Ahead of the ceremony, Variety caught up with Lance Bass, whose next project is a documentary on his former manager-turned-Ponzi schemer Lou Pearlman, to talk about the band’s career path, the famous “Bye, Bye, Bye” dance and having found a permanent place in Hollywood alongside group members Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick.
When you first came to Hollywood, was there a star that prompted you to think, “Wow, maybe one day that will be ours?”
Lance Bass: Of course. Any member of the Beatles is who I always look for, and Garth Brooks is also a big one for me. I love the movies, too, so walking down Hollywood Boulevard and seeing all those stars — as an entertainer, it really does inspire you to be better at your craft.
And here’s the proof: your own permanent place in entertainment history.
I know. It’s insane what has gone down, and I could not be more appreciative of what the world has given me and the guys. That’s why I’m excited for this ceremony, because it’s kind of cementing us in history. But this is really for the fans and every person we’ve ever worked with — every choreographer, every record [company] person, our families, our friends. It took thousands of people to get us to where we got. And, I feel like that star ceremony is honoring every single one of them.
Do you remember the day you got the call to join *NSYNC?
It was one of the craziest days for me, because I didn’t know if it was real, or not. I was too busy planning my homecoming dance for my junior year of high school. So, that was the only thing on my mind at that point. But, we got a call from my vocal coach that Justin’s manager at the time, Lou Pearlman, was trying to put a group together, and they were looking for a bass singer. Bob Westbrook was the one who recommended me to talk to Justin, because I was the only bass that they thought would really fit for this group. So, yeah, I agreed to fly to Orlando the next day and hang out with the guys, but never did I think that I would ever make the band. I just thought it’d be a nice, free trip to Disney.
The album No Strings Attached” sold 2.4 million copies it first week out, a record that would hold for 14 years. Did you guys see that coming?
No, we had no idea that that album would sell like that. We were scared for so many reasons before that album. We thought “No Strings Attached” was gonna be our defining moment: it would solidify that we were here to stay, or it was gonna show that no one cared about us anymore. We were going through that lawsuit [with Lou Pearlman], and we’d lost our name. We’re touring, changing the name of the group, changing record labels; everything was just so all up in the air. And, we knew, out of sight, out of mind. With this lawsuit, we thought it would take us out of commission for a very long time.
But, on top of that, it also gave us an amazing theme for the album: that we’ve got no strings on us anymore, no strings attached. We just kind of went with that. And, showed people how we felt, the first few years of our career, with a record label that we felt was holding us back. And the fans just really loved it and the story behind it. It really came from the heart. And, I know we made some really great songs for that album. So, I think there was this perfect time in the universe, and the rest is history.
Then “Celebrity” came out a year later giving the group back-to-back successes. Was that also satisfying?
It was the first time that we actually had time to focus. With the first few albums, we were so busy on the road that we didn’t have time to concentrate on the writing aspect of the album. With “Celebrity,” I felt like we sat back, took a little time off for once in our career, and we started writing and singing to things that were coming out of our hearts, and our brains. Half the stuff we write, of course, would never make the album. But I was so proud of the songs that did make it …because they show that we were growing up.
When you were learning the “Bye Bye Bye” dance, did you have any hint that it would end up becoming iconic?
Not at all. Especially because I never understood that hand move, which was supposed to mean “shut up” not “bye bye.” But man, people really gravitated to that.
The night that you honored Justin at the 2013 VMAs, what do you remember of it?
That was very special to be a part of, and what was very impressive to me was that we all still had it. We got into rehearsals, and it was like riding a bike. It came back so naturally, in fact I think we were actually much better than when we were a few years before. It was just a great reunion. We had such a fun two days of rehearsing, and being stupid, and acting like we’re teenagers, again. … It’s very rare that all five of us get to be in the same room together, but when we do, it’s like time never passed. We just pick up exactly where we left off.