People: Lance Bass Says He Was Surprised *NSYNC Fandom ‘Would Go This Nuts’ Over Reunion — and Blames Taylor Swift

Lance Bass is blaming Taylor Swift for the positive reaction to *NSYNC reuniting at the 2023 MTV VMAs.

Speaking to Entertainment Tonight at iHeartRadio Musical Festival in Las Vegas on Friday, Bass, 44, spoke about the fan reaction to the band coming together again.

“It is beautiful, you know? To be this age and the fans are still this excited, it is a dream come true,” he said. “I had no idea the fandom would go this nuts.”

“I blame Taylor Swift,” Bass jokingly added in his conversation with ET, laughing. “I think she sicced the Swifties on us and I think the Swifties and the *NSYNCers just kind of created this tsunami.”

“And I think it’s been so fun!” he said.

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ET Canada: Lance Bass Says There Were Many ‘Tears’ When *NSYNC Reunited

The NSYNC singer and pop star spoke with ET at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas on Friday.

After coming together once again at the 2023 MTV VMAs, Lance Bass is still in awe of how special it felt to reunite with his *NSYNC bandmates on stage, to the massive cheer of the crowd.

Bass walked the red carpet on night one of this year’s iHeartRadio Music Festival on Friday, and he spoke with ET’s Cassie DiLaura about the unforgettable experience of joining together at the VMAs.

“It is beautiful, you know? To be this age and the fans are still this excited, it is a dream come true,” Bass shared with a smile. “I had no idea the fandom would go this nuts.”

“I blame Taylor Swift,” he added with a laugh, in reference to how the group’s reunion culminated in presenting a star-struck Swift with the award for Best Pop Video. “I think she she sicced the Swifties on us and I think the Swifties and the *NSYNCers just kind of created this tsunami. And I think it’s been so fun!”

Bass was joined on stage by bandmates JC Chasez, Joey Fatone, Justin Timberlake and Chris Kirkpatrick when they handed Swift her award, and the celebrated songstress couldn’t contain her excitement as being near the pop icons.

“I’m not doing well pivoting from this to this,” Swift said of her award, telling the group. “I have your dolls! You’re pop personified, so to receive this from your golden pop hands is really too much”

And the singer spoke for *NSYNC fans everywhere when she speculated what the reunion might mean for the group’s future: “They’re gonna do something and I need to know what it is!”

Although, despite the public outcry, Bass says there’s no definitive plans for a reunion tour or special as of now.

“I’ve been telling the fans, like, we don’t have solid plans right now. Because, you know, we’re waiting for the strike to end we’ve got things to do,” Bass said. “But [the fans are] definitely shaping our future.”

That being said, the group did recently record their first original song in over 20 years, “Better Place,” for the upcoming soundtrack for the upcoming animated film “Trolls Band Together” — the third film in the “Trolls” franchise, which featured the voice acting talents of Timberlake himself.

Earlier this month, Timberlake took to Instagram and gave his followers a behind-the-scenes look at the studio session in which they laid down the track.

“It was pretty emotional, the first time we all got in the studio together,” Bass recalled of the recording session. “Back in March, we decided to you know, get back together and have some fun and it was like no [time] had passed.”

“But there was there was a lot of tears. It was just tears of joy. And it was just a beautiful moment,” he continued. “Like, time does so much and for us to finally be together, it just feels right.”

Fans will get a chance to listen to the group’s song when it drops on Sept. 29, well ahead of the release of “Trolls Band Together” on Nov. 17. Check out the video below to hear more about the band’s recent reunion.

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Watch Tim McGraw Reunite With Lance Bass — And Listen To What They Said

Watch Tim McGraw Reunite With Lance Bass — And Listen To What They Said

By Kelly Fisher

September 23, 2023

Photo: Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images for iHeartRadio

Tim McGraw reunited with Lance Bass before taking the stage at the 2023 iHeartRadio Music Festival on Friday night (September 22), and the superstar duo seemingly confirmed they’d be open to collaborating.

“My man! How are you, brother? Good to see you,” McGraw greeted Bass as the two beloved artists embraced in a hug. The reunion comes shortly after McGraw shared a throwback clip of a performance with *NSYNC — which included Bass, along with Justin TimberlakeJC ChasezJoey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick. McGraw teamed up with the beloved 90s band for a rendition of “Stand By Me” in 2001.

McGraw said when he shared the video (one day after *NSYNC reunited on stage at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards) that “if the rumors [of an *NSYNC reunion] are true,” he’s interested in joining forces with the band again.

Bass appeared to be on board with that when he embraced McGraw on Night 1 of the 2023 iHeartRadio Music Festival, shortly before McGraw took the stage. The “Standing Room Only” star said “I’m ready.”

Bass spoke about the response to *NSYNC’s VMAs reunion with iHeartRadio’s Emily Curl, saying it’s been “crazy” and “we did not expect the fandom to go that nuts. We just want to let the fans know that they are shaping our future, for sure. So, keep it going!”

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NSYNC’s JC Chasez Talks Meow Mix Commercial and Ryan Gosling’s ‘Barbie’ Movie

You’ve cat you be kitten me right meow! In this exclusive interview, NSYNC’S JC Chasez discusses his brand new Meow Mix commercial with The Knockturnal‘s Kinsey Schofield. This boy band-inspired campaign was executed by Publicis’ PS One and creatively led by BBH US.

Kinsey Schofield: JC, 90s boybands are culturally iconic now. Even celebrated in a Meow Mix commercial! What was your first reaction to the Tabby 5 concept?

JC Chasez: I loved it. You know, I’ve been offered… obviously, boy bands have been around forever and people are trying to find ways to market with boy bands and things like that… but it just never interested me. I don’t hop on a lot of things unless it’s something that I find genuinely interesting. This concept came about, it piqued my interest because it was different, you know what I mean? It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, you’re in a boy band.’ It’s like, ‘No, we’re gonna have dancing cats!’ *laugh* I was like, ‘Okay, where do I fit in?’ And they were like, ‘Actually, let us play the song.’ And I was like, ‘Oh!’ *excited*

They took the Meow Mix song and straight up remixed it, 90s style, like 2K, and that’s when I was all in! I was like, ‘Okay, it has the sound!’ We have straight-up dancing cats! I’m all in. So, the Tabby 5 and Tyler Snuggles became my guy. I loved it. Again, to do something that’s ordinary is fine, but to do something a little left of center, that’s why I was more interested in this than the other offers that have obviously come across before.

KS: I read that you did a lot of your work with Meow Mix in the UK. What was the process like?

JC: Well, look, the United Kingdom has some great filming facilities. But it was just a matter of, that’s where they had a production team and it was a European director. I go over there all the time, by the way, to work with different people. They said it’d be best if we just did it over here because we have a team over here, the director’s over here, you know, instead of piling the entire production and bringing it stateside, it’s easier to just bring talent in, you know, it’s one or two people.

KS: Have you seen the commercial yet? Did it put a smile on your face?

JC: Yeah! Well, when we were working on set, I had an idea of what it is, but you don’t know what it’s gonna look like until you see it, right? They were sending it to me in stages. They sent me the rough, and so you would still see the sticks on the cat paws and stuff like that. But that’s the charm of it, right? But yeah, the commercial’s cute. Again, what I like about it is the song! The song itself. Meow Meow, it’s iconic, right? So we’re so glad we get that but then we got the 90s remix on it, and they went all the way, the high note, you know, which… I’ve done in my day… which was really cute. And to see it all put together, yeah, it’s a cute commercial. It’s a bit of fun. It’s a bit of silliness, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

It’s just having fun. You know? We have fun with our, our animals, our pets, our pet friends. We have fun with them. And they took that point of view and said, ‘Let’s have fun with people who love their animals, who love their pets, and let’s just make a fun commercial.’

