98 Degrees on New Music, Touring, ’90s Fashion and Boy Band Mania

Of their heyday, 98 Levels bought almost 15 million information, had 4 prime 10 singles and frequently graced the covers of youngster magazines alongside the likes of ’NSync and the Backstreet Boys. Regardless of their outsize fame, Ohio natives Drew and Nick Lachey, Jeff Timmons and Justin Jeffre say they by no means took success as a right — or stopped hustling. “We name ourselves the blue-collar boy band,” shares Drew. Provides Nick, “Our mindset was at all times, ‘You may out-dance us, you may out-sing us, however you positive as hell gained’t out-work us.’ We bought found the old-school method, singing for cash and meals. I’m very pleased with how we got here up.”

Greater than 20 years later, Drew, 47, Nick, 49, Jeff, 50, and Justin, additionally 50, are nonetheless grinding. Now managed by Johnny Wright of Wright Leisure Group, they’re engaged on new music, embarking on a twenty fifth Anniversary Tour and, they inform Us completely, rerecording their masters. However as we speak, they’re higher capable of benefit from the fruits of their labor. “We’re extra relaxed,” says Jeff, the band’s founding member. “The whole lot is extra enjoyable.” The blokes sat down with Us on the Resort Covington in Covington, Kentucky, to speak about their early days, returning to the studio and their unbreakable bond.

It’s been 25 years because you guys broke out onto the scene. How thrilling is that?
DREW It’s one in every of these moments the place you need to look again. It’s like, “Has it actually been that lengthy?” In some methods, it looks as if simply yesterday that we bought collectively.

How did you initially type the band?
JEFF We began it ourselves. You didn’t have YouTube or American Idol again then. I went to L.A. with another guys, and so they dropped out. Then I used to be launched to Nick. Once I heard his voice, I used to be like, “I’ve bought to get this man out right here.” I didn’t even know what he appeared like…
DREW In any other case he by no means would’ve referred to as him!
JEFF I tricked him into popping out to L.A. I lied and stated I had a whole lot of stuff occurring though I had nothing. He introduced Justin and Drew with him, and that’s how we bought began.

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“We by no means actually considered ourselves as a boy band,” says Nick. “We simply bought swept up within the present.”
John Chapple/MEGA

Did you immediately know that you simply had one thing particular?
DREW We had one thing completely different. We satisfaction ourselves on our vocals, and we’d rehearse nonstop, only a capella and concord. It didn’t come with out a whole lot of effort and exhausting work.
NICK There are a whole lot of nice singers on the market, however it doesn’t robotically lend itself to harmonizing. So I feel when folks heard our harmonies, it was like, “Wow, OK.” It set us other than different bands that have been out making an attempt to do the identical factor.

How did you determine on the title 98 Levels?
DREW We voted on it. We wished one thing that represented the temper and tone.

Are you able to share some band names that didn’t make the lower?
JUSTIN There’s an extended checklist. Spontaneous Combustion was a private favourite.
NICK I nonetheless stand by Inertia. What did we begin out as?
JEFF It was Simply Us. First 4 was one other one.
DREW Which was horrible. [There was also] Subsequent Situation.

You had your first hit with “Invisible Man” in 1997. Did it really feel like success got here rapidly?
JEFF It felt prefer it took ceaselessly. We bought signed in ‘95 and recorded all of ’95 and ’96. We got here out in ’97, however we weren’t actually marketed. We weren’t on MTV. Our label was Motown, and so they didn’t wish to put our footage on something — they wished to maintain this mystique that we have been an R&B group. It took one other album and TRL to return out, after which that publicity occurred in ’98 and ’99.
JUSTIN When you’re signed, you notice, “Oh, that doesn’t imply you made it.” It’s nonetheless a whole lot of work forward.

What was the second if you felt such as you’d lastly made it?
NICK We have been in Asia touring, and I vividly keep in mind I used to be within the hallway of our resort, and Jeff got here out and stated, “‘Due to You’ simply went High 10.”
DREW Then you definitely’re like, “Alright, are we going to be a one-hit surprise?” So you need to proceed grinding and selling.
NICK We didn’t have the best street. We weren’t put collectively by some magical man placing items in.

