entertainment

The Future X on LGBTQ members and their mission to become 'the biggest pop group in the world'

Can Simon Fuller's TikTok group replicate the success of the Spice Girls or S Club 7? Attitude meets the pop seven-piece ahead of their performance at National Student Pride.

2022-04-08

Words: Will Stroude; Images: XIX Entertainment

Seven young singers and dancers brought together as a group, sharing a house in California and documenting every step as they try to make it big in the world of pop? No, we're not talking about the plot of S Club 7's seminal noughties series LA 7, but we are talking about another of Simon Fuller's musical creations, The Future X.

Brought together by former Spice Girls manager Fuller as part of a partnership with TikTok that saw an open casting call sent out across the platform, the group - which consists of singers Luke Brown, Angie Green and Maci Wood, and dancers Sasha Marie, Drew Venegas, Tray Taylor and Jayna Hughes - are already making waves just three months into their short career.

The Future X's TikTok videos, which feature dance routines and hi-jinks from the Malibu compound in which they now live together, have already racked up more than 1.3 million likes, and debut single 'This Kind of Love' is the kind of ear-worming anthem designed for maximum radio play.

As the up-and-coming seven-piece touch down in London for the first time ahead of a performance at National Student Pride this Saturday (9 April), Attitude dials in for a boisterous Zoom call to discover that despite its manufactured roots, authenticity lies at the core of this particular pop endeavour, as out and proud members Drew and Tray explain how joining the group has allowed both them and their bandmates to flourish on and off-stage.

Back row, left-right: Angie Green Sasha Marie, Maci Wood, Luke Brown, Angie Green. Centre: Jayna Hughes. Front row, left-right: Tray Taylor, Drew Venegas 

Hi The Future X! It's such an exciting time for you all, so let's go right back to the start: how did you first come together as a group?

Jayna: The audition process was something so different that's never been done before. Simon wanted to work with TikTok so through a hashtag challenge on TikTok, so many submissions were sent out, but from that we were picked, and we got to all go to LA and audition. On the last night of auditions we were told we were the group, and that was crazy because it was the first time that we were all in the same space together, and right then and there we became a group. It's such a dream come true.

Tray: And after the audition process we all moved in together in a house in Malibu, so we're also learning [about] each other and growing and evolving in the same breath. It's so cool to see everyone in the group expand and get better as humans and trust themselves. It's been a crazy process but we've loved it.

Meeting during the final audition, there must have been a lot riding on you all getting on and the chemistry being right - was that there from the off?

Maci: It was kind of an amazing feeling, because all of us had the same emotions going into the auditions, just so overwhelmed with excitement and nerves. Being able to experience all of that together and then getting the final announcement that we were a group at the same time, it really brought us together.

Sasha: I had to keep telling myself, 'I'm going to Malibu!'

Angie: I think as soon as they told us that we were performing together there was a connection immediately, like we all felt a vibe that we were just riding on, that we were meant to be here and meant to do this. I think a really beautiful part of living with seven artists is that we always have inspiration to feed off of, every single day.

Jayna: Everything definitely feels right. Even through we're all really new to each other, everything feels right and we're just a big family now. It feels like we've known each other so much longer than three months.

Luke: It's been so much fun living in a house with other people. We get to wake up and be inspired every day.

Left-right: Luke Brown, Drew Venegas, Tray Taylor, Angie Green, Sasha Marie, Maci Wood, Jayna Hughes

I'm surprised this hasn't turned into a Big Brother-style series, there's a great reality show in there.

Angie: [laughs] Maybe! Coming soon...

Luke: You never know, we're just starting off so maybe in the future!

'This Kind of Love' is the first track we’ve heard from you guys - how would you describe the track to new listeners, and why is it a good introduction to The Future X?

