Long before Fifth Harmony and Little Mix reigned supreme, girl groups like the Spice Girls, All Saints, Destiny's Child, and Dream were ruling the top of the charts. While some stuck around after the early-'00s surge of girl pop power (ahem, Beyonce), we've heard very little from others, like the ladies of Dream. The quartet was formed in 1998 under Sean Diddy Combs' Bad Boy Entertainment. After the release of their single "He Loves U Not" in 2000, Holly Blake-Arnstein, Diana Ortiz, Ashley Poole and Melissa Schuman found themselves at peak success--which, in true '00s fashion, included appearances on TRL and MTV Cribs--before disbanding in 2003.
Now, the band is back together on their own terms with no management. They've reunited for this summer's MY2K Tour alongside fellow '00s musical powerhouses 98 Degrees, Ryan Cabrera and O-Town. But, touring isn't the only thing the ladies of Dream have planned: They also have a new single called "I Believe" --a poppy jam that sounds like a throwback of sorts to "He Loves U Not."
PAPER caught up with the ladies of Dream to talk about the harshness of the music industry, if there was any bad blood between them, and to premiere their first single in over a decade, "I Believe."
Tell me about why you decided to reunite. Was it just for the MY2K tour or were you planning it already?
Ashley Poole: It was a very natural, organic thing that happened when we got back together. We decided to go visit each other for my birthday. We went up to see Holly in San Francisco. We were hanging out and having a good time, and at the end we decided to sing together because that's what we do. We posted the track and a lot of media outlets picked it up and went crazy for it. We didn't expect that. The girls and I had such a good time singing together that we felt like we had unfinished business. We decided that we'd do something on some level. The MY2K tour popped up in our laps, so we just said yes. It's just been such an amazing experience, and that's really how it came about.
What were you guys up to in the past 13 years since you've been out of the music realm?
Melissa Schuman: We all were doing different things. I was studying improv and sketch comedy at The Groundlings in Hollywood. I had really walked away from music for quite some time and had no interest in doing it outside of the group. So when the girls and I decided we wanted to do this together, it was something that was really exciting for me. We've all been dabbling in different projects over the last two years.
Poole: Coming back together, the girls and I are really appreciative of the things we've been doing outside of Dream. I kept doing music and other people started families. It's really made our group so much more whole. Now these experiences we've had have made our group much stronger.
Do you guys have new music coming out, or will you be just playing the hits on the MY2K tour?
Schuman: We're actually releasing a new single that we wrote called "I Have A Dream." We're debuting it on the MY2K tour. Beyond that, we're in the studio recording new music. We're going to be releasing things beyond "I Have A Dream." Lots of good things to come.
A lot of groups during the '90s and early '00s had falling outs, like the Spice Girls for instance. Did you guys ever experience that?
Schuman: I think that any dramatic falling out is a story that's absent for us. We've had a lot of ups and downs since we were last working together when we were 17 or 18. Like any sisterhood, you can know that you all love each other even if you're not directly in touch all the time. I think for all of us, we had a lot of wounds from being in the music industry at such a young age and not being in control of our lives. I think we all needed to take time to heal those wounds. There was never a period of not having love for each other.
Did you feel like you were taken advantage of by the music industry at a young age?
Diana Ortiz: I think just being children in the music industry that there's a certain amount of puppeting that happens, because we're not making our own decisions. Decisions are being made for us at the hands of our parents, who are just trying to be the best parents they can be, but on top of it they're being controlled by a bigger machine, which is the music industry. That's what the music business is: It's a big machine. It's equally important to enjoy the experiences that we're going through now as adults. We're making our own decisions, and we don't have management. We're doing it all ourselves. It's so empowering and beautiful to come together in a sisterhood and not necessarily reflect on the negativity that happened here and there because we were just children and couldn't understand.
How would you describe your new sound? Will Dream's new sound be reminiscent of your hits?
Schuman: We're kind of experimenting with our sound right now. It's not going to be a shock: It's still going to be pop with R&B influences. We're certainly not trying to emulate the sound of the early '00s.
What's the biggest lesson you learned being in a band, while also being teens growing up?
Poole: There were a lot of lessons that were learned. Touching back on what Diana was talking about, when you're on that fast train to being famous, it was really hard to take that in. We're doing this now, and we don't have anyone trying to take credit for things. As children, we weren't able to be free, joyful and happy. It was very militant. Now, I know that's not okay. We work really hard and do lots of dance rehearsals, but if I'm not going onstage and connecting with my fans, then what's the point? I think what the girls and I have taken from this is to stay present and enjoy everything.
Which girl groups do you admire nowadays?
Poole: I think we all have groups that we all admire. I don't study a lot of them to be honest, but I'm all about women empowering women. I was on Instagram and saw Fifth Harmony and Little Mix, and I was like damn these girls look good. They're real women. I'm not hating on anybody. If you're out there doing your thing, more power to you. It's tough to be a woman in the industry.
What does Dream's future look like? Do you think the band will become your full-time gig again?
Ortiz: I think we're all very passionate about singing together, and we're using that as our foundation for every decision we make. If these decisions lead us to making more music and having more performances, then we will definitely say yes. But, this is definitely less pressure and more about enjoying the experience. We love connecting with the fans and touring lets us meet them face-to-face.