Long before millennial minimalism became the “cool” thing, the ideal teenage bedroom décor included a collage of photographs covering at least one wall from ceiling to floor, dominated by whichever celeb’s face was on the latest Smash Hits free poster or whoever could be snipped out of Top of the Pops. Like any 13-year-old, my bedroom was wallpapered in pictures of numerous cute boys that I was convinced would one day fall in love with me, regardless of their geographical location or superstar status. And no-one featured more heavily than three musical brothers from New Jersey.
12 years later I find myself sat about five feet away from the IRL faces of said brothers on a sunny afternoon in February. I’m in touching distance of the guys responsible for my parents getting a disciplinary letter from school after driving me and my sister to their concert instead of sending us to afternoon lessons, and we’re about to listen to their first new music in six years. Two weeks later, they will officially release their comeback single “Sucker” and the Jonas Brothers will, once again, become the biggest band in the world.
It’s been over a decade since they (arguably, but don’t argue with me) first held that title. Signing to Disney’s Hollywood Records in early 2007, Nick, Joe and Kevin Jonas (who were 16, 18, and 20 at the time) were catapulted into the spotlight thanks to their uplifting pop-rock bops, highly publicised wearing of purity rings, and the fact that they were all irresistibly loveable. Nick had the Botticelli curls and the voice of an angel; Joe, the heartthrob and low-key rebel had the expertly straightened fringe; and Kevin was the eldest and therefore, surely, the enigmatically wisest. As they were once respectively pinned in an episode of the Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana, they were: the cute and sensitive one, the cute and funny one, and the cute and romantic one.
After signing, eight whirlwind years of sold-out world tours followed, supplemented by a 3D concert biopic and chart-topping albums. The trio were unavoidable, with features in a slew of shows and films building their fanbase around the globe. They were boy-next-door beautiful, and their music was inoffensive and enjoyable, with sugary lyrics that were PG enough to get past even the most protective of parents.
“We have a lot to thank Disney for,” Joe tells me. “When we were getting started, we were in a position at one point where we were without a label and we didn’t really know what the next steps were going to be and Disney reached out with a huge opportunity for us to be signed by them and work on a TV show. This was kind of a saving grace for us in that point of our career and we jumped at that opportunity. But of course as you get older and you’re a young adult and you’re still on the Disney Channel, that can feel a little uncomfortable. Creatively, you can feel like you’re a little boxed in and you can’t really expand and grow. Lyrically, what you’re going through in that time in your life, you have to protect your audience by only writing what Disney would approve. It was a little bit tricky as we got older, that’s for sure.”
Their aforementioned appearance on Hannah Montana broke records, pulling in 10.7 million viewers and when they starred in their own Disney Channel Original Movie, it became the third most watched of all time. They were living the dream that they’d always wanted, but the Disney machine began to take its toll. Told what to wear, how to act and what to say for the majority of their adolescence, the binding of the stereotypical clean-cut Disney mould was too restrictive as they got older.
“I think generally what became challenging for us when we decided to grow, was that we had become known in a certain way for certain things and affiliations with Disney,” Nick explains. “It was tough for us when we felt like people had one perception of who we were and stories we were going to tell. I think just generally, Disney exposure made it tough for people to accept us as a real band at times.”
On the one hand, they were incomprehensibly famous — the Jonas Brothers have sold eight million records to date — but on the other, they were feeling stuck and stifled creatively, and the three felt themselves pulling apart both musically and personally. After their 2009 fourth studio album Lines, Vines, and Trying Times was critically panned, it became clear the group were going through — for lack of a better phrase — trying times. Their fifth album V was subsequently scrapped and the group cancelled tour dates, with Joe taking to Twitter to urge fans to “please hold while we get our shit together”. But, on October 29th 2013, they officially announced their split, citing the dreaded “creative differences”, shattering hearts and shredding wall-shrines across the globe.
“There was definitely a strain emotionally that was being put on all of us,” Nick explains. “We had such a specific way of doing things for so long and I think as we got older and tried to progress artistically, we got stuck in those old ways so our music suffered and our general vibe with each other and ability to communicate in a healthy way no longer existed. I think it was always a priority for us to protect the family first and make sure that nothing ever complicated that relationship too much. We got to the point to have that conversation, which I initiated, where I said, ‘I feel like I’ve got music in my heart and in my head that I want to make, and I feel like with all the stress that we’ve been going through together, this isn’t the right thing for us to do anymore.’”
