For all you doubters: Backstreet's back, alright? Next week the
Boys are heading west to perform at San Francisco Pride and the Warfield Theater. If you asked the guys, though, they'd tell you they were "Never Gone" and "Unbreakable." (Yes, we're reading straight from some of their recent album titles, which do seem to have a running theme.) You've got to hand it to them, though -- 17 years later, and about a decade since the boy-band thing started to dissipate, the Backstreet Boys are the only example of that cultural phenomenon still on tour.
Those years have seen many changes, however. The group just left its label, Jive records -- a split that member A.J. McLean told us will open new doors for the Backstreet Boys. Now, the four members can be "who they are" -- part of which means emulating long-lasting bands like The Rolling Stones and The Eagles -- and hone a sound for "the next 17 years." Soon the group will be hitting the high seas on a Backstreet Boys cruise, with fans who are now older, saucier, and way more intoxicated. Where do we sign up?
Hey, A.J. How are you today?
A.J. McLean: I just had some unfortunate news about my oldest
dog. He got diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It's been a bit of an
emotional roller coaster.
I'm so sorry. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.
the tour going?
AM: The show's been sold out. The fans have been really excited. We're just looking forward to coming down to San Fran.
What do you think it will be like playing at Pride?
AM: I have a lot of gay and lesbian friends who are stoked that we're doing this. I want to get heavily involved with the gay and lesbian movement. One of my dear friends just started the very first gay and lesbian yellow pages for Los Angeles, so I'm gonna try to get on board and try to ixnay Prop 8...just try to make everybody equal.
Why did Backstreet Boys split with Jive Records last month after more than a decade?
AM: It was time for us. It was a parting on good terms. It's now giving us the freedom to be the artists that we are. Fortunately, record companies are becoming more obsolete, [which is] giving the artist a lot more freedom to be creative without having people dictate what songs to do. We've all met so many talented writers over the past 17 years that we can easily pick up the phone, call T-Pain and say, "Hey, we're going back into the studio in September. Let's make a new record."
You didn't have that luxury before?
AM: We did, and then we didn't. There was a bit of a dictatorship going on, which is the case with most record companies. They kind of run the ship. But towards the end, before we parted ways, we were getting a lot more hands-on with our music. We still have one more record that's part of the contract, but that's just going to be released in Japan under the Jive label, and then we start making a new BSB record this coming fall, which will either be on a new label or will be straight distribution. We haven't decided.
Can people expect a different sound on the new album?
AM: A little bit. This next record is going to be where we're headed for the next 17 years. We definitely emulate groups like The Eagles and The Stones, and having that longevity and that staying power. We've definitely proven that we can do it, but now it's time for us to just be who the Backstreet Boys are gonna be.
What do you think caused the disappearance of boy bands?
AM: There was this huge pop explosion in the late 90s, early 2000, and it was overwhelming for everyone. There was us, there was *NSYNC, 98 Degrees, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera. It went on as long as it could and then some of the groups just didn't want to do it anymore. Some of them didn't have the success that they used to, so they just gave up. And then there were groups like *NSYNC who had members leave who did equally as well if not better on their own. I think [Justin Timberlake] is much better on his own. I think he was really good as part of a group, but I think certain people in groups just stick out more than others. We have always said we would never hold each other back. I just released my very first solo record in all of Asia and it's about to hit the States, Europe and Canada at the end of the year.
Whose idea was the upcoming Backstreet Boys Cruise?
AM: It was a collective idea. We've been talking about it for years now, because we've heard other artists have done it, like New Kids on the Block. It's something cool for us to do with our fans. Whether it's having a pool party or a gambling night...we're doing a full concert with our dancers. We might do some weird things. I heard some rumors that New Kids went as a group and knocked on fans' doors to say hi and hang out.