Shout "Backstreet's Back" and their fans will tell you the Backstreet Boys never actually went away.
But if you ask Howie Dorough, an illusion of absence isn't necessarily a bad thing.
"I think sometimes out of sight can be a breath of fresh air," the boy bander and solo artist contemplated while reflecting on the group's explosive late 90s reign during a sitdown with TimeOut in Las Vegas before the group commenced their DNA World Tour, which reaches Auckland next year.
"There was probably a time when we started getting oversaturated by media and radio and everything, so for the fans to have had a little time off from us and now be living lives where they can afford a lot more and almost revisit their youth, means it's a great time for us right now."
After reaching the dizzying and, at times, destructive heights of fame at the turn of the millennium, Dorough, A.J. McLean, Nick Carter and cousins Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson weathered lawsuits, alcoholism, drug addiction, loss, health battles and Richardson's six-year hiatus , but continued serving their "Backstreet Army" with albums and tours.
It was during that time the boy band became somewhat "out of sight" to the masses, however, the last two years have ignited revived mainstream popularity and success, largely spurred by the group's Larger Than Life Las Vegas residency and their 10th studio record, DNA , which debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 chart in February — marking their first number one record in almost 20 years and earning a Grammy nomination for lead single, Don't Go Breaking My Heart.
Throw in a Grammy Museum exhibit, a successful foray into America's booming country music scene thanks to a song with Florida Georgia Line, a chart-topping collaboration with DJ Steve Aoki on Let It Be Me, an ongoing societal obsession with nostalgia and the relentless popularity of boy bands both new (BTS) and old (the Jonas Brothers) and it's no surprise that every second headline about the group declares "Backstreet's Back!"
"We've been able to have a second coming and we're so blessed," Dorough says. "A lot of times, artists are lucky to have lightning strike in a bottle once, but to have it strike twice is just a very rare situation, so we realise that and are very grateful for it."
That second wave means the fivesome, all now married with children, have been able to revisit the kind of production fun they enjoyed during the spectacle tours of their heyday, with the DNA World Tour featuring LED screens, platform stages, laser lighting and pyrotechnics.
"Having this second coming means the opportunity to put on bigger shows, which is awesome," Dorough, 46, says. "We've actually gone back to having a full-on arena tour and been able to enhance the production from some of the previous tours we've done in the last eight years. I think the production by far is blowing people's minds away. We have a really cool stage and lighting that goes all around it.
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"And the setlist is great," he adds. "We've done a really good job of taking our fans on a journey through the past 26 years. It's all of the greatest hits as well as a sprinkling of some of the new album. It's always a challenge for artists to find that balance."
Those new tracks came by way of some notable writers, with One Direction frontman Ryan Tedder and pop prince Shawn Mendes co-writing the swoony single Chances, and singer-songwriter Andy Grammer co-penning the catchy Passionate.
With the group having just wrapped the North American leg of the tour, Dorough's excited to return to New Zealand, with fond memories of boozy adventures around Auckland's Waiheke Island during his last visit with the boys on 2015's In a World Like This Tour.
"We had such a good time in New Zealand," he enthuses. "We went to Waiheke Island and did the bikes. Australia used to be my favourite place in the world … until I went to New Zealand!"