KS: I love it. Yeah, I watched it several times. It’s like a Super Bowl commercial.

JC: Oh, man, you had the wind machine going! *laugh* I was giving hands and angles. And the director was really sweet, by the way, everybody was really sweet. Everybody that I worked with on this project was lovely. I have to say, the people they brought around this campaign – just a wonderful group of people. The Meox Mix people did it the absolute right way.

KS: Some of these boyband documentaries boil the success of the bands down to types… bad boy… baby face… if it was as simple as this mythical formula… wouldn’t we have an NSYNC type today and always?

JC: I don’t know if the type is as important as… for me… talent first, right? Once you have the talent, you identify the personality. That’s going to shine naturally. But you have to have something to lean on first and that’s why some will make more noise than others. The ones that make more noise obviously have a bit more talent. I would say talent first and then the stories tell themselves. But you have to have something there to work with in the first place.

KS: Do you have a favorite NSYNC moment? Was it getting the call that you were opening up for Janet Jackson? Was it the Super Bowl halftime show? Was it something we didn’t see… like being recognized or a tour overseas?

JC: It’s not one moment, right? There were a lot of great moments that I love and appreciate. The thing that resonates with me years later… it’s a feeling. It’s a feeling that you would get, that win, you know, when you felt like you did something. That was a great feeling. I don’t think it was any one moment. It’s hard to describe. It’s just a feeling. When you feel like you did something well. It could be in the studio when you feel like, ‘Oh, we’ve got a song here!’ Or when it’s a performance and you go, ‘Oh, we got ’em!’ You know, when you’re on stage and you realize that you have them? In the early shows, for us, it was always a proving ground. When we were unknowns, ‘Who are these people? What are they? What are they doing here? Who’s next?’ And then by the second or third song… they didn’t know they liked you until they saw you, and then you kind of, you pulled them in. I think the feeling of winning the audience is the greatest feeling.

KS: Was there ever really beef between the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC or were we all just fighting on the playground over an urban legend?

JC: Every individual is different. I can’t generalize because everybody will have a different point of view. I never had any animosity toward anyone. But, you know, if another band came out with a good song, I wanted to come out with a good song. If they had a good performance, I wanted to have a great performance. I’m not saying I want it to be better than anybody, but it would definitely motivate me if I saw somebody do something well. I was like, ‘Oh, I gotta dig deep.’ I think that’s a great and healthy thing.

KS: You’ve always seemed to have such a grateful heart about your success. Do you wish you would have done anything differently?

JC: I’ve been on television like basically since I was like 12 or 13, and I’m, you know, I’m getting up there now. I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t change a thing. My life is my life. I wouldn’t swap it for anybody. Like, of course, there are hard lessons in there and you don’t wanna go through those painful experiences, but honestly, without those painful experiences, I wouldn’t come out the way I did.

KS: What is the wildest or funniest meme you’ve ever seen about NSYNC or yourself?

JC: The band? I don’t know. Like, look, to be honest with you, my friends and the people that I run around with… they show me [stuff.] I don’t actually pay too much attention. So, it usually has to be shown to me by someone else… and they’ll go, ‘Have you seen this? Have you seen this?’ And I’ll usually be clueless about something. In general, every now and then, there’s something that pops up. But nothing comes to mind.

KS: I guess if you’re not active on social media… it’s not like when it becomes the middle of April… you just know that you’re about to be hit with…

JC: You’re gonna be MAY’d. *laughs*

KS: Exactly. What are you currently singing at the top of your lungs in the car or living room with your pets? What are you listening to?

JC: I mean, with my pets, I would be blasting the Meow Mix song. Real talk: Tabby 5. In the car, it’s gonna sound really lame, I’m constantly flipping channels. I mean, I flip between, maybe 10 or 15 different channels. But lately, I’ve been on a big classical kick… a ton of Beethoven right now.

KS: You autographed my Mickey Mouse Club cd years ago! Are you excited to see Ryan Gosling as Ken?

JC: This is actually… so this is fun! When you’re in the business long enough… you can see things come full circle, right? So obviously, you know, in my youth I worked with Ryan on The Mouse Club, right? Sweet, sweetest guy. And later, before he broke as a movie star, he was playing clubs in LA with his guitar. We would go support him and make sure that there were crowds to see him in the bars where he was singing at. Now he’s made this Barbie film… as it turns out, when NSYNC started in the early days and we were signed to a German label… one of the bands that we befriended… because we would see them at a lot of these radio shows in Europe… was the band Aqua! *laughs*

We became friendly with that band because we were just always running into them at gigs! So now to see that band have a resurgence and see those two worlds collide, has been kind of surreal! I’m kind of like, ‘Oh, wow, this part of my life is mixing with this part of my life!’ They both had nothing to do with each other and now they’re colliding and I’m happy about both! I’m happy that their song is giving them a resurgence and I’m loving the fact that – by the way – I love the fact that Ryan and Margot [Margot Robbie] have taken on these roles. You know? I don’t know if anyone would originally think, ‘What I would like to play?’ These actors saw the challenge and attacked it. And I love that.

That’s been one of the things that I’ve enjoyed… seeing Ryan’s career evolve. He’s made films in every kind of genre, which is lovely. The guy’s made musicals, he’s made dramas, he’s made comedies. When I see these roles that he and Margot have taken on… I think it’s a really interesting project. I just don’t think that anybody could do this. And that he jumped in and did it… I love it. I think it’s great. You gotta challenge yourself. And he’s obviously doing that.

KS: No, you’re absolutely right. It takes courage. And that is exciting to see. All right, JC. I think my time with you is up, but I just wanted to say you’re such a blessing and thank you for making my childhood so happy and sweet!

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JC Chasez Has Been Busy Writing Two Musicals — and Dancing with Cats (Exclusive)

JC Chasez knows it’s been a minute since fans have seen him, but that’s about to change thanks to a group of dancing cats.

“A lot of people haven’t seen me in a while,” Chasez, 46, tells PEOPLE over Zoom. “I don’t put my name on a lot of things and that’s for a reason. If I don’t see any sense in it, I don’t really mess with it. But if it looks fun, and if I’m into it, I do it.”

But, luckily for those who have been waiting on the *NSYNC alum’s next move, there are two things in particular that have felt worthwhile enough for him to be part of as of late — a pair of musicals he’s been workshopping over the past few years, and a band. But it’s not the band you might be thinking of. 

Chasez has teamed up with Meow Mix (with a campaign from Publicis’ PS One and creatively led by BBH US) for a new ad promoting wet cat food, where he joins forces with the Tabby 5 — a group of performing cats that take him right back to his boyband roots. 

“A million people can say, ‘Hey, we got this idea and it’s a boy band.’ And you’re like, ‘Yes, I’ve heard that before. Yes, I’ve heard that before.’ But when they go, ‘Listen, we have a boy band made of cats and the cats are going to be dancing.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, let’s do that,’ he laughs.

With a pair of musicals in his back pocket, the exclusive tease of a potential concept album for one of them, and another project he can’t say too much about coming in the near future, Chasez is opening up to PEOPLE about all that’s happening in his world — and the five dancing felines that are helping him sell some cat chow.

Were you impressed by the execution of the ad?

What I loved about it is they were just having fun with it. Again, that’s the whole reason for doing it. You get a million offers that say, ‘Hey, let’s do a boy band. Let’s do a boy band.’ And you’re like, ‘I’ve seen that 1,000 times.’ So the fact that they straight up had this kind of thing going on, I just loved it. I like when people have fun with it and they did, they created a great environment. The idea was fun, and I had a blast doing it.

