The Blenders were almost a ’90s boy band. For those who know the Minneapolis-based a cappella singers for their holiday concerts—touring this month, in the group’s 30th year—that information might come as a surprise. Or, it might explain a lot.
In 1995, Universal Records signed the four handsome young men for their way with harmonies. Two were brothers who had grown up on a North Dakota farm (Darren and Allan Rust). The other two were childhood friends from Fargo (Tim Kasper and Ryan Lance). Together, they recorded a full album, landing between the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC.
“The boy band thing wasn’t really who we are or were,” Kasper says more than 25 years later. The album didn’t drop until 1999. By then, the Blenders had logged about a decade of touring. And where Loveland serves smacking beats, peppered with “baby”s and “girl”s, the sound they stuck with pulls off a cappella precision.
Along the way, though, their hits showed curious range. There was the 1998 single that got big in Europe, “(I’m in Love with the) McDonald’s Girl”—with lyrics like “She’s an angel in a polyester uniform.” Between 2007 and 2009, they bagged three Emmys for the “Wake up with Fox 9” jingle that I know you just sang to yourself. And, among their handful of Christmas albums, Erykah Badu counted 2002’s Billboard-charting When It Snows as a favorite.
Now, to mark their 30th anniversary, an hour-long documentary goes up on the Inforum.com YouTube channel, on December 17. It follows the Blenders from garage-studio sessions to record-exec meetings, with cameos by Howie Mandel, Jay Leno, and Arsenio Hall.
Mayors in Fargo, Minneapolis, and St. Paul, meanwhile, have declared December 12 (in the Twin Cities) and December 17 (in Fargo) “Blenders Day.” And the Blenders have released a new single, “One Last Song,” to showcase the almost-startling preservation of their voices. The Holiday Soul Tour keeps on, too, in Minneapolis (Pantages Theatre, December 12-15) and Fargo (Fargo Theatre, December 17-22).
“The whole [boy band] experience inspired us to start the Christmas show, which we thought might last a couple years,” Kasper reflects. “Now, it’s 21 years strong.”