The term “boy band” has become a somewhat disparaging term for groups of attractive teenage males who have been assembled by a veteran record producer, often times more on the basis of looks than talent, and then presented to appeal to young teen and tween girls. The shelf-life of most boy bands is the time it takes for their fans to start having real-life boys in their lives — a glossy poster on the bedroom wall can’t compete with the real thing. Meanwhile, those shrewd old record producers have new young boy bands in development.
It’s understandable then that Jonah Marais of the fast-rising quintet Why Don’t We wants it known that Why Don’t We is not a production-line boy band.
“I feel we’re like an anomaly when it comes to quote/unquote ‘boy bands,’” Marais, 20, said, calling from a friend’s home in San Diego where he’d been enjoying a few days surfing between the group’s concert dates.
“A lot are put together by a master mind who picks out everyone and puts them together, and gives them the music and everything. That’s not really how we came about. We were all solo artists, we were friends, we met on the road, and coordinated all going to LA at the same time.”
Daniel Seavey had placed ninth on Season 14 of American Idol in 2015; he was eliminated the day before his 16th birthday but came away with a loyal fan following. Marais, Corbyn Besson, Jack Avery and Zach Herron had established fan bases on digital music platforms and social media.
They rented a house in west Los Angeles and started working on some songs.
“It just clicked,” Marais says, and they decided to band together. “We said, ‘Why don’t we do this thing?’ That’s how we got the name.”
Why Don’t We introduced itself to the world via YouTube on Sept. 28, 2016. Working steadily over the next two years, the quintet released a series of digital-download EPs and singles before recording and releasing a full-length album, “8 Letters,” in August. “8 Letters” peaked at No. 9 on Billboard’s Pop Album chart.
The quintet makes its Hawaii debut Saturday at The Republik. They’ll be arriving several days early, and Marais said they’re all anticipating the extra days.
“We’re making a little vacation out of it. Maybe I can get surfing a little bit, do some hiking. I’m definitely by no means a great surfer but I’m really looking forward to Hawaii,” Marais said.
THE MEMBERS of Why Don’t We range in age from 17 to 20. Most of their fans are teenage or younger, but the lyrics of their songs are relevant for people outside their primary fanbase.
Take “8 Letters,” for example. The eight letters are “I love you.” The song describe the experience of struggling to say “I love you,” and of wanting love while also being afraid to commit.
“I think that’s part of the reason (the song) has gotten so much attention, because it can apply to anyone,” Marais said. “Traditionally, boy bands have just been supported by young teen girls — which we have a lot of — but at the same time we aren’t just making music for young teen girls, its for people in general, and we want to be able to say things that anyone can connect with.”
Why Don’t We also goes beyond boy-band territory with its music videos. A video version of another 2018 single, “Trust Fund Baby,” extols the virtues of women who can change a flat tire, go skateboarding, play baseball and lacrosse in coed teams, develop film in an old-fashioned dark room, or build a robot that rolls across the floor to deliver a message.
In the world of WDW, girls can do what the boys do, and it’s those accomplished, self-confident girls that Why Don’t We is looking for.
There’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment when one of the guys uses a fake Hawaii driver’s license to gain admission to a nightclub in the music video for their recent download-single release, “I Don’t Belong in This Club.”
Shooting the video gave the guys an opportunity to work with Grammy-winning rapper/song writer Macklemore. ”
“The video was super fun to make ‘cause we just talked about awkward funny situations that hypothetically we could be in,” Marais said. “Macklemore was so much fun to work with because he just came with all these awesome ideas like sneaking in together and putting our heads around the corner at the same time. It was a big collaborative thing”
“That’s definitely happened before, trying to sneak your way into the club,” Marais said. “Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I think a lot of teenagers can relate to that story of trying to get in and not getting in — or getting in and then not feeling like you belong in there.”
Last year’s European tour put them in proximity to all the landmarks seen in the music video for “Talk.” To get the footage they needed, the guys worked when they normally would have been resting.
“Basically, we’d have this sliver of time, maybe 45 minutes, after the meet-and-greet and before we went on stage, and we’d just run out in whatever city we were in — we were in all these amazing cities — we’d run out and shoot in that city. That was a super-fun video to shoot and I think it kind of comes across,” Marais said.
Looking ahead, Marias said that unlike a made-to- order boy band, Why Don’t We doesn’t have an end date built in.
“I think we’d foolish to put an end date on it, that’s for sure,” he said. “We’re all having fun, this is what we dreamed of doing at one point — and are loving right now. It’s such an amazing thing that we’re able to do, so I think we should ride it out as long as it goes.
“We’re actually all really good friends and we like to make music together, and we’re having a blast.”
WHY DON’T WE
Presented by BAMP Project
>> Where: The Republik
>> When: 8 p.m. Saturday
>> Cost: $89.50-$94.50
>> Info: 941-7469, jointherepublik.com