In case you missed the memo, boy bands are back. Left and right, boy bands have been reuniting, and this doesn’t exclude British boy band, BBMak aka Christian Burns, Mark Barry and Stephen McNally.
We had a chance to catch up with them after a 15 year hiatus and asked the trio a few questions about their careers, families, and upcoming album.
BBMak will be touring across the US in the upcoming months, so make sure to grab your tickets and check out their new album Powerstation coming October 11 via Topanga Creek Records.
Tell us about how you became BBMak and your first few years as a group.
We got together in 1996, a long time ago now. We were just playing with different bands. It was more of a hobby at the time. We met in Liverpool, you know, going to different shows. One thing lead to another and we decided to start our own band together and that was the beginning of it, really. We said, “Alright, let’s take it seriously” and we all just quit what we were doing at the time and said “Let’s just get together and lets do this,” and we took it completely serious and we locked ourselves in a bedroom for about six months, just writing and singing everyday full time, all day and that’s how we did it. I remember being in college at the time and having a bunch of exams to do and just walking out.
What made you take that leap of faith?
We were in it, we were gonna give it 100% and we all committed. We moved to Liverpool and lived in a house together and we just wrote songs. We believed in what we were doing as well. We thought we were doing something different, something unique to us and we believed in it. We thought, “if we’re gonna do this, we gotta give it everything, even if it’s for a year or two.”
What does fan engagement look like now compared to when you first started out?
Well fan engagement back then was in person, there was no social media. We were on MySpace and everything, but now it’s great because now it’s a touch of a button you can engage with potentially millions of people. It’s great for us, especially because we don’t have to be together; one of us is at home, or LA or wherever. We try to post and share and interact with fans as much as we can. It’s important because the fans that were there for us back then are still with us now and we massively appreciate the support we’re getting up to this day. It’s a direct line of communication for all kinds of reasons, you know: picking singles, albums, we can post questions like ‘what’s your favorite song?’ You can get a lot out of social media. We wish we would’ve had it back in the day. Back then you had to go to every city to do TV promo.
In the 2000s, I was saying in an interview I did that I had a diary in which I wrote everyday and I found out we did a total of 180 flights that year; it was like every corner of America. We’d get up in the morning and be in one state then another state doing a photoshoot then we’d be on the tour bus overnight driving through the desert, it was surreal. It was constant, it was just nonstop for 3 years.
Would you change anything from those early days?
No, no. It was amazing! It was just a different time. But you know social media and the way people interact with fans has changed. You had to be on the road and physically go to each state. It was living out of a suitcase for months.
If you could give your younger selves advice, what would you say?
“Don’t have that last drink on the road!”
“Get some sleep.” I think it’s crazy because back then we were going out, we were making the most of it, enjoying it, but we were still sensible to a point.
I’d say to my younger self, “just take it all in.” Last time around everything was moving so quickly and we didn’t really get to absorb it. It was the airports, the venue, then the airport again, we didn’t have enough time to process everything. It was like ‘where’s next, where’s next, where’s next, let’s get it done.’ Ticking every box that we had. I’d say to my younger self, don’t take it for granted because one minute it’ll be here, the next minute it won’t.
I’d say to my younger self, don’t take it for granted because one minute it’ll be here, the next minute it won’t.
Do you feel like you did take it for granted?
You know what, I did to a point, I mean I appreciated it but I was 22 years old. What an amazing experience to have in the world. Now cause I’m older, we got kids, you know it’s weird. It seems like a dream because we’ve had that amount of time away from it. There was a focus on other things: family life, kids, and al. It wasn’t quite the right time to get back together with the lads. Now it’s like we’re enjoying it more because we appreciate it more. We’re getting that second chance that not many bands get. We did vanish for 15 years, so to come back and do shows and to have Good Morning America want us on there, it’s amazing.
During those 15 years, were you still playing music? What did you need during that time in order to come back?
We all did different things, fitness, music, one of us was in a band, did our own thing, family and stuff, and before you realize it 15 years had gone by. We got offered some cool reunion shows previously, but it just didn’t feel right at the time. It felt like we were forcing it. We decided to get back together and do it all ourselves, have full control, have our own team. Instead of someone saying ‘You’re gonna get back together, you’re gonna have a full itinerary and full schedule.’ That was important this time, especially with family. We wanted to be in control, it’s not like we were mistreated before or anything, but we were out there for three or four years non-stop and this time we wanted to be in control of the tour, schedules, and stuff like that.
We decided to get back together and do it all ourselves, have full control, have our own team.
Musically, how would you say you transitioned over the years?
I think we’ve all transitioned. We’re definitely better musicians, better singers, better songwriters. We’ve all transitioned lyrically especially. We’ve always had really catchy songs and melodies, but lyrically it’s matured a bit. We’ve obviously experienced a lot more in the past 20 years, so we have a lot to write about.
So what does the future hold for BBMak?
