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Back In 2012, the members of former boy band 98 Degrees saw its contemporaries New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys reunite after extended breaks for successful records and tours, and it got the wheels turning, Drew Lachey says.
When 98 Degrees took a hiatus in 2003, it had insisted it was a break, not a break-up, and now it was looking like there could be life again for the vocal group, which Lachey formed with his brother Nick, Justin Jeffre and Jeff Timmons in 1997, as the boy-band craze was heating up.
That opportunity came with the Mixtape Festival, an event at Hersheypark Stadium that included both Backstreet Boys and New Kids, as well as Kelly Clarkson and others.
What was intended to be a one-time performance blossomed into the Package Tour with New Kids and Boyz II Men, then another.
Now 98 Degrees is four years and a third tour into a full-blown comeback. It continues with stops July 27 at Sands Bethlehem Event Center atop the My2K Tour with fellow boy-band era acts Dream, O-Town and Ryan Cabrera.
And on Aug. 6 it returns to Hersheypark Stadium for another Mixtape Festival with New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men and Paula Abdul.
In a recent telephone call from a rehearsal studio in Los Angeles, Drew Lachey talked about the reunion, the upcoming tour, and the future of 98 Degrees. Here’s a transcript of the call:
LEHIGH VALLEY MUSIC: Hey, Drew, how are you, man?
DREW LACHEY: “Good, how you doing?”
Just fine thanks. We’re talking because you’re coming to Pennsylvania to play the Sands Event Center in Bethlehem and The Mix Tape Festival in Hershey.
“Yeah, we’re excited about it. We did The Mix Tape Festival a few years ago and we had a blast. So we’re excited to be coming back again.”
Yeah, I actually want to talk a bit about that. Going back, whatever it was, two years ago, three – The Mix Tape Festival: How did you guys decide that was when you were gonna reunite and do that? How did that come together?
“Uh, it was just kind of a process that had been happening over several years. You know, us talking about getting back together and if we did, what would it look like. And so we just had this opportunity come up with Mix Tape, and, you know, we thought if we’re ever gonna try and get back together, that was a good show to come back for. I mean, obviously, it’s a great bill. So we were excited to be a part of that, and that was kind of what led to the package tour with us and New Kids [on the Block] and Boyz II Men. And then the Package Tour is what led to this tour happening again.
“So it kind of all started wright there at The Mix Tape.”
Do you have any idea how the other acts on this bill came together? I mean, how the lineup formulated?
“Well, honestly, we were looking at different artists for this tour that had the same, similar fan base, that was around the same time period. ‘Cause when we were putting the tour together, we thought, you know, it’d be a great idea to do something that’s gonna reach out to people who want to hear music from that time period – you know, the late ‘90s, early 2000s.
“And we had toured with Dream in the past. O-Town obviously had some great hits and were very successful around that time, and Ryan Cabrera started around the year 2000. So it was just kind of a great combination of different styles of artists with different kinds of material. So we just thought it was a great fit for the show.”
You answered my next question. I was going to ask whether you had toured with any of the acts in the past.
“Yeah, we toured with Dream and always had a great time. They were a great bunch of girls to tour with. Obviously now that they’re women and mothers, things have changed – as they have for all of us. But they still sound great, still look great. So we’re looking forward to getting back on the road with them.”
(Dream, which was formed by a talent scout and signed to P. Diddy’s Bad Boys Records to become one of the best-selling girl groups of all time. It had a platinum Top 10 album in 2001 with “It Was All a Dream” and the No. 2 hit single “He Loves U Not.” Another single, “This Is Me,” hit No. 1 on the MTV countdown show “Total Request Live.” The group headlined Allentown’s Mayfair festival in 2001.
But Dream quickly disbanded and its members also had solo careers (member Ashley Poole performed at Allentown’s Crocodile Rock Cafe in 2014) before reuniting this year.
O-Town formed for the first season of the MTV reality series “Making the Band” in 2000 and had a platinum self-titled debut album and the Top 10 hits “Liquid Dreams,” which went gold and was on Billboard's Top 100 single list for 23 weeks, and “All or Nothing,” which was No. 1 on the pop chart.
