February 19, 2007 / 4:56 AM / 12 years ago

Teen band the Jonas Brothers serve up "clean" punk

NEW YORK (Billboard) - At the Jonas Brothers’ family home in New Jersey, a wooden sign over the bathroom door reads “Patience is a virtue.” It’s a lesson the Brothers are lucky to have learned. Though the pop-punk boy band is riding high at iTunes and Radio Disney on the strength of “Year 3000,” the brothers have taken an unexpectedly circuitous route to success.

The Jonas Brothers — Nick, 14, Joe, 17, and Kevin, 19 — were born as a band in 2005, when incoming Columbia Records president Steve Greenberg was handed a stack of CDs by Columbia artists with whom he wasn’t familiar. Included was a solo disc by Nick, a former Broadway baby with “Les Miserables” and “Beauty and the Beast” on his resume.

“I didn’t like the record he’d made,” Greenberg says. “But his voice stuck out, so I met with him and found out he had two brothers.” This was familiar territory for Greenberg — he’s the guy who discovered Hanson. “I liked the idea of putting together this little garage-rock band and making a record that nodded to the Ramones and ‘70s punk. So Michael Mangini and I went into the studio with the Jonas Brothers and did it.”

Lead single “Mandy” performed well at “TRL,” and the Jonases hit the road, playing shows with Jesse McCartney and the Veronicas. Yet the band’s album wasn’t appearing in stores.

“Over the course of our time with Sony (parent of Columbia), we probably had 10 release dates,” says the band’s manager, Phil McIntyre, who credits the delay to several high-level executive changes at Sony (including Greenberg’s departure) and the decision — “reached by both label and management,” McIntyre says — to “go back and put together a couple more tracks. The original version felt like a really great album, but we just thought we could use another lead single.”

They found one in “Year 3000,” a tune by the English pop-punk act Busted, which had a hit with the song in 2002 in the United Kingdom. “It was cool,” Nick says of reworking the album. “We’re good friends with (Busted frontman) James (Bourne), so we were honored to do the song.”

“It’s About Time,” the Brothers’ Columbia debut, finally hit record stores last August in what McIntyre calls a “limited release” of 50,000 CDs; so far, according to Neilsen SoundScan, the album has sold 40,000 copies.

“That was disappointing,” the manager admits. “We’d never gone to top 40, and Sony never put together a proper radio plan. Steve Greenberg did an amazing job of imagining a fan base at a grassroots level, but we were missing that key exposure.”

By fall of 2006, when the Jonases left Sony for the Disney-owned Hollywood Records, “Year 3000” had become a hit on Radio Disney. Robin Jones, Radio Disney vice president of programing, says the Jonas Brothers filled her need for a “clean Green Day.”

“Hopefully Disney takes them down the same road I did,” Greenberg says of the band, which is at work on an album of new material, tentatively set for release in August.

“The guys are so good at what they do that it’s going to work if they’re allowed to pursue their own vision,” he adds. “The smartest thing a label can do is not mess with them.”


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