The five-person a capella group competed as California Rolls on season 9 of the Fox singing competition
California Rolls fell to pieces after they got eliminated from The Masked Singer semifinals on Wednesday.
The fivesome unmasked as a capella group Pentatonix — which consists of Mitch Grassi, Scott Hoying, Kirstin Maldonado, Kevin Olusola and Matt Sallee — after covering Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway" and in the Battle Royale round, "Runaway Baby" by Bruno Mars.
"I was a gut punch," Hoying, 31, tells PEOPLE. "We went in hoping to have a good time — that's how it started. After our first performance, we were like, 'We will not leave without the trophy.' We were so in it. But we had so much fun."
Olusola, 34, says singing as sushi pieces allowed them "to be so much more full out than we normally would be" on stage.
"When you're on stage at a show, because people are looking at you, you're very aware of your body, your movement, the way your face looks," he continues. "This time, if I'm bobbing my head, I've got an ugly face because I'm into the music, nobody can see it."
Judge Jenny McCarthy called California Rolls "the ones to beat" during Wednesday's semifinals and Pentatonix would appear under the sushi getup. The group's fans knew, too.
"After the first performance, all the judges knew pretty instantly," Sallee, 29, says. "Especially since we really tried to mask our voice and our harmonies. We even held off on doing harmonies in our first performance for the first minute of it. But seeing how undeniable it was to people [that it was us] was a reminder that we've really made an impact on this industry."
Hoying adds, "I've gotten a bunch of texts from people and I always am just like, 'Oh my gosh, they guess us every season,' which they've only guessed us once in a past season. But that's my go-to."
Hoying, Olusola and Sallee share what surprised them about performing as sushi, whether they have guesses for finalists Macaw and Medusa and why they've already started getting into the Christmas spirit.
Why did you all decide to go on The Masked Singer?
SCOTT HOYING: In a world that's so serious, this show is just inherently fun. It's such a fun concept, trying to guess who these singers are. The costumes are beautiful. And Pentatonix, we thrive in competitive atmospheres. We take it so seriously and it really bonds us, so the chance to be on a show that is so loved and felt high stakes in certain ways, but also it was not too high stakes, was such a fun experience.
How did you decide on the California Rolls costume?
KEVIN OLUSOLA: It felt very fitting. First of all, we love sushi. These sushi rolls, it's good individually, but it's also good coming together as well. To see the costume firsthand, we were blown away — just the amount of detail. And as we would go through the show, the details would get even more complex and more intricate. They'd add more glitter here or pieces of sushi there. It was so cool to watch.
Were there any challenges of performing inside the costume?
OLUSOLA: I think getting out of our own head about not necessarily being seen as people, but being seen as characters.
MATT SALLEE: We weren't used to those sushi faces and not being able to connect and look at each other's eyes and catch a smile or whatever it is. That made it a little more challenging. But one thing that I am always in shock of a lot of the time is that our tuning, our blending, has just become in such lockstep because we spend so much time together singing and tuning and performing and touring. I feel like we could sing a lot of things, especially arrangements that we've done repetitively, pretty much with our eyes closed because we do it all the time together. It takes a lot of practice, but we're really used to singing with each other.
HOYING: When we'd be in rehearsal wearing the masks and performing through the song, I would be turning to Matt to ask him a question and I'm just staring at salmon bedazzled with caviar in the face and we're having a serious conversation about harmony. We just kept laughing because I was like, I can't have a serious conversation while we're dressed as sushi rolls.
How did you decide which songs to sing?
HOYING: It always helped to have the theme because then we can narrow it down. "Creep" was a pretty easy one to pick. It always evokes such emotion and there's so much you can do with that song. For other ones, we would start fleshing out arrangements and put together little mini-arrangements to see what feels good. We're always looking for something we can have a concept for, take it a certain direction, change the genre or make it really epic at the end and show off our individual and collective skill. It's really honestly a fun process. Picking the song is my favorite part of the whole thing.
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Do you guys have any guesses for any of the remaining contestants, Macaw and Medusa?
OLUSOLA: I wish. It's so hard because you're hearing the voice and you're thinking, "Oh, but it could be..." And then you see the costume and you're like, "I don't know." This just messes my whole persona of what and who this could be.
HOYING: I'm bad at guessing. I recognize this voice and it does not come to me. It's kind of like when you're playing Heads Up and [the clue is] the lead actress from Mean Girls and you can't think of Lindsay Lohan even though it's so obvious. That's like me with Masked Singer. I'm like, I know this, but I don't know.
What can fans expect from your upcoming world tour coming up with Lauren Alaina?
SALLEE: It's going to be so much fun. We're going to add some new songs, maybe one that we did on The Masked Singer. We're really excited because we haven't done an amphitheater run or summer leg of touring since the pandemic.
OLUSOLA: Another thing that we're really excited about: we have this film that we've been working on and thinking about called Meet Me Next Christmas where Christina Milian is an executive producer, so we're thinking about Christmas right now. It's going to be a really fun Christmas film.
Scott, how is planning for your upcoming wedding to Mark Manio going?
HOYING: Oh my God, it's a lot. I keep asking Kevin and Matt for advice because they both had perfect, iconic weddings. They're like, "Yep, so many decisions to be made." But it's going well. It's been really fun and I'm so full out and extra and love to be creative and I'm trying to think of ways to make it really unique and beautiful and I have to scale back sometimes. I'm like, "OK, so I'll be on wires and I'll be lowered from the ceiling." I'm just kidding. But it's been really beautiful. I'm so excited. The venue's amazing. All of my fiancé Mark's 100 Filipino family [members] are going to be there and then all my 150 of my friends throughout my whole life, and then my bandmates. It's going to be a really special moment where everyone I love the most is in one place to celebrate the biggest day of Mark and my life. I'm just so excited.
Is your fiancé on the same page with the over-the-top ideas or does he suggest scaling back?
HOYING: Honestly, Mark is always down for the crazy ideas. Every once in a while he'll be like, "I want to be more classic." But it's been really collaborative and we've enjoyed it a lot.
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The Masked Singer airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.
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