BOYS OF SUMMER talks with 'N Sync. The band opens up about its new album, Lance's movie, and Britney
by Chris Willman

It's almost a given that 'N Sync will have the biggest opening sales figure of the year with ''Celebrity,'' due out July 24. But will they beat their own first-week record of 2.4 million copies, set with last year's ''No Strings Attached''? Ahh, now THERE'S the question. But with their upcoming release and an all stadium summer tour that starts May 23, it's a sure bet that the group will be 'N-avoidable. sat down for a memorable interview with Justin Timberlake, Chris Kirkpatrick, JC Chasez, Joey Fatone, and Lance Bass, all of whom -- bowing to fan custom -- we'll refer to by first name.

How disappointed will you be if the album only sells, oh, 2 or 2.1 million its first week?

CHRIS Are you mocking us?
JUSTIN Honestly, if we sell 2 million records in the first week, and some newspaper comes out and says we're falling off, I'm gonna laugh the s-- - out of myself. I can see it: '''N Sync's fallen off!'' The thing about us that people really don't understand, and I think they will when they see how many songs we wrote ourselves, is this: We've been happy doing the music we're doing. We don't go, ''Oh man, I hate doing this song 'Bye Bye Bye.''' We like that song. That's why we released it.

But the media will be obsessed with your sales record.

CHRIS Hey man, all I gotta say is, 'N Sync's a tough act to follow. I don't know if we can beat their record or not, but...
JC I don't know how close we'll come at all.
LANCE I think it was a fluke.
CHRIS It was subliminal. It was ''Buy buy buy,'' and they went and picked it up.

What do you think is the difference between you guys and other groups?

JOEY Chemistry.
JUSTIN Our work ethic is still what it was two years ago. Another thing, though, is that we're actually friends, and we actually do like each other.
CHRIS Well, not each one individually. But we have cliques. Like, JC's not in my clique. Joey's in my clique. Lance is in my clique sometimes. Well, Lance has his own clique that I'm not allowed in.
LANCE It's a force field.
CHRIS Sometimes when it comes to dental hygiene, some of them aren't in my clique. But other times they're in. So it's like, when are they and when are they not?
LANCE You know what you need?
CHRIS Ritalin?
LANCE A sitcom. To get out all this stuff. So we wouldn't have to deal with it.

It hasn't been that long since the last album came out. Doesn't it seem kind of soon to release another?

LANCE Actually, it feels like we've been away for a little while. We average an album a year, basically, and it's been working for us so far, so why not? Right now, in this time, if you disappear for too long, you kind of get forgotten. Or someone will step in and go, ''I can do it!''
CHRIS We're on a roll, and one of the most important things that pushed this album was the tour this summer. We wanted to do all stadiums this time, so we wanted to keep the hype going, and we wanted to get this album out to help.
JC We love being on tour; we feel like that's our strong point. And we couldn't really tour with the same stuff. We had to come up with something new to keep the audience interested. So that's when we decided, ''Okay, it's time to make the new record.'' That's why the album is not coming out before the tour. We're not trying to shove albums down people's throats this time. They actually get a chance to choose whether they like the new songs or not, which is pretty cool.

Is there a theme behind the title ''Celebrity''?

LANCE Yeah. Everybody knows we like to make fun of ourselves, so we're taking a stab at the word ''celebrity.'' The cover is very glammed out and ''ooh, superstar.'' And then on the inside it shows what the real ''glamorous'' life is in this business -- sleeping in airports and all of that.

What's the sentiment behind the first single, ''Pop''?

JC It's old-fashioned in a way because it's an anthem. You know how Joan Jett had ''I Love Rock & Roll,'' or Twisted Sister and Kiss had their anthems? It's always about rock & roll. And pop's never really had an anthem. As far as the description of it, honestly, it's like nothing I've ever heard. I would say that it's a mix between pop music, blues, and electronica.

And is there a concept for the tour itself? Was PopOdyssey just a catchy name?

LANCE It was a play on ''2001: A Space Odyssey.'' We wanted to do 2001: A Pop Odyssey and pay tribute to pop icons. So the whole tour revolves around the meaning of pop and what was popular from the '40s till today.

In the ''Making the Tour'' videotape about your 2000 outing, Lance, you said you were putting together your dream tour. How do you top that, a year later?

LANCE Now we're dreaming bigger. Right now this is the biggest tour ever in the history of touring -- the most people, the most trucks, the biggest stage. It's insane. This time we get to really play and imagine things you would never think you could ever put in a show. We've been writing this treatment for many months. But even though this is the biggest tour ever, it doesn't cost the most. It's like a fourth of what Michael Jackson's HIStory world tour was.

Everyone knows that Justin and Britney Spears are an item. Are there areas of your lives that you try to guard and others that you just let out because people will find out anyway?

CHRIS I'm dating Kathie Lee.
JOEY I'm dating Chynna.
JUSTIN I think for me there has to be something that's mine. And I make that my family. You have to have somewhere to go where you feel independent and not have to share everything with everyone.
JOEY I don't tell anybody you sit around all the time in your underwear with a bowl of Jell-o, watching TV.
JUSTIN Exactly. I mean, those are the things that make me happy. That's why we called the album ''Celebrity.'' Everybody wakes up and puts their pants on the same way. We don't look at ourselves as celebrities by any means.

Before ''No Strings Attached,'' there was the idea that the Backstreet Boys were the Beatles for this generation and you were the Dave Clark Five. But now it's you who've become the Fab Five.

[Chris walks around the table and kisses the interviewer on the forehead, to much group laughter.]

JOEY Oh, could you feel the scrub? That's an awkward feeling, man. The Beatles comparison mostly just has to do with the hysteria that comes around us.
CHRIS We haven't gotten into the drug phase yet. [Laughter.] We have always told ourselves, we just want to be the first 'N Sync and the best 'N Sync. Because I know if I ever heard another group say, ''Oh yeah, we're like the Beatles,'' I'd hate 'em, no matter how good they were.

Talk about the movie Lance and Joey are making.

LANCE It's called ''On the Line.'' I have five more days on it -- 'N Sync guy on the weekends and movie dude during the week. It's a romantic comedy we've been shooting up in Toronto and Chicago for Miramax. It's a Happy Place Film -- that's my new production company. Actually, I was just gonna produce it; I didn't want to be in it at all, but our managers gave me a month and a half and said, ''Go do the film.'' Joey's in it, and Jerry Stiller and Dave Foley. I'm very proud of it. It's my first one. I've never even been on a movie set before!

Are you part of an ensemble?

LANCE I have the lead, which is very ballsy, and I can't believe I did it. I'm not an actor, I'm saying that right now. But I totally did it for our fans. They've been asking for us to do a movie so bad, and we couldn't find a great script for all of us.
JC We were actually talking about doing a musical. It's not like we're all great actors here. Joey's a good actor, Lance is a good actor, Justin's a pretty good actor. Chris and I, we struggle a bit, so we're going to stick with our strength, and that's singing and dancing. The only reason we would do it is for goofs and laughs. But we got sidetracked with this whole tour thing.

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