Staying power

Once upon a time, before the Jonas Brothers, when Justin Bieber was still slurping on a juice box and trying to color inside the lines, boy bands ruled supreme. You couldn't turn on "TRL" without seeing some group of hunky dudes doing choreographed dances and teenage girls having conniption fits. Eeek! We all wanna have your baby, Nick Carter!

And then there was one. The Backstreet Boys, the last boy band standing, will headline Kent’s ShoWare Center next Thursday. And last week, A.J. McLean checked in to ponder why his crew still inspires uncontrollable screaming. And puking. And not just from the haters.

I’m gonna run an idea by you that’s time might have come: Changing your name to the Backstreet Men.

People have actually asked us if we’re gonna go to Backstreet Men or just Backstreet or BSB. But we’re a brand. Backstreet Boys have been Backstreet Boys for almost 18 years. And when you look back at groups like the Pet Shop Boys, the Beastie Boys, the Oakridge Boys, the Beach Boys, they’ve kept their name and that’s who they are.

I guess if it’s good enough for the Beasties ...

Absolutely, if the Beasties can do it, Backstreet can do it.

I remember when I first covered you at the height of Backstreet mania. I don’t know if you remember this, but it was at an international meet and greet at the Tacoma Dome (in 2001) with fans from Japan and Israel crying and ...

I do remember that, actually, yes.

Do you still have that effect on fans?

Even though our fans have grown up with us and they’re a little bit older now, they still have that same reaction.

Just recently, we were in San Francisco. Nick (Carter), unfortunately, had to take care of his girlfriend. She was in the hospital, and Nick couldn’t make our sound-check party. And when the head of our fan club made the announcement, some girl went from zero to 60: tears, and then I guess she threw up. She really, really freaked out.

I was actually tweeting with this girl a couple of days ago, and she said, “I promise I’ll see you guys at your first show in Washington, and I promise at the sound-check party I won’t vomit this time.”


So, you know, I guess we still kind of have it.

During that meet and greet, there were these extreme and sometimes funny reactions. What kind of goes through your mind?

It’s very flattering. It’s very surreal still to me, personally. I still will never fully grasp the breakdown-crying thing.

I was a fan of many, many artists growing up, and for me, personally, I never met anyone and broke down crying. I got really close once when I met Paula Abdul. I was actually the head of her fan club in Florida when I was 11 years old.

Paula, huh. Have you met her since you became a big star yourself?

Yeah, actually, my very first time meeting her was on my 19th birthday. It was the first time we ever did Leno, and she was on. And yeah, my mom graciously embarrassed me.

You were a star and you still had the butterflies meeting your idol.

You know, I was definitely a little freaked out. I didn’t cry, though.

But just like with anything that gets really big, there’s always a backlash. Did that bum you guys out, or did you secretly think some of the people poking fun at you were funny?

I think it was all done brilliantly. I thought it was funny. I think if people are still talking about you, whether it’s in a joking manner or it’s in a serious manner, it keeps you relevant. And we are still current. We are still very relevant. We have been together for almost 20 years and we’re still making records. You know, we’re the only group like us that’s still around.

So in a way you’re kind of like the Pearl Jam of boy bands.

Sure, I kind of like that comparison.

But you are actually a four-piece these days. What reasons did Kevin Richardson give you for dropping out a few years back?

He was just at a point in his life where he felt like he just wanted to settle down and have a family and just be a family man. And we’re not going to hold anyone back from any dream or aspiration (they) have. We gave him our blessing. And he gave us his to continue moving on.

On a serious note, you had your own highly publicized struggles. How close did you come to leaving the group?

You know, I kind of threw it out there. I kind of threatened the guys once with it. But I was also not in the right mind frame at that point in my life. I definitely wasn’t thinking straight. That was all, obviously, the drugs and alcohol talking and me not being secure within myself and whatnot.

Having to go to rehab and all that stuff, it’s something that’s kind of traumatic. But it was well-needed and well-earned and I definitely believe that I learned a lot from it. It’s still a constant everyday struggle.

How do you balance the hectic life of a pop star with maintaining your sobriety?

Now that I’m engaged and getting married next year, my fiancée definitely helps keep me grounded, as well as my family. I’m kind of a homebody.

I kind of just try to live a normal life. I don’t really do the whole club scene. It’s just not my thing. (My fiancée is) in school right now and I’m traveling. So whenever we get a chance, we go out and have a little date night. We go out and have a nice dinner, maybe have a glass of wine and then go cut a rug on the dance floor.

Let’s talk about the live show. What should we expect?

We’ve switched it up a little bit. Instead of a band, we have a DJ (and) four female dancers. The show is pretty much nonstop music. There are no real breaks for about an hour and 45 minutes, almost two hours.

We have four films we’ve all been superimposed into that are used as a distraction when we’re doing our quick changes. For example, I do “Fight Club,” I play Brad Pitt’s character. Howie (Dorough) does “The Fast and the Furious,” Nick does “The Matrix” and Brian (Litrell) does “Enchanted,” and it looks awesome.

What’s next?

Once we wrap this tour up, we’re going back into the studio this fall and starting to make a new record. ...Yeah, we’re just gonna keep on keepin’ on.

Ernest Jasmin: 253-274-7389, ernest.jasmin@thenewstribune.com, blog.thenewstribune.com/tacomarockcity

Backstreet Boys

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Showare Center, 625 W. James St., Kent

Tickets: $29.50 to $55

Information: www.ShowareCenter.com