves, does it work for a cappella?
Seggie said many of today’s hits utilize a lot of electronic production. But electronic sounds can end up being cheesy when converted to a cappella. Guitars and string sounds typically are much easier to transform into vocal arrangements, he said.
And Seggie said all of the songs on “The New Old Fashioned” translate well to a cappella.
And because the songs easily fit the Straight No Chaser style, Seggie said it is possible to make a quicker turn around to record them and include them on an album.
Sometimes groups will arrange their songs as a collective effort. “Let me try this,” says one member. “And I’ll try that,” says another.
However, Seggie explained that for Straight No Chaser, the arrangements for each song is the work of the one member who brings it up to the rest of the group as a possible addition to their set list. Sometimes, the other members will pitch in after the initial arrangement is presented. But Seggie said essentially it’s one song, one arranger.
One of the tracks on “The New Old Fashioned” is Meghan Trainor’s hit, “All About The Bass.” But Straight No Chaser made it their own, turning it into an inside joke for vocal groups by switching out the refrain, “No treble” with “No tenors.”
It’s a way to play up the “rivalry” between the bass singers and tenors.
Seggie said there’s not as much of a divide between the tenors and the bass singers as you would think in Straight No Chaser. After all, they’re professionals now and they work as a team. “We understand our roles.”
But “it’s fun to shine a light” on something that many younger singers in a cappella groups might recognize, said Seggie. “In high school, there is a divide between parts,” said Seggie, and many people relate to the bit of tongue in cheek humor injected into the song.
With a new generation of a cappella groups breaking through on the charts, many of the groups have defined different styles to differentiate their brands.
Asked to define Straight No Chaser’s brand, Seggie said “Rat Pack”— a reference to the 1960s Las Vegas aggregation of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop.
There is a good-natured camaraderie between the members.
“We weren’t put together by a producer,” said Seggie. “It was brought together by us.” “You can’t fake that or script that (rapport),” said Seggie. “The audience really gets that.”
For those coming to the Dec. 4 show at the casino, Seggie said, “Bring your kids and parents and your grandparents. Everyone will hear something to take away from the show… Expect to find something just for you.”
Straight No Chaser performs at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday, Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30.
By MIKE CHAIKEN