The group headlined Musikfest in 2001 and 2003. It broke up in 2003, but reunited without member Ashley Parker Angel in 2013, and released a new album, “Lines & Circles.”
And Ryan Cabrera’s debut single, “On the Way Down,” was a Top 10 hit in 2004. His album “Take It All Away” also hit the Top 10, went platinum and produced two more Top 10 hit singles, “True” and “40 Kinds of Sadness.” His follow-up disc, “You Stand Watching,” in 2005 also went Top 10 and produced the hit “Shine On.”
Cabrera also starred in “The Ashlee Simpson Show,” a reality TV show starring his then-girlfriend, Jessica Simpson’s sister.)
In preparing for this interview, I watched and read some interviews in which you talked about taking your families out now when you go. How is touring different now than it was back in the day.
“Um, in some ways it’s completely different. You know, like back in the day you had no other responsibilities other than the shows and the music. And you have your family out there, you still got bath time, bedtime, playtime – you got to keep your kids entertained while they’re out on the road as well. So your focus completely, during the day, completely shifts from being just one hundred percent about just you and whatever you want to do to, obviously, life and your other responsibilities.
“But also, it brings a lot of different positives to it as well. One of the big perks of having your family on the road, obviously, is not missing your kids. The time you get to spend with them; you don’t miss them. They’re experiencing this adventure with you. But from a more logistical point of view, you actually see more of the city that you’re visiting – ‘cause, you know, you take the kids out to museums and to parks and things like that, as opposed to you go to the venue and you’re there all day.
“You get out – you adventure out a little bit more. But there’s definite pros and cons to both sides of it. But this time we’re going to go out just the four of us and our band and do it the way we did it back in the good old days. And then the way we have the tour scheduled and routed, we have a couple of days off every week or so that we can go home and see our families.
“So, um, a little different than the last time we went out, but we’re thinking it’s the best way to manage it this time.”
I want to touch a little bit on the album “2.0.” Now with a couple of years hindsight, what do you think of it, and what were you looking to do when you put that out?
“I think there’s some great songs on there. Unfortunately, not as many people heard those songs as we would like. But we’re still very proud of it. Obviously, you can look back on any record and be like, ‘Ohh, we should have released this and we shouldn’t have released this one. We should have signed with a different label, we should have done this.’
“But we as artists and as a group are very happy with that album and the material that was on it. And for us, it was great just to get back into the studio and do new music. We hadn’t performed together or worked together in a decade. But for us to get back together and go through that process again and created new music for our fans and have that out there as we were going out on the package tour was great.
“We do a couple songs from ‘2.0’ in this set and the fans and audience, they seem to enjoy it.”
Do you expect that you’ll ever record – or that you’ll record as 98 Degrees again?
“Oh yeah, I would like to think so. We didn’t record for this tour just because it didn’t work out, but the fact that we’re getting together, we’re gonna be on the bus together for so many hours on the road – when we’re around each other, that’s usually when new material comes out, gets created. So there’s a very good chance that after this tour, we’ll head back to the studio and maybe record some stuff –whether that’s a full-length CD or whether it’s just a sampler, or whether we release just a couple of songs and release them online – who knows? But we enjoy making music together, so I don’t see any reason why that would stop.”
Did you – when you put that album out, did you guys shop that out to major labels, or did you consider different ways of putting it out?
“Yeah. I mean, obviously, music has changed dramatically since we were signed to Motown 20 years ago. So yeah, we went through different scenarios and different types of deals and deal structures and things like that. You know, the nature of which I’m not going to bore you with details of. But yeah, we definitely looked at different scenarios – all of which were weighed, and we made the decision we thought was best for us at the time. And a great albums came out of it.”
Yeah. How long do you – do you guys think about how long you might continue as 98 Degrees? Or are you just sort of riding the wave and not thinking about it right now?
“Uh, I mean, honestly, for us it’s kind of a [laughs] ‘Once you’re in 98 Degrees, you’re always in 98 Degrees’ thing. ‘Cause I don’t think we’ll ever stop being 98 Degrees. Whether we’re actually touring a and recording or whether we’re taking a break and exploring different adventures individually, that’s – why knows what the future’s going to hold?
