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If the phrase “male a cappella group” conjures up an image of students in blue blazers, ties, and khakis singing traditional college songs on ivied campuses… think again. Straight No Chaser (SNC) are neither strait-laced nor straight-faced, but neither are they vaudeville-style kitsch. As original member Randy Stine comments, “We take the music very seriously; we just don’t take ourselves too seriously.” In the process, they are reinventing the idea of a cappella on the modern pop landscape.
The group originally came together in the fall of 1996 at IU, basically as "10 guys who happened to be good friends who also liked to sing." Choosing the members carefully for personality as well as vocal talent -- Stine, Mechling, Jerome Collins, David Roberts and Walter Chase remain from the original lineup -- SNC set itself apart from other a cappella groups with its contemporary repertoire and dynamic approach, quickly headlining concerts both in Bloomington and on road dates. SNC recorded three independent albums, and John Mellencamp even invited the group to his home for a private performance.
When the founders began graduating in 1999 and went on to jobs mostly outside of music, they chose replacements and established SNC as an ongoing group on campus with future generations of ambitious IU undergrads. More than 50 members have passed through the group's ranks so far. Such was the impact SNC made at IU that the school hosted a 10th anniversary reunion show for the original lineup in 2006, and when Stine posted clips from a 1998 concert on YouTube, SNC's fan base grew exponentially. In 2007 alone, the group's version of "The 12 Days of Christmas" was viewed more than seven million times. Today that number has surpassed 11 million, and the group’s cumulative YouTube views clock in at more than 25 million.
Among those viewers was Atlantic Chairman/CEO Craig Kallman, who found SNC's music "brilliant, fresh and totally compelling." Kallman e-mailed Stine, who initially thought it was a prank but thought otherwise when he was whisked to Los Angeles to meet with the label chief. A few days later, the entire group was in New York City to sign its recording deal. The current incarnation of SNC includes later members of the group, including Michael Luginbill, Ryan Ahlwardt, Seggie Isho, Don Nottingham, and Tyler Trepp. "A music career was definitely not on my radar; getting the guys back together, not just for someone’s wedding or bachelor party, but to spend the majority of the year together touring and recording, is a dream come true." Stine says. "I pinch myself all the time and hope it continues and becomes a longstanding career."