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Sing It On preview: The Nor'Easters give us the scoop on the 'real-life Pitch Perfect'

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Rick Friedman/CBS

Two days before Pitch Perfect 2 hits theaters, Sing It On, a reality show inspired by the smash a cappella music film, is hitting Pop TV May 13 at 10 pm ET. The series, produced by a cappella alum John Legend, follows five collegiate a cappella teams vying for first place at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) Finals.

The teams are represented by three colleges: AcaBelles (Florida State University), All Night Yahtzee (Florida State University), No Comment (University of Illinois), Nor’easters (Northeastern University), and Pitch, Please! (Northeastern University).  

Just in time for the premiere, EW talked to some of the members of the Nor’easters, to talk about the tensions that will flare up on camera, the crazy audition process, and how similar Pitch Perfect really is—or isn’t—to what they do.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why did you guys want to be part of the show?

Isaac Willnow, sophomore, music director: To show the world that a cappella hasn’t always been this kitschy, do-woppy thing—there is a lot of hard work that goes into it, and there’s a lot of people’s lives that actually revolve around it.

Is it interesting to you that a capella seems to be part of the mainstream all of a sudden?

Willnow: We have been so thankful for things like Pitch Perfect—they’ve really boosted this little niche market that we’re in.

Sam Creighton, senior: I know people are kind of aversive to the whole “real-life Pitch Perfect” thing, but to me that’s exactly what it is—we’re showing what’s actually happening behind the scenes and all the hard work we put into it, and the passion that we have for the music and the a cappella

Are you guys fans of those films, or do you disagree with the way they portray what you guys do?

Willnow: When I was watching it I was realizing how much of the topics in the movie and the plot lines are very relevant to what we do. We do have really, really intense auditions. There are really intense choreography rehearsals. There are sexual tensions between different group members when you’re making music together. All of those things do really happen.

Speaking of those really intense auditions— how do you guys keep a straight face if someone auditions that isn’t quite Nor’easter material?

Willnow: There are some people that come in and give the most loose interpretation of singing, but we try to be as respectful as possible because they are taking a chance and putting themselves out there and we don’t want to be mean.

The first episode also shows the phone calls you make at 3 am to invite new members to join—why call so late? Is it a ritual or something?

Willnow: We’re really putting them through the ringer for six or seven hours during callbacks so when we know who’s going to join the group, we want to just tell them as soon as possible.

Sarah Miller, freshman: They called me and I actually slept through the first call because I was just so exhausted from callbacks. The phone was next to my head and it didn’t even wake me up!

What can we expect from the Nor’easters in the show?

Willnow: You will see how truly dedicated we are. Before some competitions, we rehearse anywhere from 20 to 40 hours in one week. You’ll also see some really, really awesome music being made, in a really different way than you may be used to. Some of the stuff we do pushes boundaries musically.

What is the most stressful and the most rewarding part of collegiate a cappella?

Willnow: We are all college kids, and we’re all friends. Sometimes we have to tell each other things we don’t want to hear—like,  “You’re flat,” or “When you do this choreo, you look like you have two left feet.” Sometimes things get ugly, but at the end of the day you are that person’s best friend. This is kind of sappy, but the voice is the only instrument that’s directly connected to your soul, and the fact that you are singing with so many other people is so rewarding and such a profound experience that you can’t really get anywhere else.

After the May 13 premiere, Sing It On will air at 9 pm ET on Pop.