I know you had a cat growing up. What’s your favorite memory being a cat owner?

Well, I mean, look, I’ve had a couple of cats. My first cat, she was named Muffy, and my family always rescues, so when we first got her, she was a little bit standoffish. And then it’s those moments where you have those breakthroughs where they finally warm up to you, those are always going to be the best memories lying on the couch and watching TV or something, and all of a sudden after being very distant, you have that breakthrough and the cat comes over and it’s like, ‘Yeah, we’re cool now. Oh, this is the love, man.’

This ad spot looks like something you could’ve danced along with yourself. Did it give you any flashbacks — pointing at a camera, mouthing the words? 

Being with the director, he’s basically like, ‘Give me that.’ He just was full on, ‘We just need you to channel that.’ So we did a trillion takes, and it’s very handy. But again, that was the fun part about it. The first time I heard the track, I think that struck me. It was like, we’ve been working on this, and the imagery I love, it’s funny, it’s great. It’s a little bit wacky, and that is fun, but the first time I heard the track, I was like, ‘Wow.’ The sound is the [time] period, right? The sound takes you there instantly, exactly where you are when you hear that production, and that’s what was fun to hear. It’s like, ‘Oh, it’s now a thing. This is a moment in time that everyone can feel.’ Without seeing it, you can hear it. And that I was like, ‘Oh, it’s identifiable.’ And it was fun.

It’s cool to see you part of this ad, because so much of your career recently has been behind-the-scenes, grinding, working on these musicals. You spoke with Lance Bass about it on his Frosted Tips podcast, but could you give a teaser of how things are going in that process?

Well, it’s funny you say that. So I’ve got two of them kind of working at the same time and met with a director last night for one of them who is trying to organize a reading for that. Last Friday we cut the last vocal for the other one, because there’s different characters, and in order to hear everything, I demoed everything. I’m demoing all the characters originally, but you can’t really hear what’s going on when it’s one voice singing every part. So had some other singers come in and got the last vocal put down on Friday for one of the characters.

So now what we’re thinking about doing is we might, I don’t know yet. We’ll see. We were just going to shop it and say, ‘Hey, this is a musical,’ but we might actually put together a concept record we’re talking about. Because once we got the last record, once we got the last vocal done, we were like, ‘I mean, this is kind of a record, so should we?’ Originally it was for shopping purposes, but now we might actually let more people hear. We’ll see.

Do you have a timeline or is it more of a long-term goal?

When I first signed on, I was under the naïveté that it would be like an album cycle. That’s not at all what it is, apparently. It’s a long haul, but that doesn’t bother me at all. Again, that’s just work, which is fine. And the fun part is you just keep creating, because even with these pieces, they’re not done. They’re just at this stage, and the fun part is they’ll get better. But as far as going the distance, I’m going the distance, I’ve gone this far, I’m going all the way.

PEOPLE published the 25th anniversary retrospective on the *NSYNC U.S. debut earlier this year, and the amount of feedback we got about you, and fans who just wanted to hear you sing the alphabet, was incredible. I know right now you’re on this musical grind, but do you ever find yourself working on music just for you still?

Well, right now it’s been all musicals. There are two other things that are going to actually, well, I don’t know if both will come out. I know one’s going to come out. There’s going to be something that comes out in the very near future that has my voice on it which will be fun, but I’m not supposed to talk about that yet.

With all the time that’s passed, could you see a sophomore album in your eventual future? 

I don’t know. It honestly hasn’t crossed my mind. It’s kind of like when you commit to something, you’re so focused on that, you know what I mean? That’s the reality of it. Any job you take on, I commit. I’m all the way in. And so with these musicals, my voice is on them. My voice is going to be one of the characters. So it will live on some level. My voice will be on something, but it won’t be the traditional sounding thing.

Now the new project will have more of a modern sound, but again, it’s just not something I haven’t thought of, to be honest with you. Everybody asks me, ‘What are you working on? We need to hear you sing. We need to do you sing.’ It’s funny. And maybe it’s a horrible thing. People take things for granted. My favorite thing is to create. I could care less about hearing myself. What’s more important to me is putting something out there in the world. Just making something is more important to me.

What have you discovered about yourself in the process of making these musicals?

It’s just a different world. And it’s funny because when I first started, I had a preconceived notion about it, about the way it was supposed to sound, and the things that bothered me about it, and the things that I loved about it. They both softened in the process. It gave me a whole new respect for the kind of people that invest in this, because theater, as it turns out, is a very thankless job on some levels. There are some very smart storytellers and people out there are grinding, and they’re not getting nearly the recognition. I mean, they’re playing eight nights a week or eight shows a week, and they’re benefiting, don’t get me wrong. But in comparison to maybe another gig where they’d be playing eight nights a week, the compensation isn’t the same.

There’s been a lot of love for *NSYNC in hip-hop recently. JID, Post Malone and Jack Harlow all reference you. There’s even the “Sailing” sample on Drake’s “TSU.” Do you have a favorite *NSYNC sample or reference in recent years?

So when I was in my youth and when we were touring and working and things like that, I actually ended up befriending people that were part of the J Dilla camp. He turned out to be a really sweet human being and a relentlessly hard worker. The amount of material that he would just crank out and crank out and crank out, I think he ended up being… It was an honor to just be in that circle for a minute. And we weren’t tight or anything like that, but just by approximation and a little bit of interaction, to be accepted in that circle for a little while was an honor.

What were your conversations with him like?

Honestly, it was always music, right? He would just load up a bajillion tracks on cassettes because he didn’t want anybody getting a clean copy so he could make these, I mean, I guess it’s the reference now, the mixtape. You just go, ‘Hey, these are beat beats, beats, beats, beats. Which one do you like, is there anything that strikes you?’ And that was the way of doing business back then. But he used to do call-outs and he did on all his kind-of mixtape samples. Just because we were talking at the time, working together. He did a call-out for *NSYNC, which was really sweet of him.

Another *NSYNC history question, there’s this community online called the Lost Media Community and they keep track of missing pieces of media. The Bigger Than Life IMAX concert film being one of them. It came out in 2001 and has apparently not been released or seen since. For the niche group of fans that are searching, do you have a copy of this film? 

I don’t know. The issue is everything I have that is from the band or whatever, it’s literally just in boxes. It’s somewhere. I’m sure that was a ton of work, by the way, because everybody thinks you just do the performance and that’s the end of it. And that’s only one aspect of it. Assembling the team to do it, and then preparing for it. And then the aftermath of after you have it in the can, now you have to mix it. But it’s a special kind of mix. It’s not a stereo mix. You’re mixing IMAX. There’s a bajillion speakers in there. So finding the balance between the instruments of five voices and the audience noise and the chaos. Mixing a concert record in IMAX is a lot of work. And I remember sitting in the IMAX room working on the mix and just going, how are we going to make this make sense? And look, everybody does it. It’s just a lot of work. But it’s more work than you think, by the way.

What are you most excited for in the year to come?

When I work on a project like this, or the project come out later, I’m one of those people, I’m stubborn. I only do the things that I want to do. And I know that sounds nuts because everybody’s like, ‘Do it all.’ But I’m just not a do it all kind of person. I only do the things that I think are kind of fun or are interesting to me.

Shoutout to Brenton for being their “official *NSYNC reporter” and always giving us the great content.

Source: https://people.com/jc-chasez-meow-mix-interview-exclusive-7560986?utm_campaign=peoplemagazine&utm_content=new&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_term=64b68a05add63d0001d4673a

JC Chasez Talks Joining a Cat Boy Band for Meow Mix & Reveals Why He’s the Least Active in the *NSYNC Group Chat

Besides being a beloved pop icon, JC Chasez is also a lifelong animal lover.