Were always gonna continue to write music and perform. We’re not gonna be taking a break anymore. We’re just gonna give it our all, perform, write music, record great songs, create a bigger fanbase and reach out to the people that still don’t know we’re back together yet. There’s so many people that aren’t aware that we’re back together so we’re just gonna continue doing what we’re doing. We’ll write an album every year if we can, and do bigger tours, and if any songs become a hit… (which we do want, I mean what band doesn’t?). We’re really enjoying it, not that we didn’t enjoy it last time but we’re really enjoying it this time. That’s the main thing, as long as we’re enjoying it, doing it together, we’ll be around for a long time.
How about your families? Do you talk with them about the origins of BBMak?
I’ve told the guys this story: my oldest son, got an Ipad. He says to me, ‘Dad, what was that band you were in?’ I said to him, “BBMak” and didn’t think anything of it. Then I was walking past his bedroom and I hear our song playing and I hear him singing. He got a guitar for Christmas and I showed him a few chords and then again I walk past his bedroom and I hear him playing my song.
For me, I have a two year old son and a seven year old son as well. I’m never going to force music on them, but I’m always playing music around them. When we’re in the car I’ll play them stuff from BBMak. I hope they do follow my footsteps because they can sing, they actually can sing, and I’m not being a biased dad, but (the seven year old) he really can sing. There’s something there. Knowing what music has done for me, it’d be great for them to do it as well. I’m hoping to be a great role model for my kids. The seven year old is taking it in but not as much as he would in the next three or four years, but he’s happy; he’s proud. All our families have been supportive. I play the new songs in the car all the time and my son goes, “Daddy put “Bullet Train” on!” Now they love “Wolves,” and they’re singing, they know the words. They sing the songs to their mum. It’s a great feeling.
What does your creative process look like? Do you write together or individually?
We all write individually and write together, and co-write. For this album, we did some of it in Los Angeles and some of it in England, in Yorkshire and Liverpool. We just do whatever we need to do to get it done. We swap and send ideas back and forth from Los Angeles and England. The great thing now is with the internet, you can collaborate with anyone around the world, at anytime. We just shot videos the other day, one of us filmed our bit in LA, the other in another place. We put the files together and many thought we had filmed the whole video together.
Walking down memory lane, what was it like to perform songs like “Back Here” and “Out of My Heart” to million and millions of screaming fans?
It was amazing, it was a different time. You can see things working correctly when you go to a show and everyone’s singing along. We have nothing but great memories; like the tours we did with Britney Spears and NSYNC at the height of their career. Giant stadiums doing two or three nights in a row. It was just surreal. We were then able to do our own and sell out a House of Blues tour. Just looking back, it was pretty mental but so enjoyable.
Just looking back, it was pretty mental but so enjoyable.
How do you get over those nerves when you walk out to face a stadium-sized crowd?
I remember we did our first show in London, I was sweating and dropping picks. When it’s smaller crowds it’s harder because it’s so intimate. When it’s a sea of people, you’re not really connecting with anybody. The first few shows we were all nervous. It comes with experience. Even now, we’re not going out on stage totally relaxed. We still get nervous. We still get butterflies. When we just did Good Morning America, we felt the adrenaline.
Were you at all nervous to come back after all that time?
Well, we’ve still been singing and performing. Stephen was doing shows with Train and if anything, the feeling that we get now instead of back then is different. We really take it in. When you’re on stage and the fans are connecting with you and you can see that they’re really getting into the performance; I’m getting a better feeling of that now than I used to. I can’t describe it. You get lost in it on stage. You get lost in the music, in your own world. It’s a great feeling.
I can’t describe it. You get lost in it on stage. You get lost in the music, in your own world. It’s a great feeling.
What does it mean to you to be independent?
We need to be independent now and have that control, especially with a family. We [Mark and Steve] couldn’t do this the way we could back then. If someone said ‘get back together’ and we had to do that same level of work like before, I wouldn’t have done it. Family is our priority, family is number one.We can still do the work, but we don’t have to be out [on the road] all the time. Social media frees us up a lot and allows us to be present everywhere. It’s a good feeling. Before social media, all you could do was go on TV or do interviews for magazines. That’s what we were worried about when thinking about getting back together — our control being taken out of our hands. This time we’re going to do it ourselves and we got a great team around us. You guys (The Orchard), a manager, a great tour promotion company working with us…we got a great team. When you do it independently there are obstacles but it’s just about getting the right people. There’s pros and cons. We’re not signed, and we got on Good Morning America and to be able to say that while not being signed… hopefully it will snow ball and that’ll create more interest.
What can we expect from the new album?
It definitely has that BBMak sound in the guitars, vocals, and harmonies, but it’s very contemporary in the production. I’d say there’s elements of the first and second album on there, and other elements that no one’s heard yet. The three voices make it sound like BBMak. We were a bit worried in the studio, thinking, ‘It doesn’t sound like anything BBMak’ then we put the vocals down. Lyrically, we’ve moved forward in the right direction with catchy songs. The old BBMak fans won’t be disappointed.