Last week, the four members of 98 Degrees gathered in Cincinnati at the School for Creative and Performing Arts for their first rehearsal since the boy band split a decade ago. “It was a little nerve-wracking,” group member Drew Lachey tells Rolling Stone. “Nobody really knew what we were getting into. We started off with ‘Invisible Man’ and ‘Just Give Me One Night (Una Noche).’ It was surreal to do the same songs and same staging we had done in the past, but it was almost like no time had passed at all – other than a couple grey hairs and a bleeding ulcer.”
The group was rehearsing for their August 17th performance on The Today Show and their set at Hershey Pennsylvania’s Mixtape Festival the following day. “Everybody just had to get to a place in their lives where they felt comfortable with committing to being in a group again,” says Lachey. “We’re all in a place where we can get behind it and give it a good run. We’ve been talking about it for years, but someone would have a commitment for a six-month period and after that someone else would have a commitment. We didn’t want to go out without the complete line-up. It had to be all four of us.”
The timing also seemed right for the quartet to return. The New Kids on the Block made a killing on the road with the Backstreet Boys last year, and One Direction has introduced a whole new generation of fans to boy bands. “The pop music genre has come back around,” says Lachey. “Music is very cyclical. You go through rock stages, R&B stages, rap stages… It’s an uphill battle if you try and do pop during a rap stage.”
In the 10 years since 98 Degrees split, the four guys have gone off in very different directions. Nick Lachey famously divorced Jessica Simpson, married Vanessa Minnillo and hosted NBC’s The Sing-Off. His brother, Drew, appeared on Dancing With the Stars and joined the Broadway cast of Spamalot. Jeff Timmons has recently been performing with a Chippendales show in Las Vegas, while Justin Jeffre got immersed in politics and ran for mayor of Cincinnati in 2005.
Lachey said that it took him until a few years after 98 Degrees split to fully appreciate what they had. “The odds of being in a successful group and selling a million records are about .05 percent, or something ridiculous,” he says. “When pop music was king, we were one of the three big groups [along with N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys] in the States. It doesn’t happen very often, and it took me some time to really appreciate that.”
The group’s plans beyond The Today Show and the Mixtape Festival are unclear. “We’re gonna get in the studio and make some new music,” says Lachey. “Then we’ll see where we go from there. Nothing is set in stone, though I don’t think we’ll do any more shows this summer. Down the road, a tour would be ideal for us. Right now, we just wanna make sure we do this one show the right way and come back looking and sounding our best. But, later on, a big tour would be great.”