That’s why teaming up with Meow Mix was a natural fit for the *NSYNC superstar. In a new advertisement for the cat food brand, Chasez joined a different kind of boy band — full of cats. The group brings back all the 90s nostalgia by transforming Meow Mix’s original 1980 jingle into a perfectly harmonized, quintessential boy band pop hit.

In the commercial clip, the five-piece furry group (a.k.a. The Tabby Five) performs sleek choreography while dressed in coordinating denim and all-white outfits. Chasez comes in halfway through the jingle to belt out some serious “meow, meow, meow” ad libs.

“I was made to host The Tabby Five,” Chasez tells Billboard with a laugh. “I grew up with cats — and dogs to be fair. I’m an animal lover in general. So, I loved the Meow Mix idea. Of course, there’s a lot of 90s Nostalgia going on right now, so putting a 90s spin on the longtime jingle was so fun.”

The star also gushed over how “cute” the final product is. “It’s so good. It’s the sound, right? You automatically go back to that era. They they nailed the sound of the era.”

“Thanks to the brilliant Meow ReMix creative from incredible agency and brand partners in Publicis, BBH, and JMS, BCL Entertainment knew that the talent had to be legendary,” Bettie Levy, talent producer of the campaign and founder and CEO of BCL Entertainment, said of the new collaboration in a press statement.  “Beyond JC being part of one of the most iconic boy bands of all time, his interest in engaging in and contributing to unique campaigns made this partnership so natural and authentic.”

“We couldn’t be more excited to release the latest installment of our Meow ReMix campaign” added Peter Defries, GCD of BBH USA. “When we were tasked with launching the wet-food range, there was only one genre that could really bring it to life – the rain-soaked boybands of the 90s. And when JC Chasez came on board, we knew we were sitting on another hit.”

Our latest campaign honors Meow Mix’s storied heritage while also bringing new cultural relevancy to the brand,” said Gail Hollander, chief marketing officer of JM Smucker’s. 

The Meox Mix boy band-themed spot comes amid a particularly fun renaissance for boy bands in the music industry, with K-pop groups like BTS and SEVENTEEN dominating the pop landscape. “I want more!” Chasez says.

Besides the emergence of new boy bands, classic groups like Chasez’s own *NSYNC have been getting a second life on TikTok. In particular, a page called @justice4jc has been going viral on the platform, spotlighting the 46-year-old’s impressive vocal range and giving him the “credit & recognition he deserves,” per the user’s bio.

When asked if he’s seen the Justice for JC movement, Chasez admits that he hasn’t personally been following it, but has been told about it by some of his friends. In fact, he hasn’t had much time to scroll on TikTok, as he’s been immersing himself in writing musical theater. “There are similarities [between writing a pop hit and musical theater songs] and there are some some very big differences,” he explains. “When you’re writing a single for something, you’re just looking to write about what you’re feeling in the moment. When you’re working on a musical, there’s alwaysa bigger picture and the story is always the driving force. I would say, in pop music, you can live in the moment and not be worried about what you’re singing about in terms of it not working with another piece.”

He continued, “What really attracted me to it lately is that there’s such a human experience in live theater. There’s no hiding. There’s no AI up there. There’s no dirty tricks. It’s people up there giving you everything in that moment. So that’s what’s really been fun about.”

So far, Chasez has written two plays — a coming-of-age-story and one that’s a “bit more serious” and “beautiful” look at humanity. “It’s kind of like the last thing that I haven’t really dabbled in,” he says of theater. “I started in television, then I moved into music and I made a couple of films. Now it feels like this is the last untapped thing. It’s nice to experience all sides of it.”

Lastly, the singer gave his official response to fellow *NSYNC member Chris Kirkpatrick’s claim that he’s the least active in the boy band’s group chat. “I don’t have an official response, because it’s true!” Chasez says. “They go off on tangents, man. It happens in waves, like, the chat will be quiet for a couple of weeks and then somebody chimes in with something and then everyone’s riffing on that. I get my piece in there, but they get they get chatty.”

Source: https://www.billboard.com/music/music-news/jc-chasez-meow-mix-interview-nsync-musical-theater-1235373359/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social

*NSYNC Talks Iconic and Never-Before-Heard Stories: Horse Rides, Music Royalty and Life on the Road

People’s Brenton Blanchet

It’s been 25 years since Joey FatoneJustin TimberlakeJC ChasezLance Bass and Chris Kirkpatrick were catapulted into pop stardom with the release of *NSYNCtheir self-titled U.S. debut album as the celebrated five-part harmonizers.

And while the guys reflected on the album itself — which arrived a year after their Germany debut of the same name — in the March 27 issue of PEOPLE, not all of their memories made the cut in print.

So to further toast their March 1998 debut, and overall legacy as pop juggernauts, PEOPLE has compiled a few standout moments from interviews with Bass, Kirkpatrick, Chasez and Fatone for some added… pop.

From opening for Janet Jackson during her legendary The Velvet Rope Tour, to performing for Ariana Grande during a 1999 pay-per-view concert special, to falling off horses during music video shoots, *NSYNC’s run has been full of memories just as worthwhile as the road to its debut. Here’s a few that still shine as brightly as their voices.

The Disney Channel Special

Perhaps the most important gig during *NSYNC’s seven-year run came in 1998, just months after the release of the group’s self-titled LP, when *NSYNC headlined the fifth Disney Channel In Concert special. While the network wasn’t necessarily the children’s programming giant it soon became, the show was still — for Kirkpatrick — something like a “Super Bowl.”

After the album failed to gain charting success before the July release of the special, things seemed to be moving slowly for *NSYNC. But when the Backstreet Boys dropped out of the coveted spot, and *NSYNC took their place, it was a wrap. On July 18, 1998, *NSYNC in Concert arrived.

“It wasn’t until after the show was in the can and the ads and the buildup to it started to come. And that’s when I say the rumble really started to happen,” Kirkpatrick, now 51, says. “And it was like it’s sunny out and there’s butterflies and everything’s great, but you’re looking off and you just see the darkest black storm coming. And not to say that this was a bad thing, but it was just that massive energy that you could see slowly. You could see it in the distance making its way to you, and you knew it wasn’t going to miss you. You knew it was coming for you. So you’re like, ‘All right, we got to be ready.’ We did all this work in Europe and getting developed as a band, as individuals for this moment.”

Chasez, now 46, shares: “The immediate feeling after the Disney special was honestly one of relief. We put that show together very quickly and we were more focused on making sure our performances were up to our quality standards. Following that performance, there seemed to be this slow buzz that kept building more and more momentum, which was very exciting. That Disney special felt like a spark we needed to finally open the doors for us stateside.”

Joey’s Video Vault

By the time the guys earned some much-deserved fanfare from the Disney Channel special, Fatone, now 46, had already taken on a new role in the group: documentarian.

During his interview with PEOPLE to celebrate the anniversary of *NSYNC, Fatone gave an impromptu tour of his video recordings — from behind-the-scenes clips of the guys goofing off to a never-before-seen look at the making of the “It’s Gonna Be Me” music video, shot by both Joey and his brother.

Fatone even carried a camera around in Germany, well before the U.S. debut. “Joey brought a video camera — this was the age before camera phones. Having a video camera, you had tapes and you had all this. So it was actually kind of work. And it wasn’t just something like, ‘Oh, that looks cool. Let me pull out my phone and record that,'” Kirkpatrick recalls. “This was making a conscious effort of, ‘OK, we’re doing this, let me film this’ type of thing. And we’d go over there and he’d tape a lot of stuff. And I was always like, ‘Dude, let me see some of that tape so I can show some people here what it’s like.’ So he’d give us VCR tapes or something. Friends would be around and you’d pop in this tape and it’s like you’re up there looking at their faces and suddenly they see this idiot who’s been their friend forever, no big deal, walk out in front of tens of thousands of kids just losing their minds and doing all… Throwing stuffed animals and shirts. And hairdos that were all like ours.”