“But there’s always going to be the possibility of us touring and making new music together. We’re a very close group of guys – we enjoy what we do, and we enjoy being in a group together. So, yeah – we don’t think ‘Oh, I see us as The Eagles and we’re going to be doing this …’ or ‘We’re just gonna have this one last run.’ No, we’re just gonna go with it this time, and if this brings other opportunities down the road, great. If not, who knows what happens? We make new music or go back to the studio or go on tour next summer? Who knows?
“But right now we’re just focused on putting on a great show for the fans who are coming out for the My2K Tour and we’ll see what happens in the future.”
You talked about you – you, personally – working on other projects. And you won ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ you were on Broadway in ‘rent’ and “Spamalot’ and then you’re a father. Is there anything you liked doing more than another, or you intend to do in the future? Or what’s your sort of career plans beyond 98 Degrees?
“I mean, a lot of what I’ve been able to do has been because of 98 Degrees. Obviously it’s given me a great platform to expand, you know, who I am as a performer. Um, I’ve enjoyed every aspect of my career for the most part. I would love to do more Broadway, more theater. It’s a passion of mine and I really enjoy it.
“My wife and I, we run a non-profit out of Cincinnati for arts education, so we have a summer program and teach year-round. So that’s something that we’re very passionate about and I invest a lot of time I when I’m not performing myself or hosting or anything.
“ So, you know, I’ve been fortunate that my career has been very varied in affording me a lot of opportunities, all of which I’ve enjoyed.”
Yeah, I actually saw you on Broadway in ‘Rent.’ My wife and I were in New York for, I think it was our 20th anniversary, and we took in the play and saw you on stage – enjoyed it very much.
“Oh nice! I’m glad you had a good time.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So clearly there is still an audience for you guys. So I’m just wondering, when you go out there and play, are you seeing more of your fans from the 1990s, or are there new fans – new younger fans? What are your audiences like?
“Uh, it’s kind of varied. Of course, our fans from the ‘90s are still there. If they were 15 [then], now they’re 30 to 35.”
“So it’s – the look of the audience has changed a little bit, but the energy hasn’t changed, the enthusiasm hasn’t changed, and a lot of times, our fans will have kids of their own – and they’ll bring them. So our music is being introduced to a new generation of 98 Degrees fans. And also through our individual ventures we’ve expanded our fan bases as well. So people who were, maybe – you know, on the Package Tour, fans of New Kids on the Block or Boyz II Men became fans of ours on that tour and are now coming out to support us, as well.
“So, you know, we’ve got a lot of the same consistent fans for the last 20 years, but I’m proud to say that fan base has grown and expanded, as well.”
Yeah, you guys actually came and played out Allentown Fair in Allentown, Pennsylvania, twice …
… I think it might have been two years apart. And I brought my daughter there, and she was a young teenager at the time. And she’s 30 now and still enjoying you and probably will come to see you with me again – so I understand totally about the generational thing there.
Hey, my last question is – you guys reunited, New Kids reunited, Backstreet Boys reunited – O-Town’s back together. Are you guys going to be able to get ‘N Sync back together to come out with you sometime?
“[Laughs] I hope so – I’m actually a fan, so I would love for them to get back together. You know, I’m friends with Joey Fatone, and we joke about it a lot. So I think that people are waiting to see if that happens. Obviously Justin’s got a lot on his plate right now and is doing fantastic on his own. But I think that would be a great tour. If you can get ‘N Sync back together and you do a tour that’s ‘N Sync, Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees – I mean that’s the crème de la crème of ‘90s boy bands right there. So I think that’d be pretty awesome.
“But you know what? If it never happens, there’s still plenty of great music out there for people to enjoy and go and watch and see. Um, so who know? Who knows?”
98 DEGREES, headlining the My2K Tour with Dream, O-Town and Ryan Cabrera, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday July 27, Sands Bethlehem Event Center, 77 Sands Blvd. Tickets: $59.50-$85. Info: 800-745-3000,www.sandseventcenter.com. ALSO, as part of the Mixtape festival, with Paula Abdul, New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men, Dream, O-Town and Ryan Cabrera, 4 p.m. Aug. 6, HersheyPark Stadium. Tickets: $25-$99.50. www.ticketmaster.com, 800-745-3000.