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California Roll Says ‘The Masked Singer’ Could Mean a ‘New Era for Us to Start Experimenting’

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for The Masked Singer Season 9 Episode 13 “Semi-Finals.”]

And then there were two.

In The Masked Singer Season 9 semifinals, a three-way Battle Royale, it was California Roll who was unmasked — and as quite a few had guessed, in those costumes were the members of a cappella group Pentatonix! Meanwhile, Medusa and Macaw are moving on to the finals, airing May 17.

Here, Scott Hoying, Kevin Olusola, and Matt Sallee of Pentatonix open up about their time on the Fox show.

Was it an easy yes for all of you? Did anyone have to be convinced?

Kevin Olusola: Yeah, it was a pretty easy yes. I think the thing that we were thinking about, though, is how do we make sure that people hear us in a completely different light and a different way? Because what we do is so specific that we weren’t sure how we were going to mask ourselves vocally in a way that doesn’t give away who we are. That was the one thing I think we really had to think about, and we tried a lot of different things, and it was cool to hear that our fans, when we were on the show, still recognized us. That made us feel really comfortable about the fact that we’ve cultivated a sound that people really know.

Talk about what went into your song choices, especially because of that and because you immediately left a mark with your version of “Paparazzi.”

Scott Hoying: Oh my gosh, thank you. We did a normal process of going through a million songs, and we had a shared note we would just add songs to. During the pandemic, I became obsessed with producing, and so I would just come up with a bunch of different little mini arrangements of a bunch of different songs, and we would all kind of brainstorm them together and kind of see what was feeling the best. And then whenever we picked a song, and something felt good, we would run with that and flesh it out.

It’s just like on The Sing Off 10 years ago; it’s no different now. We wanted to make every song just feel completely different. We did something as creative as possible with it, and that’s the really fun part of being on these shows is you can really do whatever you want. It was really cool, too, because we could use instrumentation, which we didn’t get to in the past. And so there was a whole new world of tools we could use to push that creativity to new heights.

Were there any songs you definitely didn’t want to do because you wanted to do something different?

Hoying: Sometimes, within a song, there’s just only one way to do it, so you can’t really flip it on its head. For instance, we were talking about maybe doing “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap, where it’s a really lush harmony, slow ballad, but there’s not really a way you can change that without making the song worse because it’s just so perfect the way it’s done. And if we did it in five-part harmony and made it lush and beautiful, it would just sound just like Imogen’s version. I think it was important for us to change up the songs. So we were trying to fix songs that we could make — for “Creep,” we made it metal. We’re always trying to think about songs that you can get creative with.

What did you enjoy the most, or what was most surprising about performing together in this way?

Olusola: The most surprising thing, at least to me, was I didn’t realize how full out we would go because there’s something about putting on a character that makes you come out of your normal self and do things that you probably would never do before. I remember when we were doing “Paparazzi” or “Creep,” Kirstin would be kicking her feet, and we would be bashing our heads like metal groups do. And so it just made us come into ourselves in a way that we would never really normally do on stage.

When you’re on stage without a mask, you’re thinking about not just how you’re performing but how you look, and normally in these arena shows, there’s cameras on you, so you’re very aware of your face and your body movements. So this time with the mask on, we went full out because we didn’t have to think about that, which was so special. In my mask if I’m making a really funny face because I’m really thrashing, nobody could see it. So I’m going to have so much fun, nobody could see my face. So I think that was the most surprising.

And then probably the part that I enjoyed the most, I think us unlocking a different new way of not just arranging but also adding production, that felt very much like something we would do if we were a vocal group that was using instrumentation rather than just an a cappella group. And I think it unlocked a new opportunity and, hopefully, a new era for us to start experimenting with instrumentation in our original sound and in our covers. So I’m excited for what comes as we arrange and produce more music now.

From the beginning, Jenny [McCarthy] guessed you. Talk about listening to the panelists’ guesses because it is a little easier, I feel like, for them to guess when they have multiple people on stage.

Hoying: Totally, yeah. We really, really genuinely tried to mask our voices and save harmonies in our first performance for later in the performance. And I was trying to put on a full character. But yeah, the options get narrowed down a lot when there’s five people on stage. It’s like, “OK, is it Pentatonix or Backstreet Boys or…?” She did guess this really quickly, but it was cool, and it was flattering that all the panelists instantly knew who it was. It made us feel like we’ve made an impact on the music industry in a way.

Had you come into this expecting anyone specific from the panel to figure you out?

Hoying: I figured Nicole [Scherzinger] would probably know who we were, just because I feel like she’s in the theater world, and she’s in the singer world and we’ve met her before.

Were any of you more competitive than the others when it came to the competition side of the show?

Matt Sallee: We’re all really competitive in a healthy way, whether it’s this or on the bus or whatever it may be. And so when we got the call to be a part of this, we were really, really amped and really, really excited and really wanted to put ourselves in the best position to win and not do it for fun. [Laughs] So I think that both happened, but we’re a pretty competitive bunch, and it was a lot of fun.

What are you going to take from the entire experience?

Hoying: Honestly, there’s so much we could take away. A huge thing I took away from it was we were using full instrumentation and tracks and guitars, and that’s something that wouldn’t normally make us nervous because we feel like what makes us special and niche is that we are totally a cappella. But the fact that the panelists and people online are loving the performances and knowing it’s Pentatonix, it makes me feel like our sound is bigger than just the gimmick of not using instruments. It feels like our voices and our harmony, with or without instruments, are kind of what makes Pentatonix special. And so I feel like after the show, we’re more limitless than ever and that people love us for more than just [what we’ve done in the past].

Sallee: It’s always so humbling just to see the respect that people have for what we do and how revered it is throughout the music industry and to hear people say that is just the most beautiful, humbling thing. And that takeaway really makes us want to keep going and keep growing and making things that really impact people and the hearts of people.

The Masked Singer, Wednesdays, 8/7c, Fox

This story originally appeared on TV Insider

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