“It is pretty crazy some of the stuff that I have,” Fatone adds. “But again, we were looking through stuff because I’m trying to put some stuff together. So finding that has been interesting. But also, it’s weird because I even have stuff of my kids. It’s just random s– everywhere, because it was all just on video disc, a lot of stuff. I haven’t gone through all of it yet, but I’ve gone through some of it. It’s pretty interesting.”

As for the material that Fatone has in his possession, there’s way more than just what he provided for the classic Reel N-Sync home video.

“I have stuff from when we were doing the actual photos of our Celebrity album. I have video footage of all of us doing the stuff in the grocery store on the cover, and then all the inserts where we were making the breakfast and all the other stuff — all that stuff is in there. So I have that, I have rehearsals with… Who do I have rehearsals with? With David Foster, we were doing a charity event,” he says. “There’s stuff where we’re doing breakdowns of one of the songs, singing a cappella. I have one where Bill Clinton is playing the saxophone and BB King is playing guitar, which I don’t even know what that was, when we were doing that — it was insane.”

Ariana Grande’s Appearance in *NSYNC’s 1999 Pay-Per-View Special

In mid-1999, the guys filmed their Ft. Lauderdale, Florida tour performance as part of a pay-per-view special, but little did they know at the time that a certain fan in the audience would go on to become one of the biggest pop stars on the planet.

During the show’s performance of “Thinking of You (Drive Myself Crazy),” the camera cuts to a young Ariana Grande in the arms of her mother Joan for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment for the music history books. In the 24 years since that show, Grande has become a Grammy-winning titan and even brought four of the guys back together for a partial reunion at Coachella 2019, when she headlined the festival.

“It’s the circle of life,” Fatone says of Grande seeing them live. “It is, because now whoever’s watching Ari is going to be like, ‘I want to be that woman. I want to be up there.’ And whoever’s in that audience, that person is there at some point in time to get the chance — it’s there. It’s just a matter of finding the talent and getting the right connections, it is what it is. And it is weird to see… Actually a few people, or like I said, to see even celebrities come up and say, ‘Listen, I used to listen to your music when I was 8, 9 years old.’ You’re like, ‘Oh crap, I’m old.’ But it’s also amazing… I actually did what I said I was going to do. That’s the most amazing and rewarding thing for me in my life. I really think it is because it’s one of those things where a lot of people don’t get a chance to live out their dreams.”

Kirkpatrick adds: “We were not only enjoying it and hoping that our fans would enjoy it and doing it for them, but then now our fans are becoming these people as well. They’re giving back and they’re in the midst of… Ariana is in the midst of being Ariana. Some day she’s going to get to a point where she can stop and go, ‘Wow, look at not only what I’ve done, but who I’ve inspired.'”

Justin Horsin’ Around on Set

How could anyone forget the “For the Girl Who Has Everything” music video? And how could anyone forget the sight of *NSYNC riding five horses on the beach?

While the video turned out to be something of a cult classic in the *NSYNC fandom, Joey tells PEOPLE about a specific moment on set where Justin’s horse had a bit of an attitude.

“None of us ever rode bareback before,” Fatone recalls. “I haven’t even been on a horse for that matter. I’m like, ‘I haven’t been on a damn horse.’ There’s no saddles, there’s nothing. You’re holding onto the horse’s mane and you’re gripping with your thighs for dear life. There’s one part where Justin actually falls off a horse — we have video of him falling off because it just started taking off. And he was like, “F— that.” He fell off the horse on the sand.”

Opening for Music Royalty

*NSYNC was also one of the few acts — a young, My Way-era Usher included — to open for Janet Jackson on her The Velvet Rope Tour in 1998, in promotion of their debut. As Bass, now 43, tells PEOPLE, it was a moment to remember as a teen.

“I think the thing I loved most about Janet’s tour was being able to watch the show over and over,” he says. “We got to learn how a tour really works. Janet was a huge inspiration for our future stage shows. She is the ultimate entertainer.”

A Backstage Run-in with Paul Simon

Jackson wasn’t the only icon to give the guys a co-sign before their hiatus began in 2002. As Fatone explains, Paul Simon even offered some props to *NSYNC when he felt they deserved them.

Before the 2001 Grammys performance of “This I Promise You,” Simon gave Fatone quite a surprise. “We were doing a breakdown a cappella of the Grammys — we were at the Grammys, literally in our dressing room in a bathroom singing it because of the acoustics. So we’re singing, we’re doing this breakdown thing that’s live, there’s no background sweeteners or anything. And we’re rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing. And as all of a sudden, the door opens up and it’s Paul Simon. So we stopped, and I was like, ‘S—, it’s f—ing Paul Simon.'”

“He’s like, ‘No, no, no.’ He goes, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’ And he goes, ‘I came in here to listen to what you guys were doing. Really good stuff, intricate.'”

‘People Are Still Wanting It’

While there’s been no sign of a full reunion since the guys came together for their 2018 Hollywood Walk of Fame star ceremony (or since they last performed together for Timberlake’s mega MTV Video Music Awards performance in 2013), Fatone has an idea of what things would look like if *NSYNC got back on stage as a five-piece.

“I think it’s more of a celebration if we ever did something like that,” he says. “It’s more of a coming-together. I know people want to be like, ‘Just do a reunion, do a reunion.’ But I think we would want to do new songs. Why would we want to just promote… I get it, everybody loves it, but newer generations don’t know who we are.”

“It’s amazing, the whole *NSYNC phenomenon when you think about it — after 25 years, people are still wanting it and listening to it when we haven’t done anything as a group,” Fatone adds. “We did little spurts here and there stuff, but we’ve never sat down and went, ‘What do we want to do? Are we going to do it? How are we going to do it?’ Because everybody, honestly is doing their own thing and figuring their own things out.”

“So it’s one of those things where you try to really figure out what you want in life. I mean, I’m 46 years old. You got to look at New Kids — half of them are in their 50s, and they’re still doing it. Which means there is hope for us old people — there’s hope for old people that can do things like this — we can only pray,” Fatone jokes. “Doing this and listening to *NSYNC for 25 years is crazy.”

For more from *NSYNC, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere now.

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*NSYNC Remembers U.S. Debut Album 25 Years Later: ‘A True Homecoming’

People’s Brenton Blanchet with the magazine feature!

n most boy bands, there’s one of everything: The funny one, the wild one, the quiet one, the sporty one. *NSYNC was no different in 1998.

After a triumphant introduction in Germany in 1996, the five-piece Florida-made boy band wasn’t necessarily poised to follow up their success with the same album back home. The Backstreet Boys already had the U.S. market on lock, which meant the characteristics placed on the *NSYNC guys — Lance Bass, JC ChasezJustin TimberlakeChris Kirkpatrick and Joey Fatone — gave fans in the U.S. a way to connect with *NSYNC outside of the hits that they carried over from Europe.

“We had five individuals that each took characteristics of the next guy, which took your same characteristics and then took characteristics from the next guy,” Kirkpatrick, 51, shares. “And then by the way, Lance sings really low. Joey sings pretty low. JC sings mid. Justin sings pretty high. Chris sings really high. To have that arc vocally, and the looks… We really complemented each other so well in every aspect of what *NSYNC was, from personalities to music to just hobbies to fashion senses, all that stuff.”

