The boys started developing real chemistry–not like ammonium nitrate and powdered aluminum, kaboom! More like crushed rose petals and water, sweet! A grooving solution.
They started sounding good together, too.
Wouldn’t be long, and I’d start giving them some 72 hour missions: quick covers we’d video and release on YouTube as teasers. We’d record their preparation, too, so our early fans could get a taste of how they worked together.
Akira clearly was the leader–everybody followed him. He led them into riff on one of my old tunes, Fiddle Up a Creek.
Tony called me over when they finished.
“Miss Sierra,” he said. He’d taken to calling me that, like a schoolboy. It caught on with the other guys, too. More as a joke, than anything, but underneath the joking was a liner of respect, so I didn’t object. “I like your song,” he continued. “I just can’t get the base line right. Sing it with me?”
I took the melody. He beatboxed along, and then launched into a low harmony.
Like a fiddle up a creek
Mama, make my knees go weak.
When the devil’s got the bow
Got some trouble we could sow.
“That was great, Tony,” I said when we finished. “That beatboxing is really helping your rhythm, and your base line is just fine.”
“Thank you, Miss.”
It was autumn. We’d been training for six weeks. So far, it started looking like each of the guys would make it through the three-month clause.
I headed out to rake leaves. We coulda hired a gardener–we coulda hired twelve. The boys could chip in, and they sometimes did. But I found that the garden work kept me relaxed, and there’s nothing like repetitive physical labor, i.e. raking leaves, to develop focus.
I was planning the covers for our 72-hour challenges. We’d do unit groups, I’d decided.
I turned to see Akira walking towards me.
“Akira! You sounded great in there. What’s up?”
“Been doing a lot of thinking,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious what we gotta do.”
“And what’s that?”
“We need a dating ban!” he said.
“Akira, we’re not JYP,” I replied. A three-to-four year dating ban was customary with most K-Pop companies for groups in the years leading up to and after debut. But I wasn’t sure how it’d translate over here. I knew our schedules were tight, and we demanded discipline, but a dating ban?
“It’s the only thing,” he said. “Keep our focus. Keep us on track. Channel all that energy into our music. We just don’t have time for messing around with people outside the group. Friends, maybe. For mental health. But more? No way. Not for five years. A five year dating ban.”
“I don’t know, Akira. It sounds so Draconian.”
“I already talked to the guys,” he said. “They’re all for it. We’ve pledged.”
I couldn’t stop them from adopting a dating ban, if they chose it. But I wanted them to be clear it was their choice, their decision. This was not something that Summer Production Company was forcing on anybody.
We had a chance to test their commitment at an upcoming photo shoot.
We went to the city for its annual Romance Festival to get photos for album liners, posters, teasers, calendars, and fan give-aways.
On the ferry, I overheard the boys talking about the dating ban.
“Anything for the band, I’m up for,” said Vee-Jay. “For art! I’d give up breathing for music because music is breath!”
“But you gotta breathe to sing, man,” said Joey.
“It’s a metaphor,” said Vee-Jay.
“Yeah, we have met afore,” said Joey. “How could you forget this face?”
But at the festival, the gravity of their pledge sunk in.
Five years. No dating. Not even inside the group. No romantic complications. No distractions. All music. All dance. All the time. Focus. Concentration. Dedication.
It was too much for some of these romantic souls.
But I noticed Joey didn’t seem too phased. I don’t think it was that he didn’t care about dating. I think it was that he didn’t care about rules. More power to him, within reason, of course.
We got through the festival, and I got some good shots. I ended up liking the love-worn expressions the boys gave. We could package it for the fans, like “Missing you.”
“No love without you.”
Slogans like that.
“We don’t need to date when we’ve got a cat,” Akira said the next morning.
I wasn’t so sure Joey and Rylan agreed. I had the distinct feeling they were redefining the word “date.” And maybe even the word “ban.” Is it a date if you don’t leave the house? And does “ban” mean, like, for not at all?