“I’m just gonna let you know before we go any further: NOBODY ROCKS THE MIC LIKE DU JOUR. RIDE ON YOUR MOTORBIKES WITH DU JOUR. I’m just putting it out there.”
We’re approximately 15 seconds into our conversation when Donald Faison starts shouting into his phone. It isn’t bad shouting — of the sort that rendered him immediately famous in that freeway scene from Clueless — but good shouting, excited shouting, the joyful kind that greets a home run at a ballpark. Or, in this case, a call from a reporter regarding the fake boy band that had him lip syncing about backdoor lovers in the summer of 2000.
Seth Green is just as thrilled as his former co-star is. Green, Faison, Alex Martin and Breckin Meyer had just wrapped shooting on Can’t Hardly Wait when the directors of the film, Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, cast them as Du Jour, the boy band that served as a crooning foil to the Josie, Melody and Val, the cat ears-sporting rock heroines of their next movie.
When Josie and the Pussycats hit theaters on April 9, 2001, Du Jour was a four-man caricature that parodied the bands dominating the charts and hearts of listeners on a seismic, international scale. The movie came out at the peak of the boy band era, months after “I Want It That Way” defined the pop proclivities of a generation, O-Town formed on Making the Band, and *NSYNC delivered the most iconic choreography and chorus of their career with “Bye Bye Bye.” At the time, Faison and Green were thrilled to not only capitalize on that and riff on this cultural phenomenon, but do so with substance, as Josie’s punchlines hit deeper than jokes at the expense of Nick Lachey’s tattoos — and do so together.
“They told us they were thinking about me and Donald and Breckin in a boy band in Josie, and we all thought that would be very, very funny,” says Green. “We’re all excellent friends in real life, and the idea — especially in that year, we’d all become well familiar with [boy bands] — that was really appealing.”
It showed — and continues to show, given Faison and Green’s enthusiasm. Here’s a condensed version of what Faison and Green had to say about Du Jour, Josie being the “Heathers of pop bands,” their enduring respect for boy bands, and who among them could hack it with Justin Timberlake and the pros.
The birth of Du Jour
Faison and Meyer played members of Love Burger, the Can’t Hardly Wait band whose big break at a high school graduation party goes horribly awry, but Josie gave them an opportunity to draw inspiration from their off-set friendship. “I thought it was great, because we’re all really close in real life,” says Faison. “For us to be in a boy band together and pretend that we could sing and dance and that we had all of these crazy fans, it was amazing. We thought it was a great idea. We were like, ‘This is perfect; we feel like we’re a boy band anyway.’”
Going from fans of New Edition and *NSYNC to [fake] boy band members
Both Faison and Green have an enormous amount of respect for the artistry required of their boy band contemporaries. “I love boy bands,” says Faison. “My favorite boy band of all time is New Edition. When I had the opportunity to be in a boy band it was a dream come true. So, regardless of how I felt about Backstreet or O-Town or *NSYNC, it all just spun back to my New Edition craze and how much I loved those guys, how much I wanted to be those guys, how they influenced my high school life, my junior high school life.
“At the time there was the whole beef between like, Eminem and *NSYNC, or how people viewed certain boy bands,” Faison recalls of the days when Eminem would name-check and threaten Chris Kirkpatrick in a smash hit like 2002’s “Without Me.” “Certain boy bands were too popcorn; other boy bands were not popcorn enough. I just loved the fact that I was in a boy band. I can legitimately say that regardless of if I’m singing on it or not, I’ve got music videos of me pretending to hit every move!”
Green has a similar amount of love for boy bands from his youth. “I grew up on The Beatles and New Edition and the Jackson 5, and had watched the rise of New Kids On The Block, and really appreciated the place boy bands hold in pop,” he explains. “When it’s done right, it’s sort of unstoppable. Even if the music felt juvenile or if the presentation wasn’t necessarily aimed at me, I kept meeting these guys at MTV Awards or at different events, and they were all really talented and super excited and living their dreams. So it was kind of difficult to be disparaging about any of it, even if it wasn’t exactly my taste [at the time].”