Luke: 'This Kind of Love' is really about inclusivity and showing off the kind of love you have for the world - and generally just talking about any kind of love you're not afraid to show. We think that's a big message to show off in this world because there's so much hate on who loves who and just being happy. We want to be a group about spreading positivity and spreading love. We're all our true selves on stage and off-stage we want to inspire people to wear whatever they want to wear and be whoever they want to be with. That's why we're so excited to be performing at Student Pride, so we can really show off a song about Pride and loving who you love. 'This Kind of Love' is a good vibe and sets the tone for what we're trying to show the world.

Jayna: It definitely represents us as a group and lets everyone know our music has a deeper meaning to it. We like to say that's what our whole goal is, to spread positivity. 'This Kind of Love' is definitely that anthem.

Luke: It's definitely a Pride anthem.

Why is it so important for you all to perform at an event like Student Pride and be repping for LGBTQ fans?

Drew: I think for me, being a part of the LGBTQ community, it's definitely important for me to be able to showcase my masculine side and my feminine side - showcasing that it's ok to have both, because for me, that's what makes me, me, it's what makes me happy. And it also spreads that positivity to the rest of the group, which makes them look at life in a different light and gives them a different perspective. Being able to showcase that for students, not even LGBTQ, they can definitely spread awareness and positivity, even if it's just in how you dress - like my guy Luke over here, you'd never had expected him to wear a see-through mesh crop-top and make that look masculine! We're trying to showcase the different sides of us that make people feel like they can be themselves. Being yourself can most definitely go a long way, and Tray can add to that.

 
 
 
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Tray: The way we're performing there is crazy because I've literally been hiding what I loved, and who I was, for so long. And like, this is such a big stepping stone just to perform here. It hits home, because for so long I was hiding not just my sexual orientation, but everything. I feel like once you hide one part of yourself, you're prone to hiding so many more parts of yourself that you don't even realise - until you're out of it. And now I'm out of it, so it's time to pop off and do whatever, because I deserve that! And my bandmembers deserve to see me be me.

Angie: It's so inspiring to hear you say that.

So Drew and Tray - if you're happy to share - how do you define yourselves?

Drew: I'm gay. For me, it's been a struggle - not a struggle - but I come from a background where I was athletic and played sports my whole life, so being in that scene and then switching up to this, which at this stage is a lot different to old friends, has I guess stopped me from being myself at some points, only because I didn't want people to look at me in a different light. But joining this group has really changed that whole perspective for me and allowed me to be true to myself. There are certain things that I would say or do that [would make] other people would look at me differently, so being a part of this group definitely allows me to be myself and it's been a very emotional ride, getting to know them. The fact that they - 'imma cry - but they literally allowed me to be myself and they inspire me to be more me, every day, so it's a blessing to be a part of this group.

Angie: Aww, we love you Drew!

Tray: I don't like - it's so cliche, 'I don't like labels!' - but, erm, bi. [Laughs]. I'm bi. But I don't really see that first when I think about who I'm probably going to love in the future, if that makes sense? I just like, you know, messin' with people's vibe, you know? Maybe there's a label there of some sort, but I never thought of it - when I was going through these emotions, closeted back in high school - I never thought about 'Am I gay or am I bi?' I just thought of it as 'Why's it so hard for me to express who I want to love?' It wasn't even a guy or a girl, it was just 'why can't I?' I think that way of thinking brought me to where I am now, because it's like 'Well, why can't I! It is what it is, I'll love who I want to love', know what I mean?!' But yeah, I'm bi.

 
 
 
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Luke: I was gonna say, like what Drew said about being a part of the group and being able to be yourself: [Drew and I] grew up very similar, playing sports and getting picked on, being how we were, dressing how we were. Me being straight and still getting called 'gay' and cuss words just because I wasn't always playing football and wanted to do theatre, that also made me close off a lot of my personality and how I actually wanted to be in the world. Being in this group has completely taken that away. I'm wearing a mesh shirt right now and I never would have worn this three months ago, let alone two years ago! This has been such a big thing for all of us to find ourselves and find who we want to be on stage and off-stage, and that's the big message we want to show.

