Band Why Don't We Is 'Definitely in Better Times' After Accusing Manager of Abuse: 'We Know What We're Here For'

"Why Don't We is more united and determined than ever to fight for our freedom," the group tells PEOPLE

why dont we
Photo: Josh Flores

Why Don't We is in a much better place.

More than two months after the boy band accused their management of abuse after being included in a lawsuit between their managers, the group is speaking out for the first time about what it's like to perform again and what has kept them going amid strife.

"All you can do is live it, man," Corbyn Besson tells PEOPLE.

"There's never just going to be all good times," adds Zach Herron, making a reference to their LP The Good Times and the Bad Ones.

"But we're definitely in better times," Daniel Seavey chimes in.

The boys of Why Don't We — Besson, Herron, Seavey, Jack Avery and Jonah Marais — are on a high. On Oct. 6, they made their return to the stage for the first time in two years in front of a packed crowd at El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. The occasion? The release of "Love Back," the band's first single since they accused their management of "mental, emotional and financial abuse" and malnourishment in early September.

The band's allegations came amid opposing lawsuits from their management team, in which former managing partners Randy Phillips and David Loeffler each filed to maintain control of the group. Why Don't We did not explicitly name Loeffler as their alleged abuser in their statement, but an attorney for the group said they support Phillips in the lawsuit.

"That was the first time that I first have been nervous to step on stage in years," says Besson, 22. "By the end of [our last] tour, we were ready to go home, ready to chill out for a second. Little did we know, that was going to be this long."

The nerves were so high that the group collectively did breathing exercises backstage before performing. After all, it's a pivotal time for the musicians, as they finally feel in control over their own destinies. Seavey, 22, says "Love Back" is the first song he can show his friends "and be like, 'This is Why Don't We.'"

"We feel like adults, man. The amount of stuff we've been through together in five years is immeasurable," he says. "It feels like literally the last five years for us has been this journey of who's Why Don't We? I genuinely think given all circumstances of where we're at, we're there now. We truly know what we're here to do and what we're here for."

Despite the negatives that have come with the recent lawsuit, the boys have been focusing on the positive. The group was unable to comment on their legal situation, but a rep provided a statement to PEOPLE on behalf of the group prior to the interview.

why dont we
Josh Flores

"The past several weeks have been challenging for us. We were forced to confront the ugly truth of our situation when Signature [Entertainment Partners] filed a completely frivolous lawsuit in a pathetic attempt to intimidate and hurt us after years of abuse and mistreatment," the statement reads. "Rest assured the evidence will be presented in court. Now, WDW is more united and determined than ever to fight for our freedom. More importantly, we are committed to making great music and showing our appreciation for our fans for their support."

What's pushed them through? The boys all agree: "Shout out to the fans," says Besson, referencing the dedicated group who launched a #FreeWDW hashtag on social media upon learning of the allegations.

"They've been a major motivator for us. It's been really nice to feel the love," he adds. "I hope that what we've been through can help encourage other people who have maybe been through the same thing or something similar to feel like they're not so alone or can hopefully motivate some people to speak up about these situations... I hope that we can just keep bringing joy and happiness because that's all we want."

"I think we've literally been through so much together as friends and bandmates," adds Marais, 23. "We've been there for each other through it all. We literally went around the world together a couple of times. Before we were bandmates, we were friends and I think that that's really what the group behind Why Don't We has been: just friendship, true friendship. I think we'll always be best friends till the day we die."

As for what's next for the group, Seavey says they have a good problem to deal with.

"We're actually getting on a call after this to talk about what the next single is because we like a song and the label likes a different song," he says. "It's the best problem to have! We have too many songs that sound like singles and we're loving it."

"Love Back" is out now.

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