Twenty-five years after *NSYNC — the March 1998 U.S. release of the group’s self-titled debut album — the individuals behind the record-breaking boyband are opening up to PEOPLE about what led to the group’s commercial breakthrough and how, by the time of their ’98 U.S. debut, they all had a bit of each other ingrained in them. After all, outside of the harmonies, that’s what made them *NSYNC.

“Everybody helped out each other with that personality,” Fatone, 46, says. “Meaning, sometimes JC was very quiet about stuff. My dumb, goofy ass is outgoing. That helped him to come out of his shell a little bit more. Me being that goofy and dumb, I look at JC and I go, ‘S—, you know what? I need to come up a little bit more correct and start being a little more serious.’ So we had these combinations of each other that helped each other out.”

But before emulating each other and using their respective voices to perfect their now-iconic five-part harmony, *NSYNC had to reintroduce themselves to a new audience in the states, and that’s where their self-titled debut comes into play. March 23rd marks the 25th anniversary of *NSYNC, which helped an internationally recognized supergroup find initial success in the U.S. But by no means did this mark 25 years of the band itself.

*NSYNC’s origin story, which takes place in 1995 and has probably been told as many times as they’ve sold records, starts pretty simply: Kirkpatrick looked to form a boyband in Florida and tapped a teenage Timberlake, now 42, who then tapped his Mickey Mouse Club costar Chasez, now 46, to join. From there, Kirkpatrick reconnected with Fatone from their days working at Universal Studios, and the group eventually — after their original bass singer dropped out — connected with Bass, now 43, through a vocal coach.

After some performances and promotion in the U.S. — such as their ’95 Disney World Pleasure Island showcase full of R&B tracks and a Beatles cover tossed in — the group took their talents to Germany. Backed financially by band developer (eventually realized con artist) Lou Pearlman, and while being overseen by band manager Johnny Wright, the guys were tapping into a different boyband market overseas — one that the Pearlman’s own Backstreet Boys hadn’t already monopolized.

But the music had to be special for *NSYNC to break out in Europe, impress a country of largely non-English speakers, and afford them the opportunity to tour Germany and play for thousands. And that meant getting *NSYNC’s five-part harmony the production it deserved.

“We didn’t even know when we started recording half that album, we didn’t even know what our sound was going to be,” Bass says. “We got with [producers] Max Martin and Denniz Pop, and thank God they helped find our sound because ‘I Want You Back’ and ‘Tearin’ Up My Heart’ — leading into ‘Bye Bye Bye,’ ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ [on No Strings Attached] — that’s who we were. But we were testing out techno and some really horrible songs [early on] that just did not work for us, but we were just testing things out.”

“We were teenagers and none of us had really started writing yet. So we were just kind of coming into our own as artists and musicians,” Bass adds. “And being in the studio with all those amazing producers really taught us a lot of things.”

The late producer Denniz Pop and the now-legendary Martin — responsible for later hits like Katy Perry‘s “I Kissed a Girl” and The Weeknd‘s “Can’t Feel My Face,” among numerous others — gave *NSYNC one of their first studio sessions in Sweden when working on the LP, shortly after the guys signed to BMG Ariola Munich. Those first sessions also included time spent in smaller studios, where Kirkpatrick remembers having to “move a mattress over the door” just to get the vocal booth sounding good. “Getting to work with them on that level, hearing those songs, ‘I Want You Back’ and ‘Tearin’ Up My Heart’ — there’s something different about these two songs,” Kirkpatrick recalls of the Sweden sessions.

“This is almost like a new pop sound coming out. There’s this whole new way of using the same sounds from the older pop days, but making it new — kind of fast-forward a bit. That’s how I came up with the term Dirty Pop, because that’s what it was to me,” Kirkpatrick adds. “It was still very bubble-gummy, but it wasn’t your parent’s bubblegum.”

Some of the debut — or at least some of the group’s earliest demo material — was also recorded in Shaquille O’Neal‘s TWISM (The World Is Mine) studio when he was playing for the Orlando Magic back in the ’90s. While Shaq has since referred to himself as an honorary sixth member of the band, Fatone remembers one specific day when he and Timberlake bumped into the NBA great.

“There’s a picture of me, Justin and Shaq. Shaq happened to be there when Justin and I were there recording,” he remembers. “So we went and took a picture with him. And it was cool, it was interesting. It was one of those things like, ‘Hey man, good luck, guys. You do good, man.’ That’s all he really said — he didn’t really say much. Man of many words.”

The studio sessions weren’t just for Shaq meet and greets, though. The guys were recording an album they eventually hoped would launch them into prominence overseas. And that’s exactly what the first single *NSYNC released in Germany — in October of 1996 — did. The sticky “I Want You Back,” which took off in the U.S. nearly two years later, peaked at No. 4 in Germany at the time and supplied *NSYNC with their first proper hit in any country.

But even as *NSYNC promoted the song overseas, which involved some intense choreography on talk shows and select promotional gigs, Kirkpatrick started to realize that not everybody was up to speed on what made the group so unique.

“There were a lot of times kids would come to our shows and say things like, ‘I’m only here because the Backstreet Boys aren’t here.’ That happened to us all the time! So it was that kind of mentality. The crazy thing is, they all said it. You’re talking about a time way, way, way back where we were trying to promote our first single, and it was crazy because it was obvious,” he says. “There was no point that we’d get mad about that because we know that the majority of the kids were coming to our shows because they were Backstreet Boys fans and they wanted to see what this was like.”

After seven months of promo, etching out a path of their own, and putting the finishing touches on their initial debut, *NSYNC was finally released in Germany in May 1997 — 10 months before it would land in the U.S. To promote the record further, the guys released two additional pre-album singles in “Tearin’ Up My Heart” and the name-dropping classic “Here We Go.”

“From the inside, the early German record was a period of growth,” Chasez tells PEOPLE. “We were experiencing so many new things for the first time. With those experiences under our belt by the time we were shifting focus back to the U.S. releases, we had begun evolving into our next expressions. Every project seems to take on new life, and the fact that the shift to the U.S. felt like a new project even though there was some carryover, we were already naturally shifting into another era and mode.”

While the band began to feel the gravity of their overseas success with early singles, Kirkpatrick recalls a concert where they essentially “walked out expecting applause.” As he explains now, it was the last time that ever happened, and was a grounding moment for the group.

“We were really almost at the top at that point and did this show — ‘Yeah, it’s us, you’re welcome’ type of thing. And it was the craziest thing on the planet because I remember coming off stage and I felt sick to my stomach,” he says. “I felt like, ‘Man, what did we just do?’ That was an embarrassment to us.”

“We sat down and it was like, we have to go out and every show we do, every performance we do, we have to go into it thinking that everybody hates us and by the end of it, make them like us. And that’s what we’ve tried to do.”

With “Tearin'” also charting at No. 4 in Germany (as “the one that solidified everything,” per Chasez), and by the time the video dropped overseas, it was clear that the band’s early approach consisted of some vibrant coordinating outfits — ones that were especially tight.

“I remember we wore these skintight shirts, big black baggy jeans and black combat boots. But at the time, it was the easiest thing to dance in,” Kirkpatrick tells PEOPLE. “It was the easiest thing to perform in. We were doing flips and back handsprings and all this just crazy flipping and jumping around type dancing. So those worked and those made sense. Then we came over here and we still did a lot of the flipping and the break-dancing-type stuff, but it was more of us going, ‘Hey, we want to be a little bit fashionable too when we do this.’ It’s not just us up there: ‘OK, there’s red guy, there’s blue guy.'”