Taking choreography — and ridiculous feather boas — into their own hands
“We took it very seriously,” says Faison of their dance moves, which they made up themselves (with some assistance from a professional). “At the time it was when *NSYNC was doing that HBO special [NSYNC: Live From Madison Square Garden], and we all watched it a couple of times trying to copy those guys. They had a concert literally airing the week before we shot. I know I taped it, and I know Breckin taped it… When we shot the movie, *NSYNC was top of the food chain, then it was Backstreet Boys, then it was O-Town I think.”
“We created our own choreography, selected our own outfits so that we could completely embody versions of each of these characters,” Green says, referring to the personal touches they all put on their roles. “I wanted to play the guy in the band who had too many accessories. Everyone always has their defined characters — the tough guy, the goofy guy, and [I was] Travis, not quite knowing who he was.”
Green adds that he drew inspiration from the struggles of a real-life boy bander. “This was also the time when Lance Bass was still in the closet,” he shares. “I knew Lance personally, and everybody that knew Lance that was behind the scenes knew that he was gay and was struggling with that, and struggling with the persona and self he had to keep to be a part of this band. I thought was something interesting to explore, especially for a character that literally puts a hat on top of another hat, defined by his accessories. To that end, we all agreed that’d be a great signature.”
Du Jour as the poster boys of pop culture commentary in Josie
Josie’s critique of the machinations of the music industry at the time is hardly veiled, and Du Jour’s piece of that puzzle is crucial: They represent the constant demand for fresh, new talent, and the impermanence of fame.
“When I first read the script, it was far more dark and cynical and exposing of the corporate commercial mechanics behind a lot of the stuff vs. the interaction of the music with an audience,” says Green. “I always thought it was a ballsy thing for Universal to do, which was make a movie that was blisteringly honest and harsh about the industry and the duality of all of these things — how something so pure is being used as a surgical needle to infiltrate the minds of young consumers. I thought that was very clever, and worth talking about, even in a comedic way. It’s difficult to sell something sincerely when the product you’re selling is a deconstruction of the format itself.
“I think it’s why the movie didn’t get quite a reception in theaters but has gone on to become such a beloved favorite,” he continues. “It’s like a Heathers of pop bands.”
For Faison, it’s a little more personal. “I already knew that’s how the industry was,” he says. “My kid brother was in a boy band called Imajin, and they had one album that Jive [Records] put out — and that was it. They were out at the same time Britney Spears came out; there’s even magazine shoots that they did with Britney. I know how it is, how once a company gets behind a certain style or sound, they’ll push it and put it on the radio all the time. We eat it up because we think we love it — or maybe we do love it — but for the most part, we’re fed it over and over and over again.”
Picking “Larger Than Life” favorites
Faison and Green are both quick to answer when it comes to who their favorite acts were from this particular pop subset and which songs are stuck in their head to this day.
“I guess that Backstreet’s ‘Larger Than Life’ played so much in that year, and everywhere we went it was,” says Green. “I got to see them perform it a couple of times and it was always impressive. I never bought anybody’s record or spent a lot of time studying it, so it really was just whatever permeated through. I probably know more of it than I ever intended from having never sat down and tried to, you know?”
Faison is more exuberant in his answer. “Yo, 100 percent, I was into *NSYNC, dude. 100 percent!” he exclaims. “I think I liked them so much because they were the most soulful boy band out of that era. Justin could really sing. JC [Chasez] could really sing. And they could sing with black artists, too, whereas — this is just my personal opinion — you throw anybody in Backstreet Boys in with an R&B act, like, let’s say Jodeci or Boyz II Men, at the time, they would get rocked as far as vocal capabilities went. *NSYNC’s guys could actually hang, and not only could they hang, they actually had a little bit of swagger to them, too. Being an African-American, being black, that was the one thing I could say about *NSYNC that was dope.”
Who could’ve hacked it in a boy band for real?
“ME! ME. THESE CATS — Look. Ask them all,” answers Faison. “None of them grew up with New Edition or anything like that! They didn’t like New Kids On The Block or anything! These guys were all freakin’ Kurt Cobain fans! Seth introduced me to Bush, you know what I’m sayin’? Boy bands, they weren’t into that. I was. I knew all about that world.”
“Donald was the best dancer,” says Green, laughing. “None of us are really singers. You can tell in that one moment where we try to imitate the Entertainment Tonight theme. We all sort of intentionally went flat and off key but it wasn’t much of a stretch.”