News, Pop — August 14, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Confessions of a failed 90’s boyband

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Kevin Yee, one sixth of now defunct boyband Youth Asylum has opened up on a Reddit AMA, dishing the dirt on exploitative record label practices and giving unique insight into the harsh realities of being part of a boyband that never quite made it.

 

Looking like an advertisement for ill fitting knitwear and racial diversity, Youth Asylum were signed to Warner Borther’s offshoot label Qwest Records from 1998 – 2000. Their single ‘Jasmin’ was somewhat successful in some markets and the video became a hit on the Disney Channel. They even recorded an album produced by David Foster and Quincey Jones (yes, THAT Quincey Jones). Youth Asylum, despite their preposterous name, appeared destined for stardom.

 

They embodied the typical 90s boy band ideal, producing inoffensive tween-focused pop without the sexually charged atmosphere of much of today’s music geared at the same demographic. The video for their single ‘Jasmine’ perfectly encapsulates teen angst with montages of awkward mixed sex hugs, bro-ing out with your pals on the front steps, playing street hoops and absolutely nailing that particular brand of exaggerated posturing that only a 15 year old can pull off.

 

But they, like the thousands of boy bands that sprung up in the wake of the first wave of boy bands like N’Sync and Backstreet Boys, never reached the stratospheric heights of these acts.  Their album was never released and after three years of living together in a 2 bedroom apartment in LA, all the group had to show for their experience was memories of tours of malls and middle schools across the country and a $4000 paycheck across the course of their short lived career.

 

 

Courtesy of Kevin Yee, we reveal some of the brutal realities about life in a boy band that doesn’t quite make it:

 

How much money did you personally make from being in this band?

About $4000 over three years. I came out in debt.

 

How much control did y’all have over your personas, clothes, lyrics, etc?

Absolutely none. We were told how to talk, dress, act. I was pretty geeky when I started, but they bleached my hair, pierced my ears, and tanned me. Most of our clothes were forced on us by whatever designer was sponsoring us. Music wise we were never encouraged to write our own music since our manager did and made all of his money that way. We were also coached what to say on certain subjects if we were coming off too “(not sexy enough…etc)”.

 

Because of the circumstances that your group came together – everyone auditioning separately, you didn’t know each other – did you and the other band members get along well? Did you interact at all outside of work, so to speak? And do you still keep in touch with any of them?

We didn’t really fight but I wouldn’t say we really got along as a group. I think some of us were forced to become friends since we were living in such close quarters and there was no one else around. Very few of us were from Los Angeles (where we were based) so they rented us a two bedroom apartment where six of us and a chaperone lived. So we had to get very uncomfortably close very fast. There wasn’t really any “outside of work” since we were all in our teens and couldn’t really go anywhere unescorted. Basically, we spent three years in that apartment unless we were touring or recording. None of us have kept in touch except through Facebook… and even then I have most of them hidden from my feed ;P

 

What are boy band/groupie interactions like? Is it at all like the decadent backstage legends of 80s hair metal? Or are boy band fans all too young to hang out backstage?

Haha! 80’s HAIR METAL!!! We had a lot of really die hard groupies that would travel far to see us (did their parents drive them? I’m not sure…) and bring us random presents, make us signs, make us take millions of pictures and sign millions of things. I do think their parents enabled their behavior. Most were very respectful but screamed a lot. They were SO loud. Never underestimate the vocal chords of a teenaged girl. I did witness some of my cohorts take advantage of the situation, but personally I never did. I also think “the people taking care of us” were letting the fans get close to us, bringing them backstage and such, enabling the situation. I think they figured the happier the fans, the more money will come in. It does seem a little strange in retrospect…

 

What went wrong?

A lot! We weren’t great live because we had never worked together before we were signed… but there are a lot of boy bands who lip-sync or aren’t good live so… There were some shady music business dealings behind the scenes. Ultimately what ended us was a change at the record label. Our label was an offshoot of a larger label and they decided to shut it down. They gave our management the option to keep us, but our managers thought we could shop the album to another label. We were all sent home after a very unfair settlement and told that we’d hear from our managers when they found us a new label. It’s been 14 years and I’m still waiting for that call…