"We're not getting any younger," says Nick Lachey of a principal motivation behind his longtime group, 98 Degrees, and their decision to reunite for a new album and a forthcoming tour this summer with New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men.
"We all came to the realization that if we were gonna do something together again," adds the 39-year-old, "it's kind of now or never."
2.0., the seminal boy band's forthcoming new album, comes nearly 13 years after the release of their double-platinum-selling 2000 LP, Revelation. In the interim, members of the group have each pursued individual projects. Both Lachey and Jeff Timmons released underwhelming solo albums; Lachey starred in a slew of reality shows – the most high-profile of which, Newlyweds, centered on his much-scrutinized marriage to ex-wife Jessica Simpson; and Lachey’s younger brother, Drew, won as a contestant on Dancing With the Stars.
But the singer now tells Rolling Stone the four-man vocal crew (which also includes Justin Jeffre) always intended on making music together again. "We were always very careful to make sure everyone knew we'd never really broken up," he says. "We always had the intention of doing another record. It just maybe took a little longer than we anticipated."
With all four singers’ schedules finally aligning, as well as what Lachey calls "the boy band cycle coming back around," – namely, the recent success of artists like One Direction, the Wanted and Justin Bieber – 98 Degrees felt the time was right to reunite.
Yet, as Lachey explains, it was not until after the group performed a successful one-off concert last summer at the Mixtape Festival in Pennsylvania, their first performance as a group in nearly a decade, that they officially decided to reunite.
"The Mixtape Festival for us was the barometer of 'Hey, can we have fun doing this again?’" he explains. "'Cause you don't want to do anything that feels like a chore. You want to come and get back together for the right reasons. So we went and did that show and had a blast doing it, and the fans loved it. To see them all out there that night and feel the love from them and have as much fun as we did performing together again – at that point it kind of felt like a no-brainer."
98 Degrees returned to the studio last October to record 2.0. Lachey says the group aimed to strike a balance between their classic R&B vocal blend and modern music armed with Top 40 potential. "I think we did a pretty good job of walking that line," he says. "We realized that music's changed quite a bit since 2000 when we made our last album together. We wanted to evolve with music, and we want to be current and relevant in terms of our sound. At the same time, we also wanted to be very cognizant of trying to keep the harmony and the vocal sound that made us what we were."
To that end, the new album is a sonically mixed bag: tracks such as the Bruno Mars-penned "Take the Long Way Home" and "Let Go My Heart" are of the expected aching-ballad variety, while the EDM-driven lead single "Microphone" – which Lachey describes as the group's "nod at the current music landscape" – and the Michael Jackson-channeling "Can't Get Enough" feel comparatively contemporary.
When the group hits the road this summer for the amusingly titled The Package Tour, Lachey admits things will be far different offstage for the group members, many of whom now have families of their own.
"Your life is in a different perspective than it was back then," he says. "[98 Degrees] is something now we can share with our families, which is fun in a whole new way. When you go through it the first time around, it's such a whirlwind that you sometimes forget to stop and enjoy what you're doing. Now, with the luxury of a little perspective and hindsight, we're all really enjoying the opportunity to come back together."