Sasha: I have to say, even just watching the boys has been very inspiring, to see other men like Luke just dress the way they want, wear different clothes. I know even for myself, I have a little brother and it's nice to see men express themselves and be open to make-up on their faces, it's such an inspiration for other men. I love it so much.

Maci: It's been amazing to see the boys and everyone here, meeting them three months ago and seeing them grow not just as the artists they are, but as the people they are. I admire them all so much, they're all so unique and have shown so many great characteristics.

Jayna: [feigns sobbing] I love you Maci!

Maci: [laughs] No, it's true!

Left-right: Jayna Hughes, Luke Brown, Angie Green, Sasha Marie, Maci Wood, Tray Taylor, Drew Venegas

There was a time in the '90s and '00s when pop groups wouldn't have been performing at Pride, or would have kept members in the closet to keep up a 'marketable' image. Are younger pop fans now demanding that authenticity from artists?

Jayna: I would say we're so lucky to be the group that we are, where we are all so diverse. To be able to speak to everyone and not just a certain group of people is amazing.

Tray: People on TikTok also, the make-up is Gen Z, and I think in Gen Z we all have an understanding of breaking this habit of norms that were put on us. Norms and institutions, thought processes, mentalities; it's all being revamped and reversed in the best way possible. it's amazing to see.

Angie: Our generation is not complacent about things other generations weren't happy with. We're demanding change, we're demanding action. This whole generation is never giving up, never stopping until our voices are heard. It's incredible to be a part of that generation and be in a group that can actually help bring change as well. If we have a platform and people who are listening to us, that's even more powerful and we want to do everything we can to spread a good message. There are so many issues in the world right now that need to be recognised.

One of those issues is currently some of the anti-gay legislation we're seeing in the States, such as Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill, directed at younger students. With you guys performing at Student Pride this weekend, what's your message to any young LGBTQ fans who might be listening? 

Tray: I know you hear it all the time, but keep going. There will come a time when the people in office are going to lead everything by love. Keep the faith, and I know it's so hard seeing the media right now - it really is, it's hard for me to scroll - but find the time to understand that you're here for a reason and your identity is here for a reason.

Left-right: Luke Brown, Drew Venegas, Tray Taylor, Angie Green, Sasha Marie, Maci Wood, Jayna Hughes

Drew: Being yourself is the most important thing you can do. I know words and things can get to people - I've been in that same place, where one word can easily change your whole life. It's just a matter of staying positive and knowing who you are and staying true to yourself because you can easily get lost in the sauce trying to impress other people and trying to please them, and that's not the way to go. It's cliche to say it but keep the haters close, because at the end of the day they're actually looking at you, because you're inspiring, and you're going to inspire somebody else who's afraid to be in your shoes.

Sasha: Just be yourself, because the more you stay true to yourself the more the people who are supposed to be in your life will come and the more you're going to be happy.

Drew: And be proud!

Jayna: Remember, you're loved. We love you!

Luke: We got you!

Simon Fuller famously managed the Spice Girls: are there other groups or artists whose success you'd like to emulate?

Luke: Success-wise, BTS, because they're huge and their music does so well. They're talented, they perform all over the world... groups like them. We want to be the biggest pop group in the world.

Angie: I think the crazy thing about our group is that it's literally never been done before. We can't really tap into a band and say we hope to be like them because we're seeing a new destiny for bands and our own success. 

Back row, left-right: Luke Brown, Maci Wood, Drew Venegas. Front row, left-right: Jayna Hughes, Tray Taylor, Angie Green, Sasha Marie

What's next in The Future X journey?

Sasha: Well we're gonna be back in LA and we are planning to do some music videos, which all of us are so excited [for].

Luke: And actually dropping and releasing the songs, and more snippets of songs that'll come in the future. We're still figuring it out because we're still very new. We're hopefully just releasing music as soon as possible.

Angie: Lots and lots of content!

The Future X perform at National Student Pride in London this Saturday 9 April. Get your free ticket to the daytime festival here. Follow The Future on TikTok now.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.