S-Boys: Episode 4 – House Rules

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One of our nearest neighbors, Supriya Delgato, stopped by on contract-signing day.

“Hi,” she said. “I noticed you have some new people moving in?”

“Yes,” I said. “It’s business.”

“Oh?”

“Right. Remember I mentioned I was a producer? Well, I’m producing.”

“OK, then.”

“OK. See ya! Kinda busy, but be sure to stop by anytime!” I waved to her back as she walked off.

I was more than busy. Each of the guys was arriving that day, and as they did, I had to go over the house rules with them, make sure they knew what they were getting into, and then see if they were ready to sign the contract.

“So, Tony,” I said to the Living Statue. “I take it you’re no stranger to discipline and hard work.”

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He thought a moment.

“Not hardly,” he said. “Takes a lot of fortitude and dedication to freeze in a pose for well on an hour or more.”

“That’s what I figured! Great! Then you’ll have no problems with what’s required to be an S-Boy!”

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I laid out the expectations. They all got Sunday off. Easy! As for the rest? Six hours a day, six days a week, they would dedicate to singing practice, dancing lessons, some form of body culture (yoga, swimming, basketball, exercise machines), and maintaining their social media presence.

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“Sounds awesome!” said Tony.

On top of that, we’d have two to four hours of rehearsal six days a week and time for creative–which involved writing songs, composing music, creating art for liner notes, writing poetry to share with fans, that sort of thing.

“So, basically, we have no life?” Tony said.

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“Well, no,” I replied. “You have a life. It’s just that your life is the S-Boys.”

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Then there was the three-month clause. The contract lasted for a year, with the plan that we’d begin production on the first album in six months, after the intensive training season. But at three months, we’d revisit the contract. We’d each be given the option to be released from it at that time, if we felt that, for any reason, it wasn’t working out. I knew that everything rested on the chemistry of the group. We’d know in three months if we had it. And if we didn’t, I needed the freedom to juggle members at that time. And as for the guys, they might discover that band-life is not for them. I didn’t want anybody feeling stuck, because if they made it past the three-month mark, they were in. Hopefully for the life of the band. Which, hopefully, would be for a good long time. Six comebacks, at least. Maybe more. After the six-month mark, they really wouldn’t have a life beyond S-Boys.

Tony sat very still. Like a statue. I showed I could out-statue him.

“What do you say?” I asked stoically. “Can you handle it?”

“I can handle it,” he replied, just as stoically, back.

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To my surprise, every one of them agreed. Even Joey, the cute bartender. And, even though it was Sunday when we signed contracts, Joey didn’t waste his free day. He got right to work on the wall. Guy’s gotta keep his assets looking good!

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I’d explained about the cameras. It was spelled out in the contract, but I wanted to make sure they understood. Every room except the bathrooms was equipped with cameras. The cameras in the bedrooms could be switched on or off at their discretion, so they would always have a private retreat at hand. The cameras in all the other rooms were always on, and any footage from them could be used in live-streams, youtubes, snapchats, or any other social, promotional, or documentary outlet.

Publicity. Promotion. Public exposure. It was all part of being in a boy band.

We got some great footage from the first day.

*****

Tony: Hey, you into this, Joey?

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Joey: The ATP’s flowing. I’m feeling pretty high.

Tony: Yeah, great work-out gear, man! Tell you what, you show me around the climbing wall, I’ll show you around the punching bag! Is it a deal?

Joey: Yeah, OK. I guess.

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*****

OK, so maybe on its own, the footage isn’t that great. But when you think about the future context, the setting-up of the moment, I had a feeling, even then, that this would be one of those clips shared in every fan mixup. “First meeting between Joey and Tony!” #S-BoysDayOne! #S-BoysFavoriteShip!

Supriya dropped by again later that afternoon, on the pretense of delivering some apples she’d picked from their tree.

“So, let me get this straight,” she said. “The band is living here?”

“That’s right.”

“And they’re all guys? How many?”