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“We felt strain amongst one another simply to make it,” says Jeff. “We have been fairly exhausting on one another.”
John Chapple/MEGA

There have been a whole lot of boy bands vying to be No. 1. Did you’re feeling any rivalry with them?
JEFF We thought we have been extra of an R&B vocal group. To not disparage these bands — we love them, we have been pals with all of them — however we thought we have been completely different. As soon as the media began saying, “Nicely, you’re like Backstreet Boys and ’N Sync,” then we have been like, “Oh, do we have to begin dancing extra?”
NICK It was a blessing and a curse. There was a lot momentum behind the boy band craze, and it was good to get caught up in that, however it additionally precipitated strain.

To attain a sure degree of success?
DREW There was this fully unattainable bar that was set. Individuals don’t come out and promote 2 million information within the first week — that’s an anomaly.
JEFF There was an article about how our subsequent report was about to return out after Britney [Spears] and Backstreet Boys and ’N Sync consecutively broke information, and it stated 98 Levels is ready to do it subsequent. Sadly, we solely bought 536,000 information within the first week, and it was an enormous disappointment.
DREW At this level, we’ve a greater perspective on all of it. We benefit from the second extra. We put out tasks we’re proud of, and no matter occurs with them, occurs.

Which tune are you most pleased with?
NICK “Invisible Man” will at all times have a particular place in my coronary heart. It brings again recollections of calling the radio station as you’re driving your motorhome down the freeway, requesting your individual tune.
JEFF They’d name you out. “Is that this 98 Levels?” I hung up the cellphone instantly. “Due to You” can be a great one. As soon as that took off, we have been in every single place.

What was that like — being thrust into the highlight?
It was superior but additionally overwhelming. I kicked a gap in a wall at one venue as a result of I used to be so annoyed. I needed to pay for the repairs!

Did you all hold one another in examine?
NICK You turn out to be a brotherhood in all the perfect methods — and typically not the perfect methods. You lean on one another. To have my very own brother within the band was very cool for me — he may say it wasn’t for him [laughs] — however it’s enjoyable to undergo it collectively. Getting chased out of a mall within the Philippines — if you happen to have been by your self, it wouldn’t be almost as a lot enjoyable.

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Clockwise: Nick Lachey, Drew Lachey, Justin Jeffre, Jeff Timmons
John Chapple/MEGA (4)

Any main fights by the years?
DREW [Most] of our disagreements have been about which tune must be a single or which deal to signal. It wasn’t like, “Oh, you stole cash from me.”
NICK There was the Kinder egg incident.
JEFF We have been in Germany. I used to be bored. At each cease, I’d get Kinder eggs — these chocolate eggs with a prize in them. I used to be opening them and taking part in with the prizes, however not consuming the chocolate. It was super-annoying to the blokes — chocolate and wrappers in every single place. They saved stepping on them. They wished to kill me.
NICK If something, we’re responsible of being too good to one another. We most likely may’ve used a number of extra air-the-dirty-laundry fights.

What led to your 2002 hiatus?
JUSTIN We’d simply been on the street for thus lengthy. We have been able to have extra of our personal lives outdoors of the group.
What introduced you again collectively?
DREW We had a possibility to return out on the street with New Youngsters on the Block and Boyz II Males. That was the nudge we would have liked.

Do you guys ever watch your outdated music movies?
DREW I went again earlier than this new run of exhibits. There have been moments once I was like, “Oh, my God, I forgot that occurred!” We’ve got youngsters who’re sufficiently old to know it. They’re like, “What was that?” Nicely, youngsters, this can be a VCR with a VHS tape. [Laughs.] It’s enjoyable to stroll down reminiscence lane.

Any regrettable trend moments?
So many to select from. It was unhealthy pores and skin, unhealthy outfits, a whole lot of unhealthy hair. It was simply a whole lot of unhealthy decisions.

Do your youngsters take heed to your music?
DREW They don’t take heed to it in any respect. For probably the most half, It’s different those that I work with who’re of that age that search for the movies on YouTube and suppose it’s enjoyable. My youngsters are similar to, “Oh my God, what number of live shows do we’ve to sit down by?”
NICK My youngsters hate once I sing.
JEFF My youngsters prefer it a bit, however they’re over it — they’ve been to too many live shows. They like Little Uzi Vert or no matter.

