The Life List

Why Don't We make full use of pandemic break

The American boy band used their hiatus to brush up on their rock history and practise playing their instruments

Why Don't We members (above, from far left) Corbyn Besson, Daniel Seavey, Zach Herron, Jonah Marais and Jack Avery upped their music game during an unexpectedly long break.
Why Don't We members (from left) Corbyn Besson, Daniel Seavey, Zach Herron, Jonah Marais and Jack Avery upped their music game during an unexpectedly long break.PHOTO: ZACK CASPARY

After a gruelling world tour that finished at the end of 2019, American boy band Why Don't We took a three-month break from performing and went silent on social media.

Because of the pandemic, the hiatus stretched to nearly nine months.

The quintet - Corbyn Besson, Daniel Seavey, Jack Avery, Jonah Marais and Zach Herron - used the time to upgrade themselves.

For the first time, the group - who released their debut album 8 Letters in 2018 - wrote and produced their own songs.

And while they mostly sang in their previous live performances, they also played their own instruments at the recent MTV Europe Music Awards.

In September last year, they put out the first of these self-penned tunes, Fallin' (Adrenaline), as a single, which became their most successful song to date.

It was their first song to appear on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it peaked at No. 37.

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Marais, 22, says: "It was such a validating, amazing experience to write Fallin'. Literally from the moment that we were writing, it really felt like it already wanted to be a song.

"Daniel had the melody in his head and then we sort of got the concept. It just flowed out and we knew it was going to be big."

Marais and Herron, 19, were speaking to The Straits Times via Zoom from Marais' bedroom in Los Angeles.

Fallin' (Adrenaline) uses prominently a sample from Black Skinhead, a tune from hip-hop star Kanye West's 2013 album, Yeezus.

Marais and Herron say they were ecstatic when they got the blessings of West and electronic music duo Daft Punk, the co-producers of the song.


In a live performance for the MTV Europe Music Awards in November last year, the group surprised many viewers by playing instruments as a band, instead of merely singing like in their past shows.

Herron, who plays guitars, says: "During the quarantine, we practised our instruments and doing what we wanted to do all along."

Marais, who plays the keyboard, adds: "It kind of went hand in hand with us writing and producing the album. We were, like, 'okay, if we're really going to take our universe into our own hands, we might as well also play instruments'. Because we can play instruments and haven't really showcased that."


The group turned to classic rock bands such as Queen and The Beatles for inspiration.

Proudly showing off a poster of the Fab Four hanging in his room, Marais says spending a lot of time indoors during the pandemic allowed them to brush up on rock history.

"We sat down and listened to a lot of stuff. We also did a lot of reading up on rock bands and watched documentaries."

Their latest single, Slow Down, also uses a sample from 1979, a song by alternative-rock stalwarts The Smashing Pumpkins from their 1995 album, Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness.


The band have fond memories of their two concerts in Singapore - at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands, in 2019; and Gateway Theatre in 2018.

"Singapore has to be one of my favourite places. I like everything about it," says Herron. "We went to this club, Marquee. The fans were super loud there, they made every show amazing."

Marais adds: "We pulled up to the airport and there were so many fans waiting that the police had to meet us at our gate and walk us through."


Early this month, South Korean group AB6IX released a remix of the song that included new verses sung and rapped in Korean.

"This remix is special," Why Don't We tweeted with a black heart emoticon.

AB6IX "brought the heat", they added.

The lyric video for the K-pop version has been viewed more than 272,000 times on YouTube in less than a week.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2021, with the headline 'Why Don't We make full use of pandemic break'. Subscribe