“Five,” said Akira.

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“It’s a boy-band,” I said. “I mentioned I was a producer, right?”

Even though it was Sunday, moving-in day, and the day off, Tony found the home gym upstairs. He spent a few hours working out. I knew, even then, that we were going to really appreciate his dedication and intensity.

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It provided a good counter-balance for the others, who knew all-too-well the meaning of “easy.”

All right, so Joey had snuck in a bonus work-out on the climbing wall. And moving was exhausting under the best conditions. I’m not one to begrudge a Sunday afternoon nap,  especially when I thought of the labor that would start in earnest the next day. But if half of the future-ship was napping, I felt a little relieved that the other half was upstairs working out.

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S-Boys: Episode 3 – Honeypop

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The boys were lining up to audition at Planet Honeypop. I passed on the first two, but the third guy stopped me in my tracks. Akira Kibo.

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Of course I knew who he was. You can’t follow the YouTube pop scene and not know Akira Kibo. He traveled with his own fanbase, namely Miko Ojo, his roomie at the time.

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His voice slides smoother than the cream on top whole-fat yogurt. His style goes easy.

I was a little surprised, frankly, that he’d try out for our group. But this was a real chance, with real contracts, and a real producer–me. And the exposure couldn’t hurt the numbers of subscribers for his regular Youtube channel. We didn’t have an exclusive clause, so he could do both.

I started to get excited, daydreaming about him being the center of the group. I mean, the other potentials had personality and quirky charm, but Akira, he had talent and skill and experience. He was the real bomb.

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He winked at me when he finished.

“Your turn,” he said.

No one else was waiting to sing at the moment, so I indulged him. He’d punched in one of my numbers on the karaoke machine–never mind how old it made me feel to have a hit song listed in the Golden Oldies section. I rocked it, and that made me feel like a teenager.

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When I finished, I heard somebody calling out, “Hey! Hey! That was really awesome!”

It was Vaneer! I was tickled that he showed up. His spot was waiting for him, and all he had to do was agree to the terms, but here he was, at the evening auditions, lending support.

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“The guy down there was asking about you,” he said.

I looked down the bar to see a bronzed god of a man. Oh, that facial structure! It looked familiar, somehow, but I couldn’t place him.

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He approached me when he noticed I was looking his way.

“Well, you left your card,” he said. “Here I am.”

“Statue guy?”

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“None other!” he replied. “Tony McCarthy, at your service!”

He had a great speaking voice. A little high, but rich. I bet he had a killer falsetto.

“Tell me about yourself!” I suggested.

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“I’ve always wanted to perform,” he said. “That’s why the statue thing. I can hold one pose for an hour. Maybe more. It’s OK. Takes discipline, which I got in abundance. But I’d kinda like to move. I wanna dance!”

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“And sing?”

“I’m more the quiet type,” he said. “Statues aren’t a speaking role.”

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Meh. We’d work on it. And even if he, primarily, danced, that could work out, too. We could always use handsome.

Akira sauntered past.

“Am I in?” he asked.

“Of course,” I replied. I gave him the info. He sauntered off.

“Later, then.”

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We had a few more auditions. Nobody really reached me. They were mostly too typical, too timid, cookie-cutter knock-offs. I’d had my heart set on a quintet. There’s just something balanced about five–lead in the center, flanked by two duos. But I guess we could settle for a quartet. Four wasn’t the loneliest number.

My throat was parched. Maybe I could get a cup of tea and ask the bartender to spike it for me.

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Or maybe I didn’t need it spiked.

You make me feel…
Like I’m already tipsy.

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Oh, he was something else. Sweet on the eyes! Very good with his hands. Every boy band needs somebody who can do tricks, right?

“How’re the auditions going?” he asked.

“OK, then not-so-OK, until now.”

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We talked a bit. He was interested. The bartender was interested.

I sat down, humming the new song.

You make me feel…

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And then Vaneer finished the verse for me:

Like a unicorn, baby.”