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“It ranks up there as one in every of our worst trend moments,” Drew says about their seems on the 1998 Mulan premiere.
Frank Trapper/Corbis through Getty Pictures

Justin, are you continue to dwelling the bachelor life?
JUSTIN My girlfriend has a son, so it feels a bit like there’s a fatherly function — however thankfully, it’s extra like I get to be the cool dad.

How’s it being again on the street?
DREW We’ve got a unique tackle touring now. It’s about [figuring out] what period of time we really feel snug being away and the way we will route the tour so we will deliver our households.

Who forgets the lyrics most if you’re performing?
DREW Nick. In his protection, he has probably the most lyrics to sing!
NICK However I’ll at all times sing one thing! I’ll improvise. It is probably not the precise lyric, and our followers will name me out, however it’s proof we’re singing reside.

How do your wives really feel about you being on tour?
DREW They’re like, “Go, bye!” [Laughs.] They’re supportive. There are moments our households prefer to be part of, and people are the moments you actually maintain on to.

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We’ve all grown and developed and altered and challenged ourselves,” says Drew. “So we’re bringing new ability units into the group now.”
John Chapple/MEGA

Inform Us about your new music.
JEFF We’ve tried a number of issues which may not have been our lane. And also you see these various things, and the evolution of music. The brand new music has new sounds in it, however I feel the inspiration is our outdated stuff.
DREW Yeah, we sing love songs. In the end, that’s what we do. That’s what we’re most snug with, and that’s what we’re finest doing.
JEFF My spouse is a boy band fan now. Sadly she’s extra of a New Youngsters On The Block fan, however that’s a great take a look at market. So I’ll run songs by her and he or she’ll say yay or nay.

You’re rerecording songs as effectively.
JEFF File corporations historically do offers the place they take percentages of the whole lot. Ours, EX1, is partnering with us and permitting us to personal elements of our masters, and we’re re-recording a few of our outdated hits. It’s thrilling.

All of you might be engaged on solo tasks as effectively throughout leisure and enterprise.
DREW We’re all exploring different alternatives. Previously [being in the band] was all-consuming. We realized that you need to produce other issues that encourage you and transfer you outdoors of simply this group. So yeah, we’re all hustling on our personal too.

What do you love to do if you’re not working?
DREW I’ve a facet enterprise with my spouse. And my son and daughter are part of that as effectively.
JEFF Simply regular dad stuff. Once you do that for thus lengthy, that’s type of our trip — attending to be with your loved ones and experiencing sports activities and choir and cheerleading.
NICK My favourite factor to do with my youngsters is taking them to high school. It’s simply the stuff you discuss, the conversations that come up, the laughing, the music.

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“So many mother and father inform us they have been completely satisfied to have music that they didn’t really feel awkward listening to within the automotive,” shares Justin.
John Chapple/MEGA

There’s a rumor that the Tremendous Bowl halftime present will characteristic a bunch of boy bands — 98 Levels, Backstreet Boys, Boyz II Males. Would you be up for that?
We’d love for that to occur.

Boy bands are having a resurgence. Why do you suppose followers hold coming again for extra?
DREW I feel it’s simply going again to an easier time. The music was enjoyable. The world appeared a bit safer and fewer divided, and the exhibits are upbeat and energetic and produce pleasure to folks.

What do you hope your legacy can be?
JEFF Our fame and our work ethic — in addition to the music — these are the important thing issues.
DREW We’ve at all times tried to deal with folks effectively. We went by this business, and we took our lumps, however we did it with dignity and respect.
JUSTIN Many mother and father discuss how they have been simply completely satisfied to have music that they didn’t really feel awkward listening to in the home and within the automotive, so I feel that we’re pleased with that.

You’ve bought the brand new tour, a brand new label and new music. What else do you hope to perform collectively?
DREW We wish to do music and a present we’re pleased with and simply admire the experience.
NICK If we begin sucking, we’ll be like, “OK, guys. it’s time to hold it up.” However so long as we nonetheless really feel like we will have enjoyable with it and be good at it, why cease?