A capella is no longer a lost art. Having re-emerged into mainstream popularity in recent years, the demand for a capella is rapidly growing.
The Filharmonic has been making waves across the United States in the past year after taking part in NBC's a capella competition The Sing-Off last season. Since then, their career has been steadily on the rise—from performing the national anthem at a Dodgers game to appearing in highly-anticipated upcoming feature film Pitch Perfect 2.
Comprising of VJ Rosales, Joe Caigoy, Niko Del Rey, Trace Gaynor, Jules Cruz, Barry Fortgang—all of whom are of Filipino heritage—The Filharmonic is a six-piece a capella group whose melodic vocal style exemplifies an urban-esque hip hop sound with 90's nostalgia. We had a chat with the band to learn more about The Sing-off, their upcoming roles in Pitch Perfect 2 and their unique cultural heritage.
How did The Filharmonic form and what inspired you the take part in NBC's The Sing-Off?
Jules: Initially, the idea to form a group started when Avi Kaplan from Pentatonix told us that season 4 of The Sing-off was going to happen. We thought that it would be great to start an all-Filipino group together since music is such a important part of our Filipino culture. Avi and I went to college together at Mt. San Antonio College along with Joe and Niko. After that, we asked VJ since we knew him from the vocal jazz scene. Then, we added Barry, whom I've actually known since middle school. Finally, we met Trace, who sang in an a cappella group at USC.
Tell us about The Filharmonic's role in Pitch Perfect 2.
Jules: We aren't allowed to divulge too much info, but in the movie we are a competing group against the Bellas. That's all we can say, so you'll just have to watch to find out!
What was filming Pitch Perfect 2 like?
Joe: Filming for Pitch Perfect 2 was such an amazing experience. When we first got to the set, we got to meet the director, Elizabeth Banks, and watch the Bellas filming one of their scenes. Elizabeth Banks was so welcoming and so fun to work with on set!
What's the process of arranging your a capella covers like?
Trace: We have two ways of doing it. Sometimes, one person will take the reigns and write out all their ideas on paper and we read the sheet music. Other times, we'll all lock ourselves in a room and all throw out ideas on how to arrange the song.
You recently teamed up with AJ Rafael to perform a cover of "Rude". What was it like working with him?
Barry: Working with AJ Rafael was one of the greatest experiences we've had. We worked really well together—he's a great musician and singer, which enhanced our group sound. We hope to collaborate with him a bunch more in the future.
A group The Filharmonic gets compared to a lot is Pentatonix. How do you feel about this comparison?
VJ: I think it's an honour for The Filharmonic to be compared to Pentatonix. They are the leading standard of what a mainstream a cappella group should be and we're always pushing ourselves to reach that same standard. We recently opened for them at the L.A. County Fair and we were so grateful for that experience!
Everyone in The Filharmonic is of Filipino descent. What do you love most about your culture?
Niko: What I love most about our culture is that everyone is "related". That's not in a literal sense though, but Filipinos love the idea of big families, so we consider everyone to be a brother, cousin, uncle etc. For example, my mom could befriend the lady who sold us our house and from that day on, she'll always introduce that woman as our tita (aunt in Tagalog) and she'll forever be considered a part of our extended family. So in Filipino culture, no matter where you go, you can always usually find some friend whom you can call family.
If you hadn't taken part in The Sing-Off, what do you think you would be doing right now?
Trace: I know we'd all have different answers for this—for example, I know Jules and Niko were planning on pursuing interests outside of music until The Filharmonic happened. I would still be working in the music industry, but more on the business side of things. Joe and Barry were studying Music Education and Musical Theatre respectively and VJ is a music teacher at the Silverlake Conservatory.
Are there any plans for The Filharmonic's debut album at the moment?
VJ: An album is definitely in the works for the future for The Filharmonic. In the year that we've been together, we've only done covers, so we definitely will throw in some originals for this upcoming album.
Photo credits: Sheenon Olson