Thursday, September 2, 2010

Promo Hecticness – An evening with The Backstreet Boys

September 1st, 2010 - Written by Angel –
bsb4There are certain perks that come with doing what we do here at CONFRONT Magazine: going to see tons of great concerts, meeting high profile people, working in our chosen fields – be it journalism, administration or photography.  And once in a while, we are lucky enough to have some of our dreams come true.  For me, this has happened twice, the first being on the day of my 29th birthday when I got to interview 30 Seconds to Mars front man, Jared Leto, but that’s a story for another time.

I’m sure you’ll agree with me that incidents of dreams coming true don’t occur on a regular basis. So you can imagine my surprise when our friends at Evenko sent me an e-mail confirming that our interview request with the ultimate boyband, The Backstreet boys, had been approved.

BSB5I knew at a really young age that I wanted to be a writer.  At first I wanted to be a novelist, an art form I still dabble in in my spare time, but it was when I signed up for the school newspaper as part of my extra-curricular activities, that I quickly fell in love with Journalism and focused on becoming a reporter.
During an exercise in my journalism class in college, we were asked to put together a Q&A package for a celebrity we would like to interview and without having to think too hard, I picked The Backstreet Boys.  I don’t remember exactly what it is I had put together, however I do remember thinking that if I ever got to ask them those questions, it would mean that I had made it as an entertainment reporter.

Now not only an entertainment journalist but also the editor of a magazine, you’d expect that I would have taken the news of our approval calmly and with grace, but you’d be wrong.  Suddenly, I was 18 years old again and jumping around my living room, dancing to Backstreet’s Back in my head.  You can imagine my reaction when we were also granted special access to the band’s interview sessions of that day, being permitted to sit in while Nick, AJ, Brian and Howie did interviews with big television media, so that we could experience what it is the group goes through on a daily basis to promote themselves, their latest album, This Is Us, and their tour.

CONFRONT photographer, Christine, and I arrived at the venue at around 6pm and were immediately escorted to a suite backstage where interviews were being held.  As we walked through the concrete belly of the massive structure that is the Bell Centre, the anticipation was palpable for both of us and the energy seemed kinetic.

AJThe boys’ first interview of the evening was with Sonia Benezra, a familiar face to the band members as well as anyone from Quebec who is a BSB fan.
We were asked to sit on the perimeter of the room, away from the video cameras, the camera men, the sound engineers and the other production staff and entourage so as not to disturb as Sonia prepared herself for the band’s arrival.  One by one, they were escorted onto the makeshift set where they reconnected with Sonia for the first time in a few years; moments that were captured on camera.  The ease with which the conversation unfolded was obvious and although their time was cut short because of a busy schedule, it was evident that they were enjoying each other’s company.

Once Sonia’s interview came to an end and the necessary pictures were taken, Brian and Howie headed off to another suite for an eTalk Daily interview while Nick and AJ stayed for an interview with Tatiana, a new MusiquePlus VJ who like us, was a Backstreet Boys fan.  Though the dynamic had changed in a matter of minutes, the two boys didn’t seem fazed and immediately adapted to the new interviewer; a transformation that was quite impressive to watch given how seamless it was.  Beyond the elation of simply being permitted to attend the session, I remember being impressed by the ease with which they handled all the craziness around them.  The commotion of people rushing around seemed to bounce right off them.

Finally, roughly 90 minutes after we had set foot in the venue, it was our turn.  To not be disturbed by the MusiquePlus crew who were sorting out their equipment, we headed into the hallway with Nick and AJ.
“Angel, CONFRONT Magazine.  Nice to meet you.”  I said to each of them with fake assurance, offering a shaky hand that they shook even harder, pretending to ignore the wobble of my voice.
“Hi. AJ”, “Nick!  Nice to meet you too.” they said staccato and I almost laughed thinking “YEAH I KNOW!”
Because our time was limited and we had just sat through two interviews on the matter, we skipped the standard questions about the latest album and instead decided to focus on a more ‘Then and Now’ aspect.  Who better to talk about this with than Nick and AJ who are the ones to have experienced the most changes throughout the band’s life; Nick being 16 the first time they stopped in Montreal and now being 30 and AJ being 18 back then and 32 now.

bsb1To break the ice, I opened by asking them what they thought was the biggest difference between their experiences in Montreal currently and Montreal back in the mid to late 90s when they first started touring here.
“I think that with regard to Montreal, our fans are… well you know things are going to change over time but our fans are older.  Things are a little less fanatical than it was back in the Millennium days.” AJ said, referring to the insanity of Backstreet Mania, a phenomenon I addressed in our promo article a few weeks ago.  “They’re still screaming and still crazy but they are older with a bit of new found respect.  I mean they’ve grown up with us.”

When Backstreet Mania exploded in 1996, the fans weren’t the only ones going a little gaga over the band, their self-titled debut album going 10X Platinum on the Canadian charts and every radio station was blasting hits like We’ve Got It Goin’ On, Get Down and I’ll Never Break Your Heart, seemingly on repeat.  Fast forward just short of a decade and a half and with exception for a few radio plays here and there, BSB’s latest album, This Is Us, isn’t being quite as mediatised.