“It definitely was a really difficult thing to hear,” Joe says. “We were all so invested in doing this for as long as we could see, but there was real benefit in him making that decision. We didn’t see it at that point, but time would tell that it was really important for us to call it quits.”
During the six years that followed, the three took it upon themselves to find out who they were as individuals, away from the confines of Disney and of being a constant third of a trio. Nick got buff and Joe got tattoos, and both of them continued to play music; Nick on his own and Joe with funk-pop group DNCE. They also both found love on the way, reaching the peak of #CoupleGoals with Priyanka Chopra and Sophie Turner. Meanwhile, Kevin retreated from the spotlight to immerse himself in family life, having two girls with his childhood sweetheart Danielle, while also breaking into the business world. “I think every one of us just really went off on our own journey and it was needed,” Kevin says. “I think at the time, it was odd for sure, but with that long time we took apart it led us to find ourselves and find what we cared about and get perspective on a lot of things.”
Whilst the guys were finding happiness within themselves, rebuilding their bond as brothers turned out to be more complex. Creative differences and a desire to explore artistically were some of the reasons for disbanding, but ultimately, working together for a decade put a strain on their relationship. We’ve all heard the warning not to mix business with pleasure, and Nick, Joe and Kevin had made a career doing just that. “We didn’t have a relationship as brothers,” Kevin admits. “There was so much more riding on us because we were working together and making music as this band.”
It took them time to heal from the split, reportedly not hanging out just as the three of them for several years, but a mix of Joe and Nick moving in together following a break-up and Kevin welcoming his two children into the world brought them closer together. As their bond slowly healed, Nick began missing the magic he had on stage with his brothers and started to work Jo Bro classics into his solo set, planting the seed of a possible reunion in his mind.
When a Jonas Brothers documentary was suggested, Nick’s idea sprouted. Originally meant to just tell the story of the family, filming gave the brothers the opportunity to spend time together in a way that they hadn’t for years and opened the gates for them to talk, with Nick eventually raising the question of a reunion. “I hate that I have to take credit for being the one who initiated the conversation about breaking the band up, but the redemption story is that I also got the band back together in a way!” he laughs. “I was starting to crave that magic and being on stage with them again, so I started the conversation. Initially I think it was met with a little apprehension, but then over time, once we decided all together to start working on this documentary, I think we were able to get into it and talk through some of the things that we wouldn’t really talk through before.”
While filming in Cuba, a spontaneous jam of their saccharine 2008 hit “Lovebug” fuelled the fire in the others too. “We grabbed some acoustic guitars and just started playing together again,” Nick reminisces. “I think we all felt that spark and wanted to get into the conversation of what it would look like if we wanted to do this again.” After that, Nick and Kevin went out to Australia to see Joe when he was mentoring on their version The Voice, where a drinking game ensued with the brothers writing down burning questions they had for each other in a “drink while you think” style session. It gave them the Dutch courage they needed to allow them to confront the underlying feelings that they had and kickstart the healing session. “Suddenly, the documentary went from being about our past to being about our potential future,” Nick says. “Fortunately, we have the footage and will be able to show our kids one day that ride that we went on to get here.”
Building their musical and personal relationships back up, they found themselves as solid as they’d been during their hey-day in the late-00s. They were finally able to communicate and consequently, the music poured out of them.
Which brings us back to the sunny afternoon in February where I’m sat opposite the grown up version of the three faces that used to be plastered over my bedroom wall, waiting to hear the first new Jonas Brothers music in six long years. They may have glowed up on the outside — the graphic tees have been replaced by designer jackets, their messy hair is now expertly styled and when the light hits their watches I’m momentarily blinded — but the new music is still inherently the Jonas Brothers. Albeit a recharged and renewed 2019 version.
“When we got back into the studio, I think we were able to craft a sound early on which really describes the sound of the project,” Nick tells me later. “It’s a real combination of what Joe did with DNCE, what I was able to do with my solo stuff, and combining those with elements that are just classic Jonas Brothers.”
