Superfruit Is Taking Off

Superfruit Is Taking Off

Story by Beatrice Hazlehurst / Photography by Amber Gray

As a space for a range of diverse characters to find their niche, YouTube has bred a plethora of cultural staples. From Justin Bieber to Gigi Gorgeous, the video platform subverted the entertainment industry's traditional route to stardom's mountaintop, offering instead a thin, bracken-covered goats' trail for the talented to trudge through to get to the top. It's not easy, and only a few reach the pinnacle unscathed, but for Superfruit's Mitch Grassi and Scott Hoying, the path to the success was a walk in the park.

The collaborators and best friends (they met, and briefly dated, in high school) are both members of Pentatonix, the five-piece acapella alumni of NBC's The Sing-Off who ascended to stratospheric success on Pitch Perfect-era YouTube. Concurrently, Grassi and Hoying became vlogging sensations in their own right, uploading skits and comedy videos amid clips of them performing duets. It didn't take long for the twosome to reach icon status respectively, prompting them to combine their superior vocals and irrepressible penchant for pure fun to form Superfruit: the duo making pop music queer.

Now, Superfruit performs to sobbing, screaming, sold-out crowds — many of whom have never attended the show of openly gay artists. The two are fully aware that with great power, which they certainly have, comes real responsibility — and they're ready to wield the former for the greater good. Below the pair talk Pentanonix, Pride, and the future of pop.

Superfruit has amassed such a die-hard fanbase separate from Pentatonix. What was it like making your own way while still the group?

Scott: We've always had a rule. Since everyone has their own solo project, even from the very beginning, our rule has been that everyone can do whatever they want but, Pentatonix always comes first. We signed a clause that stated that even if we have a solo performance, if there's a Pentatonix gig, we have to do it. So yeah, that was the perfect way to navigate it. Mitch and I have always been really close friends — for our whole lives, we were just always crazy and silly and giggling together. So, we decided to start showcasing that on YouTube, to showcase our friendship and personalities. Hundreds of videos later, we noticed that all of our music videos did better than the others, so we were like, Why don't we just pursue a music thing and become Superfruit?

Now you are almost at the same level. Literal LGBTQ icons.

Mitch: I think we are still climbing and working on it. We're just really passionate about it. I think we're thrilled even more now because of the turn out at our shows on tour. It was so incredible every night and it inspired us to want to grow this and grow Superfruit as a brand. It's so important to our fans because we are our pride and visible within the gay and queer community. It's been really amazing to see our fans inspired by that. I feel our crowds are very gay and bring with them our pride flag and trans flag, it's really amazing.

Scott: This was the first month we were available to tour and it happened to be pride month. It was actually so perfect.

Mitch: It was perfect timing.

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​What's your take on the commercialization of Pride? 

Mitch: I don't really mind the commercialization. I think it's really cool and it inspires kids who are struggling with their sexuality to realize that this is normal, and people to recognize this is a normal thing.

Scott: Yeah, it's normalizing it. It's becomes more normal with every brand that posts the rainbow flag and every single person that comes out. The more that it's being posted on social media and the more visible it is, the more people become comfortable meeting people who are gay. Then you have more allies. Although I feel, specifically, like this Pride month has been extra. It's been like a big jump.

Why do you think that is?

Scott: I think it's just from all the visibility of gay people on TV shows and media, like Moonlight came out and won an oscar, so it's just one of those things that is slowly but surely becoming more normal and it is really, really cool. Now, more people are down to celebrate it and feel free to celebrate it, whether they're gay or straight.

On Mitch: Top & Pants by Christopher Bu, Boots by Balenciaga; On Scott: Suit by Greyscale, Socks by Falke, Loafers by Giuseppe Zanotti

Is there a part of you that feels like, Damn, these corporations are really bandwagoning on our movement?

Scott: There's a part of me that thinks that, but even if they're hopping on the bandwagon, it's still beneficial to the gay community. So, I'm like, Do whatever you want as long as your supporting the gays.

You just wrapped your first North American tour. How does your reception differ in each place?

Scott: I actually think going deeper in America would be a crazier audience because there are gay people who don't really ever get to be around it, so it's a little more interesting for them. To see gay guys singing about boys on stage, is really exciting for the middle of America.

"To see gay guys singing about boys on stage, is really exciting for the middle of America."

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Are there any really definitive landmarks of success you've identified for Superfruit? What's the dream?

Scott: There are so many. I would love to have a song that's really gay and is so supportive of the gay community but gets a lot of radio play. And then, of course, being on an award show or live show would be really cool.

And that would mark such a pivotal turning point in the music industry. Have you had any "we made it" moment so far?

Mitch: Honestly, for me, it's just this last tour. Seeing the turnout and seeing everyone so excited and thinking, Oh wow, we should move to a bigger venue next time. It's really validating to see people actually really enjoy what we're doing. As much as I love Pentatonix, no disrespect at all to Pentatonix, it's good to see something else that we've been working on succeed. It's not only Pentatonix fans that are supporting Superfruit anymore, we're growing our own fan base and that's really surreal because we started with Pentatonix and Pentatonix has the craziest fan base of all time.