AJ seemed to feel the strain of this new attitude a little as he said: “there is no greeting for Backstreet Boys as much as it used to be.  But that’s just progression of music, you know.  They want the younger artists and the newer tracks.  Maybe not in Canada but in certain parts of the world there can be a stigma that really doesn’t live up to what they feel we represent.  So it’s a little bit more difficult for us. But having said that, the fan base, whenever we show up for a tour they love us and show up with bells on.  I mean they show up in huge numbers.”

BSB13Because radio and music television haven’t been as receptive to the new material, the boys have had to become a little more creative in promoting themselves. “With the internet, we’ve been able to reach out to our fans in a way that back in the day, we and other bands weren’t able to do.  Through our website, other media… [there are] all these other resources we can use since we don’t have as much radio play.”

Beyond access to new media however, it is the band’s persistence and resistance that continues to keep them current whenever new material is produced.  “People can’t say that the albums aren’t good.  They can’t say that the music’s not good, they can’t say that in comparison to the old stuff it doesn’t hold up.  That’s our motto: to continue to make great music and service our fans and the people who want to be here right now.  And one day people are going to be like ‘Ok we like the Backstreet Boys again’ and they are going to play us again.  But if not, it’s still not going to take away the millions and millions of fans that we have around the world and how they keep us going.”

BSB14Why has there been such a shift is what is considered good music, you ask?
“It’s not the fans.” Nick made sure to make clear as AJ added: “It’s more the actual program directors who are deciding what is hot right now.  So you’ve got Beiber and Miley Cyrus or whatever.  But what they don’t realize is that we are still relevant within that.  It’s all POP music.  So just because a new artist is 16 years old and we’re in our 30s and some of us are married with families, doesn’t mean that we aren’t in the same genre.  The good thing about having people like Miley Cyrus and Beiber is that it’s kind of opening the door to have a new POP resurgence and a lot of what you hear on the radio now is POP and Dance.”

Why then haven’t they been able to chart as highly as the younger generation? Again AJ had the answer.
“I think that on our behalf, we haven’t totally hit the perfect song yet in the last two albums as far as singles to really let everyone know that we are back.  We’re close.  Like on This is Us, we got really close.  This next record I got the feeling we are going to hit the nail on the head.”
“Yeah so close.” Nick confirmed before they furthered in turn:  “It’s all just finding the patience”, “and finding out who we are.”

Although they aren’t getting as much exposure as they once did, it’s impossible to be a POP music fan   and not see that BSB clearly were the trail blazers for what is being recorded today.
“We do a lot of after show parties where we go and hang out with the fans and I heard Get Down in the club and Backstreet’s Back in the club and on a serious note I was like ‘Wow there are a lot of similarities with the actual instrumentation of the song, the keys that they are using, the drums; it sounds really close to what’s out there now” Nick said, smiling. “Like Lady Gaga stuff, Jason Derulo, Taio Cruz, you know what I mean.  It sounds like everybody is doing what we had done at one point with Backstreet’s Back and I think it’s about to come full circle.”

Backstreet-Boys-470x673-54kb-media-533-media-0160This last statement seemed especially fitting when I thought back on the last hour and remembered some funny reminiscences during the Sonia Benezra interview, when Howie said it was nice seeing her again, even if they weren’t in their underwear this time; a reference to a photo shoot the group had done with the reporter for 7Jours magazine in 1997.

“We’ve known her for years and she’s a friend now actually and she’s like the Canadian Oprah.” AJ said about their relationship. “It’s cool for us to have these people that we know and can always come back to whether it’s in Canada or in the US or wherever it is and met journalists and people we’ve become friends with.”

As the interview was winding down, I managed to slip in one last question and enquired about what they would be doing at this time next year.
According to Nick they’ll “be on tour probably.”

But not for ‘This Is Us’ AJ specified.  “At the end of September we go back into the studio.”
So, as my dream come true was coming to an end, I was left with the anticipation of something new.  A new album would be recorded and a new tour would likely bring the Backstreet Boys back to our city.  As we said our goodbye, Nick and AJ took a few minute to pose for a picture with myself and Christine, as well as one with Caroline from Evenko, without whom we wouldn’t have been allowed to get an insider’s view of what it is to be a Backstreet Boy in the face of a day’s promo… and let me tell you, regardless of how easy they make it seem, they live at a crazy pace.
If you are a new to Backstreet Mania, or if you just want to make sure you stay current with the news as it arrives, visit

And if you are from Quebec and want to make sure and get the best tickets possible when a new tour is announced, keep in your favourites.  Trust me, it’s going to be worth it.  The show on August 16th 2010 was INSANE.  So insane in fact that Leighann, Brian’s wife, felt the need to Tweet about the craziness of the crowd as the show was happening.  A Backstreet Boys concert isn’t an event you are going to want to skip because to quote BSB from back in 1996 while they were performing the song ‘Let’s Have a Party’ on Bouge De La: “there ain’t no party like a Backstreet Party…”

[confrontmagazine via misha_bsb]