“It was definitely a different experience for us,” Kevin adds. “It was a little bit of trial and error which was a nice change. I think back then we’d walk in and all be in different places in our lives when we’d write songs — one person was going through a break up, one person had someone new in their lives — but now we’re all in similar places in our personal lives so it helps when it comes to writing music, we can all really lean towards each other and also know when an idea is better than yours. And musically, like Nick said, combining those sounds and finding a way to blend DNCE and mix solo music together, so that way it’s still something that our fans would love but it’s fresh for new listeners out there.”
The first two tracks they’ve released effortlessly show this new sound. “Sucker”, February’s official comeback track, is a sizzling pop-rock love song bursting with vibrancy that landed at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making the Jonas Brothers the first boyband to do so since B2K in 2003. Its follow-up, “Cool” is an easy-breezy self-confidence anthem, that shouts out the brothers’ significant others and shows off their tongue-in-cheek lyrical style, epitomised with the particularly inspired rhyming couplet of “Post Malone” and “Game of Thrones”.
“In the current state of the world, everything is so serious all the time, and it’s nice to be put out of that for a minute and just enjoy the fun. That’s kind of where we’re at,” Kevin explains their outlook this time around. “We’re looking at life in such a fun way right now, so let’s enjoy every moment! Let’s celebrate the littlest wins and the biggest wins and just enjoy this time together.
Working with Ryan Tedder, the mastermind behind the majority of your fave songs, the boys are now getting ready to release their fifth album Happiness Begins on June 7, with their documentary Chasing Happiness available to stream via Amazon Prime from the 4th. “We kept saying while we were going about making the music: ‘Let’s make a bottle of happiness and bring it to the world,’” Nick explains. “If we can bring a little bit of joy into people’s lives and if they can listen to this music and get up and dance and have a good time, then we’ve done our job. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t some deeper songs on the album that touch on really resonant topics for us and things that we’ve gone through, but then, all that being said, I think we’re all in a really happy place in our lives.”
It’s nearly 10 years since they released their last album and the pop world is completely different to how it was in 2009, but the Jonas Brothers are confident in re-establishing their position at the top. And at a time where the pop charts are dominated by R&B-flecked artists like Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish, Nick says they’re enjoying being unashamed pop-rock purists. “It’s just so fun and it feels like it’s connected with the audience because people were hopefully craving something like that. We were able to just lean into that sound and have fun and not take ourselves too seriously. But the fact it’s been 10 years is a crazy thought!” he laughs. “One of the things from the first couple of shows that was so alarming to us was getting out in front of the fans and seeing them all as adults – people that we had grown up with in a sense. Now they’re all adults and they’re having to save up their money to come to the tour and making sure they have money for drinks at the show! I love that! I was so excited about that. To think about the fact that record came out 10 years ago and to know about how much we’ve all grown — fans included — and can now share it in whole new ways, it’s really exciting.”
When they go on SNL to perform a mash-up of new track “Cool” and their classic “Burnin’ Up”, the internet descends into a collective meltdown with their now-mid-20-year-old fans (yours truly included) reverting to their shrill teenage selves and taking to Twitter with “ALEXA, PLAY ‘SOS’!” cries to celebrate the return of their faves. “Now, we just want to put together an unforgettable show that allows fans to relive some of the past and feel that nostalgic energy which is undeniably a part of this journey, but also then to look towards the future with the new music,” Joe explains. “This is turning the page to a new chapter together.”
With a huge US tour already announced, a trip across the pond “not set in stone yet” but definitely tipped to happen, and the album and documentary about to come out, it feels like it’s Nick, Joe and Kevin’s hey-day once again. Sat opposite them on that February afternoon, the excitement in them is palpable, and I can’t match their level even as an OG fangirl. Although I do call my mum for a small cry afterwards, and reluctantly wash the hand that they all shook on their way out.
“We’re really getting the second bite of the apple with this, with the Jonas Brothers,” Kevin — the cute and romantic one — swoons before we say our goodbyes. “We’re just really lucky to have this opportunity.”
Is anyone else crying?
Photography - Emman Montalvan
Fashion - Avo Yermagyan
Grooming - Marissa Machado
Production - Federica Barletta
Fashion assistants - Mary Yermagyan and Gorge Villalpando
Wonderland Magazine Summer 2019 Issue.