Interview: JLS — "I'm wearing a Michael Jackson t-shirt as we speak…"
Tue, 25 May 2010 08:07:42
JLS take pop into outer space.
The English quartet has got a Boyz II Men style swagger mixed with an old school R&B soul, however, each and every track they croon out feels decidedly fresh and fiery. Their new U.S. single, "Everybody In Love," explodes with an energetic hook that could get asses shaking from Belize to Baltimore.
JLS's Oritsé Williams sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about "Everybody In Love," the records that shaped him, an odd kiss and the time Stevie Wonder threatened to kick his ass…
It feels like JLS is making "Futuristic pop." Would you say that's an apt description?
I put the band together three years ago. My vision was to take a member of each of the best boy bands and put them in one group so you have a mixture of different flavors and a very exciting chemistry. I think that definitely comes out in our music because we're influenced by so many artists as well as drawing from many different backgrounds. I think that's why our music is so diverse and might explain the vibe for moving pop music forward in the way we're doing it.
Do you feel like each voice gets to come through in its own right?
Yeah! My vision for the band was I wanted it to be exciting for people so no singer was exactly the same. If you get bored of one, another person can step forward. Different songs require different styles of vocals. We've put that in the band, and that's why it's exciting. An audience wants to get to know every single member of the band and they might appeal to one member more than another for different reasons—whether you fancy them, you really like the fashion sense or if you're really in tune with their life story and inspired by them. It doesn't really matter what it is. Having four members in our band makes things a lot more interesting and exciting.
What's the story behind "Everybody In Love?"
That's the first video we ever did in America. We shot that video in L.A. The first time we heard the song was on our band mate Marvin's birthday. Epic Records gave us the song as a present for his birthday. As soon as we heard it, we fell in love with it. People think that "Everybody In Love" is just about your relationship, and it's not. You can be in love with your brother, your mother, your dad, your aunt or your sister as well as your girlfriend or boyfriend or whoever it may be. That's why it's called "Everybody In Love." A funny thing happened to me on the video shoot. I was first up to film my shot of the day. I'd never had a video girl before in any of our music videos, and this girl had never been in a music video before. We sat down, the cameras were rolling and the music was playing. Somehow, we looked at each other and we shared a kiss, which was pretty funny [Laughs]. The whole studio went absolutely crazy like, "Oh my God, they kissed!" It was mental! When they put the music back on, it happened a second time! I definitely realized that we couldn't put it in the video, but it was hilarious. For a few seconds, I fell in love there. The song was produced by J.R. Rotem and written by Wayne Hector, and it's got that signature J.R. Rotem sound.
Have you been particularly surprised by the fervent response to the song in the U.S.?
We had our first experience of American fans singing our song, when we actually came from the airport in L.A. That was incredible! We did a show at Wango Tango, where everyone was singing along to the song. It's obviously getting some great radio airplay and it's really starting to pick up.
How's the full-length coming along?
We've been writing some great songs. America is going to get the best of JLS's music. We're going to take the best of the first album and the best of the second album and merge it all together for one super album for America. We don't know a release date yet.
Does American pop have a different vibe from the UK?
It's very different. Obviously in England there's a very European sound. It's interesting though because Americans are really embracing a lot of UK pop music right now. Jay Sean had a big number one hit with "Down." Taio Cruz had a big number one hit with "Break Your Heart." So many artists are coming over here, and it seems that things are merging together. It's an amazing for us to be here right now. We just want to come to America and show everybody what we've got. We came from this show called The X-Factor which is like your American Idol. We were runners-up on that show. Being on Simon Cowell's show, we got a lot of exposure.
What records do you always come back to?
I love Michael Jackson's Off the Wall. I'm wearing a Michael Jackson t-shirt as we speak. I love Usher's Confessions—that album is simply incredible for me. Justin Timberlake's Futuresex/Lovesounds is crazy. I love Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life and The Best of Tina Turner, Temptations, Jackson Five—I love everything.
Have you gotten to meet any of your idols yet?
We were at Heathrow Airport in London when we were coming to America. We were eating breakfast and we were debating who the best male singer is. All of the boys were convinced it was Bryan McKnight or this or that. I was like, "Hands down, it's Stevie Wonder. There's no question or doubt." Literally ten seconds after we had this discussion, we walked out of the breakfast area into the lounge and Stevie Wonder was sitting there! We couldn't believe it! I walked up to him and I was like, "Stevie, I was just speaking about you five seconds ago, literally!" We started talking and he seemed to know who we are which is incredible. I asked him, "Stevie, can I get your number so we can stay in touch?" He said, "Look man, I'm going to give you my number, but if you give it out I'm going to kick your ass!" [Laughs] Stevie Wonder telling me to kick my ass is incredible. If somebody had to do it, it'd be Stevie.
Have you heard "Everybody In Love" yet?