It’s not often a reunion leads to a career change and/or a long-time musical gig, but both turned out to be the case for Sargon “Seggie” Isho and the rest of Straight No Chaser. The group was born on the campus of Indiana University in 1996, and when a 10-year reunion concert brought original members together with those that had followed in their footsteps over the next decade, everyone had a good time.
And that was that, as everyone went their separate ways again. Except for the fact original member Randy Stine posted a clip from a 1998 concert on Youtube afterward in celebration of the reunion. The video garnered more than seven million views, including one that was particularly important: Atlantic Records Chairman/CEO Craig Kallman, who found the music “brilliant, fresh and totally compelling,” according to the Straight No Chaser website.
He flew Stine to Los Angeles to talk. Just a few days later the group, now consisting of a mix of original members and later arrivals, found themselves in New York City, where they signed a contract with the label. “We said, ‘We’re not a thing.’ He said, ‘I don’t care. Come to my office.’
“I was in Las Vegas working with my brother, who had a chain of cell phone retail stores. Sometimes you take a flyer,” Isho says. Suddenly he was quite literally singing for his supper, which still delights and amazes him.
Now another 10 years on, the group continues to find fans. Straight No Chaser will perform at Interlochen July 17, which Isho says the group is looking forward to. “We do a lot of shows in musical schools. This will be one at the top of the list.”
Isho says the group’s original formation came about when college friends at Indiana looked at the music scene at other schools and were chagrined to note that IU did not have an a capella group. “Indiana was such a prestigious music school, and there was no a capella. We need that. Why don’t we have them. So we started it, and it clicked.”
Unlike those institutions where such a group was straight-laced and straight-faced, Straight No Chaser offered a humorous, engaging showcase of songs. “Khakis and blazers, there was no excitement. It was super boring. We wanted it to be a party,” Isho says. “That’s one of the reasons it resonated so well.”
Why a capella? Isho offered a couple reasons. “We don’t have to carry any instruments. You can have a slice of pizza in one hand and a beer in the other. And you can wow the ladies without having to grab a guitar.”
The group’s version of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” complete with a mash-up of Toto’s “Africa” and “The Christmas Can Can” are their most popular tunes. The audience at Interlochen won’t get to hear either of them, however, as SNC has gotten to the point where it doesn’t feel compelled to perform holiday music in the off-season. “When we first started, nobody knew if this was a real thing or a seasonal thing. Even on a spring tour or summer tour, it was like we can’t not do holiday music. Now we’re to the point we don’t need to do holiday music.”
That doesn’t mean some in the audience won’t want to hear their favorite Christmas song, even if it’s 80 degrees outside. “‘The 12 Days’—that’s like our ‘Free Bird,’” he says with a laugh.
He actually prefers “O Holy Night.” And Isho says his own personal favorite non-holiday song is the group’s version of “Creep.” What about songs the group hasn’t done—what would be on his list? “I’d like to do ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and recreate the entire scene from Wayne’s World,” Isho says.
Tickets for Straight No Chaser at Interlochen are available online, by phone at 231.276.7800 or 800.681.5920 or in person at the Interlochen Box Office. Prices range from $38–$55.