S Club Recalls Struggling to Find Respect in Pop and Teases Possible Revival of Their TV Show (Exclusive)

In an interview with PEOPLE, the English pop group opens up about their tour and encounters with the Spice Girls

<p>Leigh Keily</p> S Club

Leigh Keily

S Club

A band only turns 25 once in the music industry, and for S Club, they wanted to make it count.

When they received a call from their manager Simon Fuller asking if they wanted to commemorate the anniversary, there was no debate.

“We would never get that chance to do it again,” said band member Jo O’Meara on a Zoom call with the band. “So it was really special really important for us to mark and celebrate it.”

S Club was a staple in the bygone bubblegum pop era of the Y2K era when the music industry was teeming with girl groups and boy bands like the Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC and Westlife.

<p>Leigh Keily</p> S Club

Leigh Keily

S Club

Related: S Club Reveal They Anxiously Tried to 'Get Hold of' Paul Cattermole the Day He Died

The calling card of S Club — originally featuring O'Meara, Tina Barrett, Paul Cattermole, Jon Lee, Bradley McIntosh, Hannah Spearritt and Rachel Stevens — was their feel-good, empowerment anthems. They exploded in the UK, earning a string of No. 1 singles including “Bring It All Back,” “Never Had a Dream Come True,” “Don’t Stop Movin” and “Have You Ever.” In five years, they recorded four albums — and they even took home two BRIT Awards throughout their tenure.

There are several reasons the band feels like they connected with listeners so much at the time. O’Meara, 44, believes it was their magnetic songs and chemistry. She also feels like there was a certain degree of inspiration they provided to fans. “For a lot of kids, that we were marketed for, that maybe were going through stuff or tough times, it was their escape,” she says of the band’s music.

Stevens, 45, on the other hand, believes their inherent relatability factor resonated with people. “They felt like one of us because we weren't all snooty,” she explains. “We were just like you.”

<p>Leigh Keily</p> S Club

Leigh Keily

S Club

However, during the height of their career, the band struggled to find respect.

“We always saw ourselves as young talent, but I think the industry always saw you as like a manufactured pop band. You never really had that same respect as a proper band like someone like Coldplay or something,” McIntosh, 42, notes. Part of that, the band concurs, is that the collective attitude toward pop has shifted. “Back in the day it was cheesy pop bands, cheesy manufactured bands,” he says. “Now it’s pop legends, pop icons.”

But S Club wasn’t just a band — it was a brand. During their rise to fame, they also starred in their own sitcoms as fictionalized versions of themselves. With series like Miami 7, L.A. 7, Hollywood 7 and even a movie called Seeing Double, the band earned a niche fanbase in America. “The characters sort of went so far from like, real people,” Barrett, 47, remarks. “They were just kind of ridiculous in a way.”

By 2003, the band officially split — a year after Cattermole left S Club. They’d go onto pursue solo projects, and over time, they’ve reunited in varying iterations.

In the years since forming, not everything has been positive for the group. They’ve spoken out about their financial struggles, as well as their criticisms of Fuller, 63.

Related: S Club Pays Tribute to Late Member Paul Cattermole at Reunion Tour Opener: ‘You’ll Never Be Forgotten’

Back in the day, Fuller not only managed the S Club, but also the Spice Girls. However, the English pop group didn’t exactly interact with the “Wannabe” artists, though they had encounters with Geri Halliwell and Mel C. over the years. When band member Bradley McIntosh met the latter, he asked for a photo. “I fan-boyed, I fan-girled,” he quips.

Their landmark reunion has allowed the group to reintroduce themselves to original fans and perhaps gain a renewed pop following. But the road back to the stage hasn’t been without its challenges. In April, Cattermole, who was supposed to join the band for their 25th anniversary tour, died aged 46 from heart-related issues. The surviving members of the group renamed the reunion dates “The Good Times Tour,” which according to Lee, 41, was “the song that Paul was going to sing.” Following his tragic death, Spearritt, 42, dropped out of the tour.

<p>Leigh Keily</p> S Club

Leigh Keily

S Club

When asked whether they considered scrapping the reunion tour following Cattermole’s death, O’Meara says it wasn’t an option. “Because Paul was so, so excited for the tour, maybe a bit more than all of us, actually, I think he'd have been really annoyed with us if we'd have pulled it completely,” she says. They’ve grieved and are paying homage to the late musician in their own way.

As a tribute to Cattermole — and to mark their reunion, however — S Club shared their first new music in 20 years in July with the wistful, breezy pop number “These Are the Days.” Penned by the original team of songwriters S Club worked with — Kathy Dennis and Jo and Simon Ellis, the group wanted “something that sounded familiar to the fans,” says McIntosh.

”It definitely had that ‘S Club feeling’,” he explains, while O’Meara adds that “it just really resonated with where we stand today.”

Related: S Club 7's Paul Cattermole Died of Heart-Related Issues, Death Certificate Shows

While out on the road, the band isn’t necessarily excited to play every S Club song. They collectively agree that their song “It’s a Feel Good Thing” brings back memories of a cringe-worthy scene on one of their shows where they’re dancing on a plane. “I pull out a rubber turkey out of a seat,” Barrett recalls. O’Meara adds the song is “stupid.”

But the band is more focused on the future, which includes their first live shows in America and hopefully recording an album or longer project. They believe it all comes down to the fans. “If they want to hear more music, we'll do more music,” says Lee. More broadly, S Club has more “exciting projects” to come this year.

“Maybe a TV show might be in the mix,” Barrett says coyly.

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