The criticism that often comes with boybands is the idea that some industry professional snags five boys and contracts them to put out a few albums. The thing about In Real Life is that's not totally wrong. ABC launched a reality competition show called "Boyband" and the winners... well, they were put into a boyband.
While they are continuing this spiral, in so many ways In Real Life seems to be breaking free. They're taking the mold, and understanding it, and breaking it apart.
In Real Life, unlike the other boybands out there, isn't afraid to explore their separate projects alongside the band endeavors. Brady Tutton explains that "It's trust. It's trusting each other and knowing that we're together because we want to be."
By operating in this fashion, Conor Smith says it has its benefits: "You have to kinda remember that your strength in the band comes from yourself, so you gotta make sure you're good before you can help anyone else."
Their individual talents and abilities have been able to come together to become this wonderful band andwithout the TV show. "It [Boyband] definitely benefited us," says Drew Ramos. "We wouldn't be where we are today if it wasn't for the show."
"The only negative was that coming out of the show the expectation was that you are a fully formed band. And that just wasn't us," says Brady.
And while they're operating differently, they also pointed out that they wished people knew not to pin them against other boy bands. Each boyband runs their own game; it doesn't mean they can't be friends behind the scenes. Drew even mentioned a specific example. "I had a conversation with Austin from PRETTYMUCH," he says. "And he was like 'Yo I hate that the media tries to push us against each other, I love you man you're mad cool.'"
So, with all this in mind, we decided we wanted to see what life on the road with In Real Life was like.
Day One - Show 1 - KRZ Summer Smash - Wilkes-Barre, PA
Whether the crowd or the band had more energy, I don't think I can really say. They were jazzed from start to finish of the performance, playing a mixture of the new and the old. On the setlist was even 'She Do,' an unreleased song that has been driving fans crazy.
And good news for fans. It's coming. "There's a single called She Do... there's even a petition online for it to be released. They really want that song and we will say that She Do is coming," Conor says.
It doesn't stop there, though. Chance Perez threw in: "... and a music video, too."
What has always stuck out to me about In Real Life is their genuine connection with their fans. I remember the reason I really started putting them on my radar was Conor explaining online one day how he really wants to stop and talk to as many fans as he can. The night of the show, this remained true. Every bit of the performance seemed to be optimized with fans in mind.
At the FM Kirby Center venue, there is no barricade. Fans are up against the stage, meaning that, if an artist chooses, they can really be right in the middle of the excitement. In Real Life utilized this perfectly, engulfing themselves in the fan experience and allowing each of the fans to feel special by interacting with them as much as possible.
Somehow between the dancing and the synchronization, they found that time to make this possible for every fan who had chosen to spend their evening with them. My only complaint can come down to not having enough time with them... I know, I'm greedy.
In Real Life, though, only has eight released songs (not including the Christmas bops). So, their sets tend to run a little shorter. In the future, however, we can expect this number to grow. The guys say they're still learning what goes into making their sound.
Conor says: "We're 100% still expanding and growing. I think it's going to take some time. It takes a long time for artists to develop."
Day Two - Show 2 - Destiny USA Mall - Syracuse, NY
Between Wilkes-Barre and Syracuse, we knew the drive would be tedious, so we stopped at Starbucks. Since this first show of the day was at noon, it wasn't that surprising to us when we opened the door and the In Real Life boys were there looking back at us. Apparently, those on tour kind of have the same mindset... caffeine to keep running like this was necessary.
"I gotta go grab my Chai," Brady said to me before scurrying off to hit the road again.
Obscure little radio shows and events were normal for In Real Life and many other up-and-coming acts who were hoping to gain a favorable impression in the media. So, this timing and location, while odd, was just part of their regular schedule. Having experienced it in-person kind of gave me a whole new appreciation for the endless shows and stops. This schedule was grueling.
Eventually, we met back up with the boys at Destiny USA Mall, where they played a small acoustic set. Three quick songs and it was over. However, again, and what I am not able to emphasize enough, the focus was on the fans and this time there was even a free meet and greet which allowed every fan there to hug their fave.
The band's endless appreciation for their fans was a breath of fresh air. Brady comments, "There are people that fly across the world to come see us. That's a really special feeling it. But in some ways, I just don't understand because you don't think of yourself that way. We're very appreciative, but I'm still getting used to that."
The show's energy was so different than the night before. It was noon in Syracuse and the vibe was wholesome and comfortable. I couldn't tell if it was the strange timing, the stripped-down acoustic, or the bright, open airiness of the mall, but somehow In Real Life made the whole world feel at peace.
It's the feeling of connection that made going to this In Real Life show worth it. And it's that feeling that keeps In Real Life fans coming back for more.
Day Two - Show 3 - Colonie Center Mall - Albany, NY
Then there was the strange silent disco that we found ourselves in the middle of. The band disrupted the party for a little bit longer of an acoustic set. By now, it was later in the day, closer to 8. Lifelines who showed up were bright-eyed with excitement for their boyband.
A show like this ended our weekend with the band beautifully. There's nothing better than going to a show where fans are so engaged that their voices borderline challenge the band's audio. Maybe it was just the weird acoustics of the mall, but I like to believe that the euphoria of seeing their favorite band gave them the energy to scream louder than all of the other shows for their boys.
The same comfortable feeling enveloped us at this show, feeling like we were a part of something bigger -- my favorite concert feeling. It was always casual and real with the boys. Even on stage, they aren't hiding anything or masking who they are, which makes it just so easy for you to do the same. In one word, Brady summarized this feeling... the message he hopes fans can take away: "Authenticity."
Part of that authenticity, though, is social media. I had the chance to chat with the boys about this some more. Sergio Calderon says, "We've been revealing ourselves so much more recently."
It's not always easy to balance your privacy and the pressures of social media. "In boybands, the biggest thing is the fanbase," Conor says. "In this day and age, everyone wants more so it's kinda hard finding that line of how much you put yourself out there."
Every show with In Real Life had its own essence of passion and dedication. It was clear everything those boys do is done with love and respect. Two days and three shows well spent; two days and three shows of no regrets and living in the moment.