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Straight No Chaser were the only male a cappella vocal ensemble on campus when the group formed at Indiana University in 1996. Taking an unconventional approach, Straight No Chaser began working up a repertoire that included not only traditional songs, but also modern pop tunes performed without the use of instruments. Various local performances, including a storied early-morning appearance at the university's annual 36-hour dance marathon, caught the public's attention and helped the ensemble gather a fan base on campus. The original lineup of Straight No Chaser released several albums, toured the Midwest, and even competed nationally at Carnegie Hall before the students graduated and went their separate ways.
In 2006, a reunion show was planned for the founding members of Straight No Chaser at Indiana University, and a DVD recording of a 1998 concert was released. Subsequently, video clips of the concert were posted on YouTube and started gathering hundreds of views. One such viewer was Atlantic Records chairman/CEO Craig Kallman, who flew the singers to New York and ultimately offered Straight No Chaser a recording contract. All but two of the original members signed up.
Straight No Chaser released their first album, a seasonal effort named Holiday Spirits, in 2008. They also toured heavily, and 2009 found them releasing another holiday album, Christmas Cheers. For the group's next record, Straight No Chaser tackled modern pop hits by bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Coldplay, and Oasis. The resulting With a Twist appeared in 2010, marking the group's first non-holiday album. In 2013, Straight No Chaser delivered the album Under the Influence, which featured guest performances from such artists as Phil Collins, Dolly Parton, Jason Mraz, and others. The album was followed by the EP Under the Influence: Holiday Edition, which featured guest appearances from Colbie Caillat, Paul McCartney, and Cee Lo Green.