As Fatone shares, that was just “the way that they were dressing up” in Europe at the time. “So they were like, ‘Well, follow this because they’re going to like you.’ As we did it for about a year and a half going, ‘What the f— are we…?’ OK, I get the tight shirts, I don’t mind that. We wear JNCO baggy pants, but we are not really uniformed all the time — we like different things.”

By the time *NSYNC hit No. 1 in Germany, it was clear they accomplished what they set out to, outfits aside. Life had changed drastically for Justin, Joey, Chris, Lance and JC. While they didn’t earn any points for the miles they racked up flying back and forth from Germany (Joey jokingly blames their former tour manager for using those for himself), things were different. Walking around meant screaming girls would follow. Stepping on stage meant things would be tossed at them. Performing live on shows like Wetten Dass meant non-English speakers would still be singing every word. The *NSYNC guys were superstars overseas, but their families didn’t quite pick up on the momentum back home.

“We would be over in Europe and people would be chasing us down the streets. Thousands of people camped outside our hotels,” Bass recalls. “And then we’d come back to America and it’s just crickets. No one knew who we were. And I’d be trying to tell my high school friends. I was like, ‘I swear. I swear we’re like The Beatles over there. It’s so huge.’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, sure.'”

Other members of the group had the same problem — loved ones had no idea how big they were in Germany. And it’s something that Joe Mulvihill, Fatone’s now-manager and longtime friend from their Universal days, as well as the group’s eventual road manager, saw firsthand.

“His mom and I went down to the gate and we had a sign, ‘Welcome home’ — it was just us two,” Mulvihill remembers. “And Joey came out of the plane in this big puffer jacket that had the *NSYNC logo. And he was like, ‘Oh, it’s so nice to have nobody bothering me.’ And me and his mom looked at each other.”

“We thought he was making it up, until one day he showed me a VHS tape, and he popped it in, and my jaw hit the floor. And then I turned ultra-proud like, ‘Dude, are you serious? Is this really happening?'”

Sharing footage of their experiences in Germany seemed to be the easiest way to let their loved ones know that *NSYNC was indeed a supergroup overseas. “Joey would give us VHS tapes or something,” Kirkpatrick now says. “Friends would be around and you’d pop in this tape. You’re up there looking at their faces and suddenly they see this idiot who’s been their friend forever, no big deal, walk out in front of tens of thousands of kids just losing their minds, throwing stuffed animals and shirts.”

“And they’d see that and their mouths would just drop. And we’re like, ‘See, this is what we’ve been dealing with.’ That was the crazy part. We’d be over there and kids would be pounding on the vans, sleeping outside the hotels trying to sneak into the rooms, crying like they just saw God or something like that. It was so intense and so crazy. And then we’d come back here and we’d be calling our friends like, ‘Hey, did you want to go see a movie or something tonight?’ They’re like, ‘Nah, I’m busy, dude. Call one of your other boys,’ or whatever.”

For Chasez, his family had to see it all firsthand to really believe it.

“The first time my family could truly see where things were going was when they flew over to Europe,” he tells PEOPLE. “That moment when they were able to physically experience the amount of people we were actually reaching proved the gravity of the situation. Sharing magazine spreads and even videos of performances with them were impressive, but when one feels the kinetic energy of a packed concert in real time, it communicates something different and special.”

But it didn’t take long before *NSYNC’s family saw their fame carry over to the states, although the album’s success was far from immediate.

In 1998, *NSYNC officially signed to RCA, and their takeover began with “I Want You Back” dropping on their home turf that January. Then, the updated version of the album was released two months later — this time not including a few Europe-specific cuts and now including four new U.S. songs, such as “I Just Wanna Be with You” and “Thinking of You (I Drive Myself Crazy).”

“The first memory of the U.S. release that comes to mind is the feeling of coming home,” Chasez says. “We as a group had been spending all of our time touring the rest of the world, connecting with fans and audiences everywhere but the U.S. When we finally were able to perform stateside, it felt like a true homecoming.”

Some of the U.S. album’s changes meant new videos, new verses and new promotional approaches — but by ’98, the guys were up for the challenge. “We did a lot of songs that I would go in and do the leads, do a lot of the leads on, and then they’d come back like, ‘Yeah, you know what? You sing really good harmony, bro.’ And it was kind of like, ‘Does that mean…?’ They’re like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to have JC do this part or whatever,'” Kirkpatrick laughs.

One notable instance of a JC/Chris verse-flip was on “Drive Myself Crazy,” where in the U.S. version, Kirkpatrick sings lead vocals on the opening verse as opposed to Chasez — who occasionally did so during early live versions. “I don’t think we made a conscious effort to go, ‘Oh, let’s put Chris on this one.’ I think it was just they heard the versions and they were like, ‘Let’s change it up a little bit and do it like this.'”

With an image to revamp in the states, *NSYNC had to shoot some new visuals for the U.S., too. The “I Want You Back” video, at this point, was two years old and was a tight-shirt green-screened sci-fi clip that was in desperate need of a 1998 update. And that’s exactly what happened with the U.S. video — a fresh clip that was more reflective of the band’s individual styles and personalities, rather than being “the Spice Girls version of The Wiggles,” as Kirkpatrick joked.

“I had an eyebrow piercing which I did, honestly, right before we shot the “I Want You Back” video. I had a ski cap on because they were freaking out because I pierced my eyebrow,” Fatone remembers of the shoot. “Everything else was cool, but we couldn’t do the eyebrow piercing. I’m like, ‘Well, why not?’ ‘Well, we don’t want you to do it for the first video.’ I was like, ‘OK. I’ll hide it.’ If you see it, a couple of shots I don’t have it, and then the next day my dumb ass got it done in between while we were shooting the video — you can see the ski cap way low to cover the eyebrow ring, which is hysterical.”

While eyebrow piercings were not always appreciated in the world of boy band music videos at that point, the album itself was also not doing well upon release. *NSYNC moved a mere 14,000 units in its first week in the U.S., debuting at No. 82 on the Billboard 200. And it took another six months for the album to peak at No. 2 on the chart — all thanks to a cartoon mouse, a kid’s TV channel slowly nearing its heyday, and their boyband competition deciding to pass on what would’ve been a major, major performance.

As the story goes, the Backstreet Boys dropped out of a performance for the Disney Channel in Concert series in May of ’98, and as Joe Mulvihill remembers, Disney was “breathing down” manager Johnny Wright’s neck to make something work. At the buzzer — literally a week and change before the performance on May 23, 1998 — *NSYNC signed on to do the special. “He was managing both bands,” Mulvihill says of Wright. “And he pitched *NSYNC to Disney probably a week and a half before that special. And these guys were so well-rehearsed, those [same] songs, those dance moves — they were so prepared.”

“If you ever look at that, it doesn’t look like we look completely frazzled or anything. People on stage — you can see if they’re not rehearsed or it’s been thrown together,” Fatone says of the Disney performance. “It didn’t look like that because we were doing it for two and a half years in Germany already. We were already ready to roll.”

Two months after the debut album’s release, *NSYNC filmed that breakthrough performance for the Disney Channel in Concert series. The show featured a set of essentially self-titled cuts — “I Want You Back,” “Tearin’,” “God Must Have Spent” and the works — and aired on July 18. It was all they had practiced for since their days in Germany, and while the network teased them as a “hot new band,” the guys were already pros. “I thought it was going to be our Super Bowl. I thought everything that we worked for was this show. And not knowing that it was going to go on after that, but having that mentality of ‘This is our Super Bowl’ was big,” Kirkpatrick says.

“I look at it [like] when people run for president of United States. For almost a year before the election, these people are touring and they’re everywhere and they don’t sleep,” he adds. “And every day — ‘Oh, now they’re in Miami, now they’re doing this, now they’re on this show.’ And you bust your ass to work so hard and then boom, they become President of the United States. And it’s like, now the real work starts.”

