As difficult as it is to imagine for a generation that spent their adolescence immersed in the TRL-promoted pop of NSYNC, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, this spring – May 18 to be exact – marked the twentieth anniversary of the Backstreet Boys’ album Millennium, a record that, to this day, remains regarded as one of the most successful and seminal works of the modern boy band genre, cemented by its signature lead single, “I Want It That Way.” Whether it was arranged through some inventive PR decision-making, or just serendipitous timing, less than a week after Millennium’s 20th birthday, rising L.A. boy band PRETTYMUCH released their brand new EP, Phases.

Ever since the benevolently calculated Simon Cowell combined the individual talents of performers Brandon Arreaga, Edwin Honoret, Zion Kuwonu, Nick Mara and Austin Porter under his Syco Music umbrella in 2016, PRETTYMUCH have made quick work to become one of their genre’s breakthrough artists — writing, recording and producing numerous catchy singles like “Summer on You,” “Jello” and “Open Arms” over the past several years. Simultaneously carrying on the legacy of a group like the Backstreet Boys – providing stellar vocal harmonies and choreographed stagecraft are multigenerational – the young men of PRETTYMUCH equally look to be a part of an evolution as well.

“[It’s about] taking a normal concept of a boy band is, and stretching and pulling at that to create a new concept for people to think of when they hear the word ‘boy band,’” says Porter. Adds Kuwonu, “Someone mentioned this to us, they said, ‘I love boy bands, but you guys are something different.’ And we really took that comment and want to continue to work outside of the box.”

On the cusp of a summer headlining tour, PopCrush sat down with the band to discuss first impressions, unexpected fanaticism and maintaining a semblance of normalcy in the eye of a pop hurricane.

Where do you feel the popularity of boy bands comes from? What is it about this particular form of pop music that seems to connect with audiences?

Austin: I feel like the popularity of the boy band came from The Beatles, the way they began in the U.K. and went into America and seeing those screaming girls for the first time. I think once people saw that, there was no going back.

Edwin: Once The Beatles became “The Beatles,” I think we learned a lot about fans of groups – especially how each person may relate to someone else and [how] having a group makes it easier to find someone you can connect with.

My understanding is that you were each pursuing solo singing careers before you were grouped together as an ensemble act. Was it difficult negotiating those first impressions of one another, being relative strangers to suddenly being part of this professional undertaking?

Zion: I mean, we weren’t really doing anything too seriously solo, but I think the only reason we were all even really working on music on our own was to end up here in this group together.

Brandon: When they told us it was going to be a group, we were all super open to the idea which I think made it that much easier to work together and get in our groove. We instantly clicked, which was great.

Nick: In the beginning it definitely took a little bit to figure out everyone’s boundaries but now that we are three years in, we really get each other. The first year we would have weekly “campfire” meetings where we would come together and just talk about any frustrations from that week, and it helped us learn what each person was comfortable with and how to handle any little arguments between each other.

Are any of you in relationships? Has it been difficult approaching someone without that feeling in the back of your head of, ‘Is this real, or is this some fan wish fulfillment that doesn’t mean anything?’

Edwin: We try to keep that side of our life private. We’ve all had situations where we’ve had great relationships, and we’ve had relationships that tried to bite us. But in the end we are just focused on the group and working on music every day.

Brandon: Honestly, I’m more in love with my music than anything else right now and that’s the focus.

Zion: It can be difficult if you really think long and hard about it but we try not to let those kinds of things ruin our outlook. If you think everyone is out to get you, you won’t be able to meet new people.

Boy bands are widely known for having passionate, sometimes intense fan bases. Can you recall a moment where you suddenly realized, ‘Oh, this is so much more than I ever thought it could be.’ How did the experience wind up changing your perspective on popularity and fame?

Brandon: For me, it’s just crazy to think that anyone looks at us like I look at other famous people. But you have to kind of block that out.

Zion: I definitely think social media has changed it even more, because we share more than ever before and so when we meet fans they feel like they know us, which we love because we want to get to know our fans too and want them to get to know us. But sometimes it can be hard to find the line of what is private and what is personal.

Austin: I think the first time it really hit me was after TRL. On our way out there were fans all around our sprinter van and they started pushing on it and it was so surreal. I think the only rational way to deal with it is to make sure to never let it feed your ego. We keep each other in check, too.

Check out PRETTYMUCH's 2019 tour dates, below:

July 11, 2019 Dallas, TX -- The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory
July 13, 2019 Houston, TX -- Revention Music Center*
July 14, 2019 New Orleans, LA -- Fillmore New Orleans
July 16, 2019 Atlanta, GA -- Tabernacle
July 17, 2019 Charlotte, NC -- Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre
July 19, 2019 Washington, D.C. -- DAR Constitution Hall
July 20, 2019 Philadelphia, PA -- The Met Philadelphia
July 21, 2019 Boston, MA -- House of Blues Boston presented by Cricket Wireless
July 23, 2019 New York, NY -- Manhattan Center Hammerstein Ballroom
July 26, 2019 Toronto, ON -- REBEL
July 27, 2019 Detroit, MI -- The Fillmore Detroit presented by Cricket Wireless
July 28, 2019 Chicago, IL -- Rosemont Theatre
July 30, 2019 Grand Rapids, MI -- 20 Monroe Live
August 1, 2019 Kansas City, MO -- Uptown Theater
August 2, 2019 St. Louis, MI -- The Pageant
August 4, 2019 Denver, CO -- Fillmore Auditorium*
August 6, 2019 Phoenix, AZ -- Comerica Theatre
August 8, 2019 San Diego, CA -- Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre at SDSU
August 9, 2019 Los Angeles, CA -- Hollywood Palladium
August 11, 2019 Las Vegas, NV -- Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort
August 13, 2019 San Francisco, CA -- The Masonic
August 15, 2019 Seattle, WA -- Paramount Theatre
August 16, 2019 Vancouver, BC -- Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Albums Released in 1999

More From Mix 97.9 FM