Warner Bros. Records is banking on Mapleton native Jared Murillo and his bandmates in VFactory to become the next big thing. Jared is the son of Alex Murillo, co-owner and president of Orem's acclaimed Center Stage Performing Arts Studio.
The next-generation boy band is appearing this summer as part of the "Bandemonium" tour with fellow boy bands, including the latest incarnation of Menudo. VFactory's Utah debut is at Provo's Southworth Hall on Wednesday. The tour is stopping in more than 25 cities this summer, including many shows at House of Blues venues.
"The market is ready, indeed," the 19-year-old Murillo said in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune.
VFactory is made up of five young men from around the country: Murillo; Asher Book from Virginia; Wesley Quinn from South Carolina; Nick Teti from Pennsylvania; and Nathaniel Flatt from Tennessee. Most have musical-theater experience, but Murillo has the most impressive résumé.
Murillo is a product of the Center Stage Performing Arts Studio, where "Dancing With the Stars" professionals Julianne Hough, Derek Hough and Ashly Del Grosso trained. He was a principal dancer and assistant choreographer with Disney's "High School Musical" and "High School Musical 2," both filmed in Utah. In 2007, he performed in the "High School Musical" 47-city tour, as well as the South American tour. He has won several dance titles, including World and U.S. Swing Champion and U.S. Youth Latin Ballroom Champion.
The 2007 Springville High School graduate said he has spent a lot of time lately getting ready for the tour and promoting the group.
"It's pretty difficult nowadays," Murillo said. "Now you go on the Internet and start some buzz. A lot of the promoting is done online."
Proud papa Alex Murillo said Jared has what it takes.
"Jared is a talented singer and dancer with a very charismatic stage presence that draws you to him whenever he performs," he said. "We first realized in preschool he enjoyed singing and was very animated when he sang."
Boy bands will be successful again, he predicted. "Boy bands are coming back for a variety of reasons. It has been nearly 10 years since the boy-band craze and the dearth of real good-sounding bands and the absence of 'big name' groups that were popular then. Yes, we have the Jonas Brothers, but quite frankly, they are really the only big-name group out there right now."
"Jared's the real deal," said VFactory manager Bill Perlman.
With Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers building a foundation of entertainment-hungry tweens and the buzz surrounding the re-formation of the New Kids on the Block, the time may be right for VFactory to do what the New Kids did in the early '90s and the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync did in the new millennium, said Tommy Page of Warner Bros.
Page should know. The Warner Bros. A & R rep is a former teen idol who scored a hit in 1990 with "I'll Be Your Everything." The success of that song and his good looks led him to tour with Tiffany and the New Kids on the Block at the height of their fame. He believes the time is right for another boy-band explosion.
"Every 10 years, the generation changes," Page said.
Page, who signed and produced "High School Musical" star Ashley Tisdale, said he went to the heads of Warner Bros. and pitched the formation of a boy band that could capitalize on the early success of the Jonas Brothers.
While the Jonas Brothers are not technically a traditional boy band - they play their own instruments, for one - Page said the popular trio's rise mirrors that of Hanson, another group whose members wrote their own songs and played instruments but had massive teen appeal due to squeaky-clean good looks. Once Hanson built a fan base, boy bands like the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync came along on their coattails and in time surpassed their success.
A decade later, Page hopes the same thing happens with VFactory.
The pop landscape has changed in 10 years, Page said. VFactory, like Diddy's new boy band Day26, which recently reached No. 1 on the Billboard album charts, is not your older sister's 98 Degrees.
"The boys are a bit edgier than New Kids on the Block," Page said. "The formula isn't the same, [because] urban is [now] pop. . . . The beats are super urban. The dancing is also edgier."
But the band isn't too edgy. Murillo "stood his ground," his father said, when some of the potential songs contained subject matter objectionable to his Mormon faith.
"[Jared] has his beliefs and he doesn't waver," said Perlman.
The band's new EP, "These Are the Days," released on iTunes Tuesday, isn't cuddly, Page said.
"We didn't want to make a Mickey Mouse record," he said.
Perlman said the focus should be on music and dancing, not the cyclical nature of boy-band success.
"We're not trying to replicate something of the past," he said. "This is fresh."
* VFACTORY with Mapleton native Jared Murillo makes its Utah debut Wednesday at Southworth Hall, 116 W. Center St., Provo. Doors open at 8 p.m., and the cost is $15. A wristband will be provided for each ticket. Call 801-224-9012 to purchase tickets and a wristband or visit Center Stage Performing Arts Studios, 575 N. 1200 West, Orem, to pick up tickets and wristbands.
Comments from the VFactory MySpace site
"Hey guys can't wait to see ya May 18 in Philly with my Menudo boys! I hope u guys perform these are the days cuz that song is SOOOOOOOOO BEAUTIFUL! I might cry lol"
"could you guys possibly be like, the best ever, and post the three full songs on youtube, or put them on here, please? haha, cause some people aren't fortunate enough to have money to download from itunes, plus fans that live in the UK can't buy, either. please? =/"
- Wesley Quinn Fans
"you boys are soo cute :)"
Let's hear it for the boys
Boy bands have been around for decades, including Utah's own Osmond clan. Here's who followed in their footsteps:
1962: Osmond Brothers
1965: The Monkees
1966: Jackson 5
1978: New Edition
1986: New Kids on the Block
1988: Boyz II Men
1990: Take That
1993: Backstreet Boys
1995: 'N Sync
2005: Jonas Brothers