Chips off the old block
They were the '80s pop phenomenon that created a genre and made girls
It's almost 25 years since hundreds of teenage boys in Boston auditioned for a place in what would eventually become one of the biggest selling boy bands in the world. Indeed, those young and cheesy New Kids on the Block started it all, paving the way for just about every popular boy band of the '90s.
Eighty million record sales, worldwide tours, merchandise that went beyond the ridiculous, and a legion of female fans who truly believed that Donnie, Jon, Joey, Jordan and Danny all had "oh, oh, oh-oh-oh the right stuff", made for one huge phenomenon that perhaps no amount of press clippings or video tapes will ever truly come close to describing.
In 1994, the boys bowed out of a limelight that had inevitably begun to dim.
Yet, as is the case with so many boy bands these days, precious memories just aren't enough, and it was announced early last year that the, erm, kids, were giving it another bash. And whaddya know? It's paying off.
All of a sudden, a more mature (yet still undeniably cheesy) NKOTB are once again selling out massive shows on the back of a brand new studio album entitled The Block.
The youngest kid on the block -- 36-year-old Joey McIntyre -- explains that it wasn't "some producer, or some manager, or some video station" calling for the comeback.
It was entirely their decision. However, while a couple of the guys had kept in touch, the five members hadn't been in the same room for more than 14 years. After a gap like that, it must be strange to be spending so much time together these days.
"There's a few milestones that give you chills," says Joey. "Like, the first time we're in a dance studio after 14 years and we start rehearsing and learning choreography.
"That was like 'wow, this is weird'. But it was great. Now, this is what we do and I think we do it well. We're performers and we're here to entertain and we're here to put on a good show, and I like the reality of that.
"The fact is we really do get along," he continues. "We've learned how not to piss each other off too much, you know what I mean? You've got five guys around, people are gonna be busting each other's chops, but we have a good time and we're grateful for the opportunity."
And, while the adoring teenage girls may have grown up, the overwhelming reaction to the comeback suggests they're still paying attention, and Joey insists that the atmosphere at the shows is as exciting as ever.
"For the majority of girls who came to see us, we were their first concert. Now, they've grown up and they've gotten jobs, and got out of college and had families and all that stuff and they're at a certain point where, ya know, they just have enough time where they want to do something good for themselves, you know what I mean?
"So now, here we come along, the reaction is very much the same . . . They feel 12 years old again. And you don't really get that feeling very often in life."
Over the past decade, McIntyre has branched out as an actor, performing both on stage and in front of the camera, while also consistently juggling a solo career in music.
Overall, he's kept himself in the spotlight, but was he not a little worried or heartbroken when the NKOTB journey first came to an end?
"We weren't heartbroken at all," he says. "I think we were excited to see what was on the other side of the rainbow, so to speak. I mean, we were going, going, going for five or six years."
Was there ever a point during that time where it all became a bit too much to deal with?
"Yeah, I mean, we were disappointed by the fact that there were way too many things out there with our faces on them," he recalls.
Who the hell was buying NKOTB marbles?
"Yeah, exactly," he replies. "We had all this shit out there and you're like 'what the hell is this?' I was the youngest in the group, so I really didn't mind that much, but the other guys were 18, 19, 20 -- they didn't want big slippers with their faces on them!
"We never really pointed the finger at managers or producers, I mean, it's just part of the animal, the nature of the beast, but the schedule was crazy.
"Luckily, we have good families," he continues. "I'm the youngest of nine kids so I never felt it too hard, and they were always there when they thought I was falling off the deep end, so it's just one of those things, and I think we're all lucky to come out of it with heads on our shoulders.
"And I think coming from Boston, really, it's a working class town and you can't get too big for your britches and I think that mentality helped us out and really kept us grounded."
Are you enjoying it more this time around? "Well, absolutely, I guess I'd have to say yes for a few reasons," he enthuses.
"I mean, mainly because this time around it's now, you know what I mean? There's nothing better than now. I think we're better performers, there's more time and space, because we've allowed that. Yet in so many ways, it's a lot like back in the day, ya know, it's an experience. . ."
With a few more lines on the face and a bit more stubble, I say, before asking if the comeback is a permanent deal.
"I really don't know," he ponders. "I know the door is wide open. It's going to be a challenge to figure out how to keep it fresh and cool because if it doesn't feel good to us, then we're not going to do it.
"I think what we've done, coming back like this, we've really written our own chapter and finished it the way we wanted to finish it, so if we're going to do something, it had better be damn good because why would you want to jeopardise what we've done?"
Finally, the Irish-American singer expresses his excitement about the group's long awaited debut show in Ireland this month.
"We never played in Ireland," says Joey. "And, being the Irish kid on the block, I was always very disappointed. I've been over to Ireland a couple of times -- my McIntyres are from Limerick.
"I haven't met any of them yet but it's amazing to go to the old country. And now to perform, it's going to be very, very special. And I'm not just propping myself up or anything like that," he finishes.
"But the Irish people are the most charming people in the world as far as I'm concerned, so it's a real treat to get over there."
New Kids on the Block play the O2 on Wednesday; The Block is out now