It's crazy to think that people who are Superfruit fans might not even know about Pentatonix.

Mitch: It's getting to that point, which is crazy. It's just the most energy. To see everyone's faces, and watch everyone sing along to every word, the energy never drops.

Scott: Yeah, I have never even been to concerts like that — people screaming, crying, jumping at every song. My friend, who came to our show was like, "I didn't know crowds could be like this, what is happening?" I think it has a lot to do with there being a lot of queer youth and people who accept them all around. It was all just a very beautiful and profound experience.

On Mitch: Blazer by Missoni, Sunglasses by Balenciaga; On Scott: Blouson by Louis Vuitton, Jeans by Roberto Cavalli, Turtleneck & Boots by Wasteland Los Angeles

Did you feel any stigma coming off the back of a reality show as an emerging artist?

Scott: I think we lucked out because our show wasn't really that popular, it had low ratings, so we were never really associated with being reality stars. Sometimes people were surprised when we said we came from it. We were more-so on YouTube, so people associated us with that and I think more of the challenge was transitioning from YouTube to becoming legit artists. When we came off the reality show, we still had no followers and sold nothing. We were an acapella group and the past winners hadn't really blown up, so [Sony] was just like, "Nah we're just going to drop you," and then when we started blowing up on YouTube. We had a lot of leverage when it came to actually getting a deal, which was great.

What are your thoughts on YouTube now, as a platform to launch music careers?

Scott: It's always growing, it's huge. Mitch and I aren't really apart of that world anymore. I remember thinking, I wonder if it's dying?, then I was just looking at pictures of VidCon and there were hundreds of thousands of kids there and they had this crazy budget. What's sad is, it used to be a whole lot easier to be seen on YouTube and now that it's such a big industry, it's almost just as hard to make it on YouTube now. To emerge as a personality or a singer now, you have to stand-out with something so specific and special.

How do you do that?

Scott: I think it can be a range of things. It's just having a specific edge to your voice. It's the way you tell stories or a character you play. It has to just be unique. We know a bunch of really good singers who have trouble making it because they haven't found that edge yet.

Mitch: I think in the beginning it was the arrangement, no one was really doing the acapella thing. So, we tried to make it as poppy as possible.

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It also coincided with Glee and Pitch Perfect, right?

Scott: Yeah, it was right after. I think the planets were lining up for us, it was perfect timing. YouTube was huge, artists were blowing up, so we had that timing too. Also, I think it was our dynamic as a band. The three of us, growing up together, sang really differently. Our blend is very special. It was just one of those things we lucked out on. I think we definitely be looked at as an — it is possible for a random group of nobodies to make it online.

Right, and now A&R's are getting to artists late. Most already huge followings by the time the labels catch on.

Mitch: I feel like it's beginning to become very DIY these days, but I also do feel like the artist and the younger generation, sort of know what they're doing, artistically speaking, more-so than the record exec. The artist just understands the demographic and what their audience wants much more so than the record exec.

On Mitch: Top & Pants by Christopher Bu, Boots by Balenciaga; On Scott: Suit by Greyscale, Socks by Falke, Loafers by Giuseppe Zanotti

I know a lot of young artists are super wary to sign with a label. Did you ever consider independence?

Scott: Never, but we're a specific situation. Everyone I talk to always has a problem with their label. Certain labels are just following which artist has the most buzz and shelving the rest of them. So for us, we're the one acapella group on that label and we're selling every time we release, so they pay attention to us. It's just one of those things where it's like we have a specific situation so we lucked out, but a lot of people have a lot of bad experiences with labels because labels want numbers.

How does the pop landscape read to you right now?

Scott: It used to be very self-indulgent, like look how talented I am and now it's like I want to make you feel safe and good so I love that there are the Kehlanis and the Hayley Kiyokos and Halseys, and Sam Smiths out there. I feel like the pop industry is becoming so gay.

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"I feel like the pop industry is becoming so gay."

What are your thoughts on the debate surrounding Rita Ora's "Girls," and the perception of the straight artist making gayness frisky? I know a lot of queer women artists were offended.

Scott: Well, I do remember thinking, this feels a little careless because it was fetishizing lesbians and doesn't really tell their story accurately. But I do think they were just having fun and looking to make a hit song and try to make something silly. I don't think it was malicious in any way, but it did feel a little dated and careless. Mitch and I, also haven't had the lesbian experience but girls have always been fetishized for kissing each other. That must be frustrating to deal with when being lesbian is your true identity.

Superfruit also puts a huge emphasis on vocals, which is a really refreshing break from a lot of the autotune that proliferates pop.

Mitch: Yeah, I mean we went through that whole EDM era, mainly focused on music, but I'm glad it's getting back to vocals now.

Scott: I always feel like that with music, it always comes back around.

Is that ever a consideration for you? Trying to fit the trends?

Scott: We would adapt to the trends of the music industry, but I think we always stayed pretty authentic to ourselves.

Mitch: Definitely.

Photography: Amber Gray

Styling: Santa Bevacqua

Director of Photography: Julian Bernstein

Fashion Assistants: Giselle Carrillo & Andee Allen

Location: Air Hollywood