Currently the biggest boy band in the UK and on the brink of cracking America, the JLS success story just goes from strength to strength.
Two Brit Awards, two MOBO Awards, three UK number ones; hoards of die hard fans who’ll tear down anything (or anyone) that gets in the way of them and their beloved ‘boys’ and not forgetting the mountains of cash all this after coming second in The X Factor, just two years ago.
‘We still can’t believe it ourselves,’ Oritsé says. ‘So much has happened in such a short space of time, we are very lucky and very grateful.’
JLS are the first British boy band, with an all-black line up, to achieve such mainstream success. So what have they done that so many other boy bands didn’t quite get right?One contributing factor seems to be a certain TV talent show. ‘We had The X Factor and that’s the long and the short of it. On that show it doesn’t matter what background or where you come from – male, female, young, old – you have an opportunity. You’ve seen the winners… people like Brenda, Leon Jackson and Andy Abraham. We were doing our thing before we did the show, working in the studio and that…. it was really The X Factor and the platform it gave us, that took us to the next level.’
The X Factor is definitely a huge launch pad for any musical career, but was it the only factor that helped catapult these four young men into the realms of fame and fortune? Oritsé says: ‘Music is changing now. Urban music is popular music. You get people like Dizzee Rascal, Tinie Tempah, Tinchy Stryder, who are number 1 in the charts consistently… Taio Cruz is smashing it in America right now and the UK. Urban music is very credible. I think we live in a great time, I don’t think there is a colour on music anymore.’
Urban music has certainly come a long way and JLS are proud to be part of this new era. Oritsé continues. ‘To be honest with you, when I was putting the band together, I was told so many times that an all-black group wouldn’t work. “This is the one thing you’re doing wrong, you need to mix itup!” It was pretty sad that people placed so much emphasis on colour. However, a police officer spoke to JB’s Dad recently and said “Because of your son and his group, we look at young black boys differently”. For all of us, that was a really huge thing.’
Whatever the JLS success formula may be, one thing that is certain is that these boys have nothing but undiluted respect for the many boybands that came before them.
Marvin explains why. ‘If it wasn’t for Damage, MN8, Blue and Ultimate Kaos we wouldn’t be here right now. They have paved the way for groups like us and yes, we have been very successful so far, but it’s partly because of groups like them.’Oritsé adds: ‘Whenever we see those guys, we always make sure we pay homage to them, we have nothing but respect for them, they are like our superstars. If it wasn’t for them working so hard, really pushing through and opening those doors, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now.’
When asked about the band’s favourite musical era – new jack swing – excited chatter erupts into a few acappella versions of various new jack swing classics. I forget where I am for a moment and happily take in my own private show. JLS find it hard to contain their excitement on this subject – or come up with an answer to my question, as they are having far too much fun.
Aston says: ‘After much deliberation, as a group, we would choose Boys II Men as our all time favourite group from that era. We love Boys II Men, we had dinner with them. They’re so cool and they look exactly the same as they did all those years ago.’
Currently paving the way for the UK boy band themselves, what is next in store for JLS? Another mega tour?
Marvin informs us: ‘We have a new album coming out called Out of This World. We’ve written every song on this album other than The Club Is Alive, so it’s very personal. We used a lot of the producers from the first album on the second album, but obviously, because the first album did so well, it opened up the doors to a whole new group of collaborators.People we wouldn’t have met like Stargate who did all of Ne-Yo’s and all of Rihanna’s hits, Beyoncé… you know people like that. So we are very, very happy and we can’t wait for everyone to hear it.’
Oritsé gently shakes his head as he fondly remembers the sessions. ‘We worked with Jay Sean on one of the songs. That was a great experience.’ JB then adds in a slightly mysterious tone: ‘There’s another collaboration that we are hoping is going to happen, but we can’t say just yet.’
That’s fantastic news for all their hardcore fans who are well-known for being absolutely JLS crazy. But do they get any negative reactions?
JB says: ‘It’s funny. We will get the odd Tweet along the lines of ‘WE HATE JLS’ and our fans will go nuts saying, ‘Don’t you talk about our boys like that, I’m gonna…blah, blah, blah…’ They will go all out. They are not having any of it, seriously. It’s very flattering and we love our fans because of that. We try and make as much time for them whenever we see them or wherever we are in the world.’
Marvin adds: ‘I was signing a JLS logo that a girl had tattooed on her back the other day. She had the JLS logo, with four coloured stars and ‘Aston’ written on her wrist. Obviously, we are not condoning anyone getting tattoos. A tattoo is something you should think very carefully about before getting, but it is flattering. We love our fans’.
JLS’s new single Out of This World is out 22 November.
For more info on the band, visit www.jlsofficial.com/gb
Words by Trina John-Charles