SI.com sits down with Straight No Chaser, a professional a cappella group that started in 1996 at Indiana University, to talk about life on the road, what it’s like returning to the school they formed at and their incredible obsession with IU athletics.
Straight No Chaser really likes Indiana basketball.
The a cappella group likes a lot of other sports too—they have two separate satellites on their bus just so they can have two different football games going at one time—but they really, really love Indiana basketball.
An a capella group formed at Indiana University, Straight No Chaser made it big seemingly out of nowhere. Ten years after the group got together in a little room called MA 404 inside the IU Jacobs School Of Music, the guys decided to get back together for a 10 year anniversary gig. They needed to promote the show, so they uploaded a bunch of videos to a fledgling website called YouTube.
One of those videos was the 12 Days of Christmas.
After seven million views and a New Years Day phone call from Atlantic Records—one that the group originally thought was a prank—the group has been touring pretty much ever since.
They recently returned to Bloomington to perform a sold out show at the IU Auditorium. The day of the show, SI chatted with two members of the group, Walter Chase and Seggie Isho, about life on the road, what it’s like returning to the school they formed at and their incredible obsession with IU athletics.
SI.com: So, you’re back in Bloomington, where this all started. How does it feel?
It’s very, very surreal to come back. It’s kind of a rock star moment for us.
You know, we always used to joke back in the day that, besides for the basketball team, we were the most recognizable faces on campus. That may or may not have been true, but coming back here, it puts it in perspective.
We were a little a capella group at this one university in tiny Bloomington…You can’t really put it into words. Walking around the campus and reminiscing, having no idea it would someday lead to this. It’s wild to think a bout. Why would that ever happen? None of that should have happened. But, by some stroke of luck, it did. It means more to us than anything.
SI.com: Did you attend football games at IU too, or just basketball?
Oh yeah, we went to football games. I was at Randle El’s last game when we rushed the field, everyone raising him up on their shoulders after the game.
It was cool having a player with national recognition back then. Now there’s been a couple that have been in the limelight—Tevin Coleman, Jordan Howard—but back then, it was unheard of.
But yeah, we’ve got basketball stories all day.
SI.com: Favorite one. Go.
2002, IU vs Duke. That was the best moment of my IU life at the time. I mean, I was just a freshman—to be spoiled with an incredible moment like that?
We were all watching in the dorms. The second the clock hit zeros, everyone on campus ran to Kirkwood. The streets were just flooded, students everywhere. People were climbing the lampposts, the flagpole.
It wasn’t as crazy as what happens at Michigan State, you know, lighting things on fire. We’re a little classier than that, but we still celebrated in an awesome way.
SI.com: Since we’re on IU vs. Duke, who do you have winning the Pinstripe Bowl?
We’re definitely going to beat them in the bowl game. (Editors Note: Duke defeated IU in the Pinstripe Bowl.)
SI.com: You guys ever meet Tom Crean?
WC: Oh yeah, we’ve become friends with Tom Crean over the past couple of years. His wife is a big fan of the group, so he’s been to a lot of shows. It’s pretty great. We’ve had the opportunity to sit in on a practice, which was awesome.
The best though was when we were invited to Midnight Madness. We were given jerseys and pinstripe pants. We taught the team the alma matter…Jordan Hulls was actually a pretty solid singer.
We got to scrimmage the team in front of the crowd then, and of course they were destroying us. I tried for a shot at the top of the key, and it just got SWATTED.
After a while, Coach Crean said ‘next basket wins.’ We hadn’t scored up to that point, but one of our guys, Mike, put in a reverse layup. So, that was the day that we beat the IU basketball team.
To run out onto the court in pinstripes, as a group…to be a part of Midnight Madness…man. We’ve met first ladies, we’ve performed in front of football stadiums, been on TV countless times. For us, being super sports fans, that was a highlight.
SI.com: Any other standout memories?
Oh man. We were in San Diego on the day of a show, and we were at a bar because IU was playing some crappy team called Kentucky. So we’re all at this bar watching the game, trying to take care of our voices, so we weren’t hooting and hollering much during the game
Then, the greatest thing ever happened. Christian Watford hits the most amazing shot to beat No. 1 Kentucky, and all of us Lost. Our. Minds. We were screaming, running up and down the bar, hugging strangers, completely forgetting we had a show in a few hours. I still feel bad for the crowd that night, we were totally horse.
SI.com: So you watch a lot of games on the road?
Our priority on the road is making sure we’re at our shows, obviously, but if there’s a part time job we have, it’s making sure we watch every IU basketball and football game. Other games too—we have two satellites on our bus, NFL Sundays and College Football Saturdays we have two different sets of games going. Our fantasy league is VERY competitive.
We have guys that will beg to sing the national anthem at football games when we’re in town—so far we’ve had the opportunity to sing it a a Packers game, Bears, Dolphins, not football but a Spurs game, the Pacers. If there’s a chance to go to a sports event when we’re on the road, we’re going.
We are a full time sports fans that happen to sing an a capella show every night. If you follow us on Twitter, you’ll see it. We talk about sports more than the group.
SI.com: If you could choose one athlete to join you guys for a night, who would it be?
Victor Oladipo. He’s VERY proven with his vocal skills. Look him up on YouTube, he’s got PIPES.
SI.com: What happens when you have a show at the same time as a game?
About two weeks ago IU basketball was playing, it was a 7:30 p.m. game, the same time as our show started. That’s when we go into the bubble. By that, I mean phones go in airplane mode, we close our laptops, turn off our iPads. We completely lock ourselves away from social media.
While we’re performing, we record the game on the bus, and the second the show ends we sprint back to the bus and watch it together live. We’ll stay up until 5-6 in the morning to watch IU basketball games. There’s some great photos.
SI.com: Anything else?
We have a podcast. It’s called the Chase. We talk about music, sports and lots of other stuff. We were doing a crossover show before it became a thing.