“Vaneer! That’s it!”

“Vivaan.”

“What?”

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S-Boys: Episode 1 – Can’t be Taught

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The enterprise begins at Waterside Warble, on a sunny Sunday morning. I’m dressed for the part, I’ve got my confidence going, we’re doing this thing!

I’m Sierra Summer. You probably know me as a washed up former folk star. But baby, you don’t know what’s coming!

I’ve pulled together all my royalties, divested all my investments, pooled all my resources, and I’ve been reborn, reinvented, revisualized as Hi-Glam Producer of none-other-than the next upcoming boy band, the S-Boys!

What, you’ve never heard of them? Just wait. Six months from now, they’ll be top of every pop chart like a hot breakfast pop tart!

And you, since you’re here now, before they’ve even begun, you’ll get to say you “knew them when.”

You know them before there even was a them.

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I posted on Social about the auditions. Even promoted a few posts and took out an ad or two.

But there was no line of cute teens waiting to try out.

No matter. I was not fazed. I took the nearest empty room, in purple, nonetheless, my all-time favorite color, and warmed up the joint. Oh, yes. I can still sing.

You make me feel… 

After I finished serenading the empty room, I headed to the juice bar, ordered a lassi, and waited. And waited.

And then, the first guy showed up. Vivaan Rameesh.

Lucky thing I brought my drink with me.

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Luckier yet I asked the juice-girl to spike it for me.

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This guy was terrible.

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I mean, terr-i-bull!

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Oooh-ew! Chile… 

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Something was sour, and it wasn’t my spiked mango lassi.

Thingzer gonna git eezier…

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Yeah, no.

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I mean, he couldn’t hold a tune!

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Thingzer gonnagit briiiiiter!

He had no sense of rhythm.

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Ooooh-ew, chiii-aye-ald… 

He had no concept of phrasing.

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Lemme love you… 

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If you love me… 

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But he had something.

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And we’ll happy be…

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He was creative. Innovative, even.

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Oooh-ew, chile, lemme love you brighter!

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He was actually kind of adorable, in a geeky, awkward, one-of-a-kind way.

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I could actually kind of see it working.

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I mean, anybody can learn to sing, right?

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And, with enough work and coaching, anybody can learn to dance.

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But to make up lyrics? To throw your heart and soul into a piece, even when you’re struggling like a pup in the deep end? To have that kind of endearing, indescribable, oblivious charisma?

That can’t be taught! A person is born with that!

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He finished as suddenly as he started and we both drowned in the momentary silence.

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“Oh, God,” he said. “I am so sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

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He closed his eyes. He couldn’t even bear to look at me.

“Vaneer,” I said, my voice breaking the quiet, “I think you’ve got something.”

“It’s Vivaan.”

“What?”

“My name. It’s Vivaan. Vivaan Rameesh.”

“Oh. What do you think of the name Vaneer? Never mind. You’ve got something, Vivaan!”

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“Yeah, I don’t think so,” he said. “I dunno what I was thinking. I should’ve stayed home today.”

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“I’ll admit, your singing can use some work. And your dancing can use even more. And it might not hurt to learn about rhythm. And pacing. And phrasing.”

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“But you’ve got a quality, Vaneer!”

“Vivaan.”

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“Frankly, you’re adorable.”

He didn’t look like he believed me.

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“And adorable can’t be taught!”

He cracked his first smile.

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“See what I’m saying?” I said, and he showed me his dimples. “I think you’ve got what I’m looking for. What do you say we get together and go over a contract and you can see if this thing might work out for you, too?”

He clapped. See what I’m saying? You don’t learn that in any school of rock. That’s just pure, unabashed, adorableness.

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I think we’ve got our first S-Boy!

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Author’s note: Yup! We’ve got a new series, Sierra and the S-Boys! Inspired by Got7 (especially, the Got7 Eat series), this will offer a light interlude in-between Puppy Love and Lighthouse chapters, which I’ll still be updating regularly.