Music News & Reviews

The Filharmonic brings its ’90s a cappella sound to Tacoma, Centralia

The Filharmonic a cappella group
The Filharmonic a cappella group Courtesy

From winning NBC’s “The Sing-Off” to performing in “Pitch Perfect 2” and on “The Late Late Show,” The Filharmonic has had the kind of success most young a cappella groups only dream of. And now the Filipino-American boy-band brings its smooth, throwback ’90s style to Tacoma Community College in a free lunchtime concert Thursday.

Having met at college singing competitions, the six members of Los Angeles-based The Filharmonic (vocalists VJ Rosales, Joe Caigoy, Trace Gaynor and Barry Fortgang, plus vocal bass Jules Cruz and beatboxer Niko Del Rey) have a variety of backgrounds: music grads and students, a biology major, a journalism grad, a photographer. But as well as singing, they also share a Filipino heritage — and so forming an a cappella group that honored that heritage was an easy decision. Their first audition tape in 2013 won them a place in NBC’s “The Sing-Off” competition, and from there The Filharmonic has toured nationally alongside Linkin Park, Black Eyed Peas and Pentatonix, performed in the movie “Pitch Perfect 2” and sung back-up for a riff-off with Anna Kendrick and James Corden. Their 30,000 Facebook likes and 15,400 Twitter followers include a big following in the Filipino-American community, as well as the Philippines themselves, where the group just performed at the Mall of Asia. They’re in the middle of a national tour that includes Tacoma (Thursday) and Centralia (Saturday).

VJ Rosales talked with The News Tribune on the phone about how they write their songs, and just how their Filipino heritage plays into their sound.

You do mostly covers, but you also have some originals. Who does your arrangements?

Rosales: We like to take Top 40 hits and give them a ’90s feel: that’s our sound, ’90s R&B. I do most of the arranging, but sometimes we’ll have a group session where we sit in a circle and jam a bit. Niko beatboxes and Jules comes up with a cool bass. When I do it by myself it’s quicker, but group arranging is a collaboration because you get ideas from all the different members. For example, I arranged “Happy” and “Walk With You,” but the group arranged “One More Night.” They’re two different kinds of songs.

And “Get Up and Go” was something I wrote a few years ago as an instrumental piece, and the guys wanted me to do it for the tour, so I adapted it.

What other songs will you be singing?

Rosales: Some of the covers will be “Chains,” “Rock With You,” “Sugar,” “Shut Up and Dance” and “Flashlight” from “Pitch Perfect.”

All of your parents were born in the Philippines, and you list that on your biographies on the group’s website. You’ve also talked about how you grew up with karaoke and other Filipino musical traditions. How much does your Filipino heritage play into your sound?

Rosales: It definitely plays in. At first it wasn’t a big thing because all we wanted to do was sing and perform. Then we thought of the name, and it just happened. Being Filipino-American and growing up in the 1990s — a lot of the Filipino community can identify with the way we present those songs.

How often do you practice together?

Rosales: When we’re not touring, we rehearse for three to five hours, three days a week. On tour, we take an hour every day to work on the music, figure out ways to make progress and better ourselves.

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568, @rose_ponnekanti

The Filharmonic: Get Up and Go

When: 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Bldng 2 theater, Tacoma Community College, 1605 S. Mildred St., Tacoma.

Tickets: Free.


When: 7 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Corbet Theater, Centralia College, 600 Centralia College Blvd, Centralia.

Tickets: $20-$30.