Meet The Filharmonic

The Pioneer sat down with "The Filharmonic" members Joe Caigoy and Jules Cruz to talk boybands, touring and original music.

Megan Hearst, Staff Writer

The Filipino-American acapella group “The Filharmonic” performed on Wednesday, May 4 at Whitman. The six-person group has a distinct self-described “90s vibe” and has performed alongside artists such as Linkin Park, The Black-Eyed Peas, and Pentatonix, as well as appearing on Universal’s hit movie “Pitch Perfect.” Last week, The Pioneer sat down with members Joe Caigoy and Jules Cruz to talk boybands, touring, and original music.

Megan Hearst: How did The Filharmonic start out?

Joe Caigoy: Well we actually formed for a competition on NBC called “The Sing-off.” It was just the three of us–Jules, Niko and I. We met in college, at Mt. San Antonio, we were all singing over there with Avi Kaplan, who’s in Pentatonix. So he kind of gave us the show and helped us form. Then we met VJ who sang at Long Beach, and Trace who’s from USC and Barry I knew from school so I kind of just called him up.

Hearst: What’s your favorite part about performing?

Caigoy: Probably my favorite part is the audiences. We’re on the road a lot and we’re just constantly driving, taking a bus or flying somewhere, so we’re really tired. But as soon as we get on stage and the audience is just screaming, it’s really energizing and it really reminds us just why we’re doing this because it’s just so much fun.

Hearst: You look like you’re all having fun up there. Has this been a bonding experience? In the past, you’ve talked about how you’re all Filipino and how that plays into your work.

Cruz: Yeah absolutely, I think that just being on tour you have to hang out no matter what and you’re forced to get to know each other pretty intimately, especially when you’re in a van for however long. You bring up the Filipino culture, and I think that’s a really good point because we’ll be in some shows in some really obscure places and the Filipino community will still be available,–they’ll come to our show. It’s really cool to see the Filipino community out in that area, and I’m really surprised to see them come out and support us.

Hearst: It’s really cool that you say that, particularly because you’re coming all the way out to Walla Walla. What are some of the most interesting places you’ve performed?

Cruz: Well we’ve performed at some places we’ve never heard of and a lot of the big cities, so we’ve been all kinds of places. We were in the Philippines last year, so that was a whole different experience. It’s been really interesting.

Hearst: In the past you’ve talked a lot about nineties music, particularly nineties boy bands. I was wondering how that plays in to your style?

Caigoy: So all of us grew up in the nineties, so we were influenced by those groups, those bands. I mean we grew up listening to NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Boyz II Men and so we do a lot of covers. Acapella in general [is] a lot of covers, so we take what’s top forty now and put that nineties R&B spin on it just because that’s what we’re familiar with–I mean, that’s what we listened to as kids. It’s great with acapella because you can take one thing and make it completely different just by changing up the rhythm section or the way we sing it.

Hearst: So what is that like? How do you adapt popular songs to an acapella format?

Cruz: Well, all of us arrange, and we pick a song that we think is really cool and we think might be big in the future, and we listen to it and listen to the instrumentation of it like, what is the bass guitar doing? What are the background vocals? We listen to the background and we put voices to those rhythms and those notes and then we put it all together.

Hearst: So you guys have gotten the opportunity to perform with some really awesome musicians and actors and comedians, who would be your dream person or group to perform with?

Cruz: Well it’s hard to say, I would really like to perform with NSYNC. They were one of my first concerts, my uncle was working for them at the time and they let me go on their tour bus and I got to meet them. Then years later I’m on stage singing them, it’s so cool.

Hearst: Expanding on this idea, what sort of hopes do you have for the future of the group?

Cruz: Well right now we’re on our “Get Up and Go” tour, like I said before we so mainly covers, but “Get Up and Go” is the title of our first original song. So we hope to just keep putting out original music and maybe get on the radio someday.

Hearst: I’ve noticed at Whitman and other schools that acapella is really popular, why do you think it’s such a popular art form among college students?

Caigoy: I kind of think for me it was an escape from studying. I went to a community college in California, but I transferred to Michigan state, and I was alone; I didn’t really know anybody out there. All I was doing was studying and homework and I was like, I need to go make friends, I need to do something and the acapella community was an escape. I love to sing and be with others who love to sing, so it was an escape. That’s what acapella was for me.

Hearst: So you perform for a lot of college students, and I know at our school we have three acapella groups who will be performing with you. What advice would you give to them?

Cruz: That’s awesome! We’re so excited, we love to meet other groups. That’s another really good part of going on tour, we get to sing with other acapella groups and hang out with them, so yeah, we’re really excited to meet them. It’s so strange, I was considering giving it up before the [Sing-Off], but then I’m so glad I came around. I feel if you’re really passionate about it you should just do it.

This interview was conducted over the phone and was edited for length and clarity.