As Bass adds, the Disney special was the one that “really blew us up.”

“You could definitely feel the energy,” Bass adds. “I felt like this was really going to put *NSYNC on the map in a major way. Disney Channel had already done a couple of these concerts and all I know is that they played them over and over and over again so it would definitely add to our success.”

“So that album went from maybe being in the top 50 to just skyrocketing. I think it went to No. 2 and it just didn’t stop, and it stayed there for months, and it just grew and grew. And as big as we were in Europe, we had no idea that a debut album with half the same music we already released would sell over 10 million records,” he tells PEOPLE. “I mean, we never thought that could be done by us. So it was an intense time. But wow, what a fun time because so many years of trying to make it was good validation for us.”

Since it took two months before the special finally aired, *NSYNC had no way to predict that it would end up being the success it was. And for Chasez, finishing the gig gave him a feeling of relief,” as it ended up being “a spark we needed to finally open the doors for us stateside.”

Thanks to the success of the Disney special and an eventual No. 2 album on the Billboard 200, *NSYNC were on their way to becoming superstars in the U.S. with the fifth best-selling album in the United States that year (4.4 million copies by the end of the year). And that meant touring back home once and for all.

*NSYNC trekked around the U.S. for 18 months in 1998 and 1999 with their NSYNC in Concert run of shows, among other gigs. With Britney Spears opening for the group on one leg, and the group even opening for Janet Jackson‘s iconic The Velvet Rope Tour right before they went solo on the road, the guys were in good company.

And even when it was just them, *NSYNC was fixated on the ways they could improve their performance. “We were anal with our stuff. Even when we were touring in the states, right after the show we get handed a VHS tape. We would get handed a tape — there were two buses, Justin and Chris and JC were on one, they got the tape, they looked at the performance on the way to the next city,” Fatone says. “When we’d stop and pull over, they would hand us the tape, me and Lance, they’d say, ‘Listen, this is what our notes were,’ or, ‘This is what we didn’t like. Take a look and tell me what you think.'”

“Somebody would be like, ‘I missed the wrong note there, it wasn’t that good,’ or, ‘You see what happened over… Let’s keep…’ That’s what made us what we were, is because we kept correcting it. We didn’t just go, ‘Let’s just dance, let’s just do the moves and move on.’ It was, ‘Let’s see it again. What does that look like? Dude, your hand is not high up. Let’s fix that.’ So I think that’s what made us… And again, our name was *NSYNC, so we had to keep up to it.”

It wasn’t all intense problem-solving, though. *NSYNC’s tour bus was also filled with treats, games, and anything to keep young adults occupied as they traveled around the country together. That included — but was not limited to — an occasional supply of Barq root beers, a VHS collection of Dune, Scarface and South Park, a dog named Buster, and a “junk bunk” where they’d toss garbage (for the most part). “Every place I have ever lived in has that ‘kitchen drawer’ or that closet that everything seems to find a way to pile into,” Chasez says. “As far as adjusting to tour life, it’s really a mindset. You put your mind there and make it work.”

“A lot of times we went on JC and Justin’s and Chris’ bus because they would play more of the video games,” Fatone says. “And they had one TV in the back of the bus, and we would run the wire all the way up to the front so we would plug it in, so we’d be able to fight and see each other, one team would be in the back of the bus, the other team would be in the front of the bus.”

After regretfully admitting to buying three Sega Dreamcasts during those early days, Fatone says he and his bandmates also collected a few items that fans gave them during meet-and-greets. Fatone, of course, announced to the world numerous times that he was big on Superman merchandise, so he was treated like a superhero by die-hards. Kirkpatrick, on the other hand, was given, at one point, a scroll featuring the handwritten phrase “I love Chris” penned 30,000 times.

“Back in the day, especially in Europe, they used to give us a lot of gummy bears. Somebody — I don’t know if it was JC or Justin — said, ‘Oh my God, I love gummy bears.’ The minute you say you love something, it was a wrap,” Fatone says. “So I was like, ‘I like Superman collectibles.’ So some of them were giving me comic books, they’d give me hats, and somebody knitted me a sweater.”

When asked about his own favorite gifts from tour during their early years, Kirkpatrick reiterated how much all of it meant to him. “I grew up in trailers, trailer parks — really, really poor, like welfare poor. Lived in a Suburban for a couple weeks, lived in motels — one-room motels. Grew up really poor. This was a whole new strange world,” he tells PEOPLE. “I’m like, why us? We’re not any more special than you or anybody else. But just the chemistry we had together and the things that we worked on — the insane part of it is, there’s no word that could probably describe us as a group more than *NSYNC. *NSYNC was just like us and it was who we were.”

And he’s right. *NSYNC was just that. Even 25 years after the release of their debut album in the U.S., the band still manages to pull over 6 million monthly Spotify listeners, sell probably just as many T-shirts of their debut album cover as the album itself at this point, and cause a stir anytime they reunite — just as JC, Joey, Lance and Chris did during Ariana Grande‘s 2019 Coachella performance.

After going on an indefinite hiatus in 2002 — of course, following the release and success of 2000’s No Strings Attached and 2001’s Celebrity — *NSYNC have all come into their own as individuals formerly known for borrowing a bit of their personalities from each other. There’s Timberlake’s extensive solo career in music and film, Chasez’s detour into different mediums and numerous production credits in music, Fatone’s work in television and film, Kirkpatrick’s work in television (specifically as the iconic fictional pop star Chip Skylark in The Fairly Odd Parents), and Bass is a popular media personality and creative. But there’s still something special for each of them about listening back to 1998’s *NSYNC.

“[Listening now] brings me back to a lot of great times because we were so innocent and young and we were just getting into the musicality of what we liked,” Bass shares.

While Fatone jokes that he won’t be able to recreate much of the group’s original choreographed magic on tour in the future, at least without an oxygen tank, he looks back knowing their debut era was more than just expertly choreographed pop performances — it was their intro to great music.

“It is truly an amazing thing to be here today talking about this kind of stuff, and people still interested in this stuff, and knowing how powerful it is… Not power, but the vibe and the feel of boy-band music, or pop music I should say, will never go away,” he says. “It’s pop, it’s popular, it’s fun, it’s catchy.”

Kirkpatrick, too, understands the importance of what *NSYNC did with that first album — and how monumental it was not just for music, but his own life.

“My wife likes to play scratch-off lottery tickets and all that. And I’m always like, I don’t need to play the lottery. I already won the lottery,” he tells PEOPLE. “I’m not going to be that selfish person that goes, ‘Ah, I need to win it a couple more times.’ It’s like, ‘Man, this was such a few five people that have ever lived [that] have gotten to have this experience and do what I’ve done.’ And to have that, to have that going forward — I could lose everything, hopefully not my wife and kid. But I could lose everything and still have everything — still have those memories and those moments and that time.”

Perhaps best summing up that moment in the guys’ careers is Chasez, who says that the album now brings him back to the exact sessions where they made it — as a hungry, young kid coming off the Mickey Mouse Club and eager to captivate. Now, 25 years later, he can look back and be thankful for all the album afforded them.

“Whenever I listen to the debut, I truly get transported back to some of the exact sessions and recording studios where the music was made,” he says. “I can literally hear them, smell them, and experience them vividly. I can also feel those early performances. I feel the nervous tension of fighting for an audience’s approval early on, to the elated feeling of connecting with the fans. It’s pretty wild what those memories were for me in contrast to my other bandmates and the listeners. I’m very thankful for the ride.”

For more from *NSYNC, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere now.

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