[ July 07, 2000 ]
The BBMAK Base
BBMak Separate The Men From The Boy Bands
UK trio hope to conquer U.S. by writing their own songs and playing
their own instruments.
By Mark Woodlief for SONICNET.COM
NEW YORK — Like *NSync, the Backstreet Boys and Hanson before them,
boy band BBMak trekked to MTV's holiest of sites, the "Total Request
Live" studios in Times Square, on their first visit to New York.
But unlike some of their U.S. counterparts, the British pop trio
don't perform choreographed maneuvers.
They also write much of their own material and play their own
instruments. Currently on tour with Britney Spears, BBMak hoped to
gain the blessing of "TRL" host Carson Daly and maybe pick up a few
more screaming fans in the process.
The pilgrimage was a success. "Carson Daly was really cool,"
vocalist/guitarist Christian Burns, 26, said. "We're number seven
on 'TRL,' and Carson really likes the fact that we don't
dance."(Sonicnet.com's parent company, Viacom, also owns MTV.)
Though they don't dance, BBMak's debut album, Sooner or Later,
otherwise shares the same sonic gloss and romantic lyrical focus of
their more famous American counterparts.
A smooth blend of melodic pop and soul and radio-friendly harmonies
frame songs such as their breakthrough single, "Back Here" (RealAudio
excerpt). Co-written by the band — Burns, singer Mark Barry and lead
guitarist Steven McNally — and former Pornography-era Cure bassist
Phil Thornalley, the song has reached #18 on the Billboard Hot 100
chart. "['Back Here'] came together really quickly," Burns said. "We
were having coffee with Phil at his flat, and we were just messing
around with chords; we wrote the whole song in about 45 minutes."
After only four U.S. dates, crowd reactions have been "wild," lead
vocalist Barry said, adding that male fans have been especially
enthusiastic, partly because the group's members are real musicians.
They Play Their Own Instruments
"We go onstage and play our own instruments, and I think guys like
that," Barry said. When it comes to boy bands, however, not everyone
thinks that musicianship or songwriting skill really matters.
Erik Bradley, music director at Chicago's B96 FM, argues that the
tunes — and the band's looks — count more than the fact that BBMak
actually perform the songs.
"I've seen them play, and I'm a fan," Bradley said. "But I don't know
if people really care too much that they play their own instruments.
The fans, especially the females, just want to hear good music and
have something nice to look at."
Bradley said Sooner or Later has "four or five really good singles,"
and noted "Next Time" and "I Can Tell" as follow-up contenders
to "Back Here."
BBMak's members met in Northern England's mid-'90s music scene —
Barry is from Manchester, Burns from Wigan, and McNally from
Liverpool. "We were all in different bands that were hobbies," Barry
said, before the three musicians decided to work together seriously.
"We gelled together really quickly," Barry said. After writing songs
together for more than a year and a half, BBMak began to solicit
record labels, and even performed on the sidewalks outside London
record company offices. "It was a long process, but we all share the
same passion for music," he said.
Old-Fashioned Love Songs
BBMak's particular specialty is for romantic ballads, which make up
the bulk of Sooner or Later. Tried and true, as well as lucrative,
love remains the songwriter's most trusted subject matter, Burns said.
"Ninety-nine percent of songs are about love," he said. "On Sooner or
Later, we've got all different kinds of love songs; we've got love
lost, love found, love for your family, love for your friends."
Inspiration for a song can come anywhere, anytime. "We wrote [Sooner
or Later's] 'Love on the Outside' on a plane," Barry said. "We popped
a few ideas on a Dictaphone to get the basics of the song down and
finished it later."
It will take more than an ability to pen their own songs to reach the
dizzying heights of boy band superstardom. Hanson, for example, write
and perform their own songs, but their recent record sales indicate
that their luster has faded.
But BBMak are dedicated to the crusade of making it big in the United
States as they crisscross the nation with Spears this summer and fall.
"We're fully committed to America, so you'll be seeing a lot of us,"
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