Sunday, June 30, 2013

98 Degrees Talks Growing Up, Crazy Fan Gifts, and “North West”

2000 Teen Choice Awards

The hardest thing I’ll ever have to do is talk to Nick Lachey without totally fangirling out. The easiest? Remembering why 98 degrees made us fall in love with them in the first place.
During the Brooklyn Barclays Center stop of their Package Tour with fellow boy band groups of yesteryear Boys II Men and New Kids on the Block, Popdust got to chat with the fantastic foursome. 98 Degrees’ big break came in 1998 with “True to Your Heart,” a duet with Stevie Wonder featured in Mulan. From their, the boys enjoyed 8 top 40 singles (“Because Of You,” “The Hardest Thing“) and sold over ten million records.
Let’s remind you what they look like…via selfies





Jeff: It’s been great. Fun. We grew up idolizing Boyz II Men, and of course New Kids on the Block are legends. And they’re all down to earth. The first time we did a promo day together, promoting the tour, jokes were being cracked all day. Everybody’s just laughing and having a good time.
Nick: Usually at our expense, but that’s OK.
Popdust: You’re the youngest group on tour. Is it a weird “bigger brother” situation?
Drew: There’s a mutual respect amongst all the groups. Everybody really enjoys being around each other. The egos are set aside, you know? We’re here to do a job and also enjoy the tour. We realize we’re getting the opportunity to play venues like this and I think everybody’s kind of relishing the moment.


Jeff: Two of the girls were talking to us about how there was a hurricane last time they saw us and they were on the top of the roof, trying to – despite a hurricane warning, they were on top of the roof trying to meet us and we went and talked to them.
Drew: Note, we don’t encourage that kind of behavior.
Jeff: But they were here tonight and they brought us gifts.


Nick: We’ve gotten food. We’ve gotten condoms…
Popdust: Are you allowed to eat it? The food, that is.
Justin: It depends on what the food is.
Nick: Back in the day, I got acne medications.
Justin: The most passive-aggressive gift ever…
Nick: She felt bad for me. I had a little breakout going on. She said, “Here, Nick, I want to give you something.”
Justin: The most passive-aggressive gift ever…
Nick: She felt bad for me. I had a little breakout going on. She said, “Here, Nick, I want to give you something.”
Drew: n Asia, they make these handmade gifts. Illustrations…
Jeff: Origami stuff…just crazy stuff that takes tons of time. But yeah, we’ve gotten quite the plethora of stuff.
Justin: And they spend so much time putting together the signs and tonight we got photos and everything happens so fast, especially back then, that a lot of times you don’t get photos and so it’s nice to see that stuff.
PopdustDo the ladies still throw stuff on stage for you guys?
Nick: Not so much this tour. I mean, I guess now they have to explain when they get home to their husband why they’re not wearing any panties.


Popdust: Is it weird that your fans are now married with kids?
Nick: No, it’s awesome! I mean, we’ve all grown up together. A lot of our fans grew up on our music and were teenagers or whatever when they first started listening to us, and now they’ve grown up and a lot of them have started families, and we’ve done the same thing. So it’s kind of like we’ve all grown up together.
Justin: Well, as a single guys, it’s often disappointing.


Popdust: Justin, you were involved in Occupy Cincinnati, right?
Justin: I was, yeah. I think that there’s a growing inequality in the country and that’s basically what the message was. Cincinnati’s a big example of that, so I thought it was important. I’m also involved, I’m an editor for a street paper that’s put up by the homeless coalition.
Popdust: Would you guys ever do political music?
Justin: I don’t think we would as a group. We’re not a political group. It’s just me individually. We have different views; we don’t always agree on everything.
Drew: We occupy our dressing room.
Justin: We occupy the heart. That’s what it is.
Nick: But we’re always willing to bail Justin out of jail, as a group. If he gets incarcerated…
Popdust: Have you guys ever had to bail each other out of jail?
All: No.
Drew: We’ve helped each other get into jail.
Jeff: I think we were cuffed. We weren’t actually jailed. They fell short of jailing us.
Nick: They were fuzzy cuffs. It’s a long story.
Jeff: A good stern cuffing. I’m not sure she was a police officer…


Popdust: Back in the day, your music was more ballad-heavy. The stuff on your new album 2.0is more dance-y. What was that process like?
Jeff: We just try to stay contemporary with the music. Mmost everything on the radio – unless it’s your second, third or fourth single – is an up-tempo song. Radio likes tempo.
Drew: Unless you’re Adele.
Jeff: She’s sort of an anomaly.
Drew: Or Bruno Mars.
Jeff: Right, and he does a lot of dance songs. But you sort of break in with dance songs. Back in the day, when we were primarily balladeers with mid-tempo stuff, we always wanted to have songs that people could get up and dance to. I mean, I think “Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)” was our only up-tempo song—sort of a Spanish, Latin-leaning song. We wanted to experiment with that on this album. We felt we had the opportunity to get out there and do another record so why not do what we wanted on it. So that’s why we have so many tempo songs on there, but of course we do have our standard sound on there as well, but with a contemporary approach and twist.
Popdust: Did you write the songs on 2.0?
Jeff: We made a conscious decision that we weren’t gonna write on this record. On the last record, we wrote the majority of it. This time, it was just, we want the best songs possible, we want to focus on doing the best performance we can. We literally listened to hundreds of songs until we found the 15 that we ended up recording, and then narrowed that down. Each song has a different feel to it, has a different vibe. They show the different influences that we’ve had musically, so for us getting back into the studio wasn’t the hard part, just finding the music that fit who we are now was the challenge. But we’ve very happy with the songs we found and I love the record.


Popdust: Do the fans go crazy when you play “the classics?”
Nick: As soon as the songs are recognizable the crowd goes crazy. And they sing along with us and they know the songs, and that for us is gratifying to see that after all these years. We’ve made that sort of impression with our music on these people and it still means something to them.
Justin: Boy, they better go crazy tonight.
(SPOILER: They did.)



Nick: Jill. Jill West.
Popdust: Sounds like an attorney or something.
Jeff: I’m gonna go with North. (!!!!!!)

In case you ever doubted their magic.