Even at the very beginning, at its 1998 New York City and Los Angeles launch parties, it was obvious that our sister publication TEEN PEOPLE had an eye for up-and-coming musical talent. The entertainment at the star-studded galas: Backstreet Boys, 98° and ‘N Sync. Since then, “we’ve been at the cutting edge of predicting musical talent with great success and accuracy,” says TEEN PEOPLE publisher Anne Kallin Zehren. “We thought, ‘Why not build on those strengths?'”
So they have. In April 2001 Zehren teamed up with Atlantic Records to create a new label called Purple Leopard (after the signature purple walls in the magazine’s Manhattan offices). “We want to sign artists who really reflect the diverse music that teens are listening to,” says Peggy Mansfield, TEEN PEOPLE’s general manager of online and development, who oversees Purple Leopard’s day-to-day activities. First up: the June 4 release of All Sides, the debut album from R&B-pop quartet LMNT (pronounced “element”).
LMNT began as a trio—Bryan Chan, 27, Mike Miller, 22, and Ikaika Kahoano, 24—who met in November 1999 as contestants (and eventual finalists) on Making the Band, the ABC reality series that chronicled the formation of pop group O-Town. Singer Jonas Persch, 19, rounded out the group the following September. After hearing them vocalize during a visit to TEEN PEOPLE’s offices that October, Zehren invited LMNT to perform for the magazine’s top executives a week later at a national sales meeting in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. “We sang,” recalls band-mate Chan, “and we just clicked.”
They certainly did. “They are four incredibly talented guys,” says Mansfield. “They all have a diverse sense of music. It just wasn’t a typical boy band.” Zehren approached the group about signing with Purple Leopard. “It was right in the middle of when we were shopping our demo to labels,” says Miller, “so it couldn’t have happened at a better time.” As LMNT took advantage of Atlantic’s recording resources, the TEEN PEOPLE development team went to work, helping choose All Sides‘ song lineup (with the input of their 12,000 teen trend spotters nationwide) and the band’s name (via a poll on the magazine’s Web site). “They’re very hip to what’s going on,” marvels bandmate Chan. Adds Mansfield: “The Atlantic people are experts in the music industry, and we’re experts in talking to teens, so the combination really works.”
During their rare moments of downtime, the quartet—all of whom are single—watch MTV and the Cartoon Network in the Hoboken, N.J., brownstone they share. But the group is all business as they visit the TEEN PEOPLE offices once a week for Purple Leopard planning meetings. “I tease them, ‘Please get here 20 minutes early,’ because it takes them that long to walk down the hallway,” says Zehren. “It’s like a lovefest!”
The critics are excited too. Billboard magazine praised All Sides‘ first single, the Top 40 hit “Juliet,” for its “highly appealing, electrified pop kick.” LMNT’s album, says Miller, “has everything on there: hip hop, rock, R&B.” And he promises that the band has plenty more in store (as does Purple Leopard: 13-year-old Latina singer Erica Rivera will release her debut album this fall). “We want to keep surprising people,” says Miller. Music to our ears.