Move over Jonas Brothers, the Kaulitz twins are moving in.
The 18-year-old Kaulitz brothers comprise half of Tokio Hotel, a German glam-pop quartet that is creating Beatles-like hysteria among the teen set in their native land. They’ve sold close to three million CDs and DVDs in their native country, and are hoping to replicate that rabid fan base in the United States.
“They’re the stepping stone between the tween stuff and My Chemical Romance,” says Andrew Gyger, senior product manager for Virgin Entertainment Group, a few days after the foursome appeared at Virgin’s Times Square store in New York in May to promote its English-language album, Scream.
“The in-store was massive in terms of sales and the amount of girls that showed up,” Gyger says, relaying stories of at least one girl fainting and screaming teens lining up around the block for the event. “The band seems to have come out of nowhere.”
Actually, Tokio Hotel — made up of front man Bill Kaulitz, his brother, guitarist Tom Kaulitz, bassist Georg Listing, 20, and drummer Gustav Schafer, 19 — came out of the Internet. A YouTube search shows 123,000 video listings compared to 88,100 for the Jonas Bros. or 21,000 for a grizzled veteran like Bruce Springsteen. To further sate their young fans’ appetite, for the last six months the band has produced weekly episodes of Tokio Hotel TV for its U.S. website.
For Tokio Hotel, the visual is as vital as the vocals and is propelled by lead singer Bill Kaulitz’s anime look: straightened, teased black hair; heavy eye makeup that accentuates his delicate, androgynous, doll-like features; chain necklaces and vintage rock and roll T-shirts. He’s so thin he appears almost one dimensional on stage, adding to the cartoon-like appeal. But to hear him tell it, his look comes by way of Transylvania, not Japan.
When he was 10, Bill Kaulitz dressed as a vampire for Halloween and adopted the styling year-round.
The fan frenzy in Germany has reached epic proportions, such as when a group of teen girls delivered a fan letter that was more than 11 kilometres long. After seeing a young fan repeatedly at shows in different cities, the band later learned she was a runaway who had left home to follow the group.
“It’s still crazy to us,” Bill Kaulitz says of the attention.
After witnessing the spectacle at the band’s February appearance at New York’s Gramercy Theatre, Amy Doyle, MTV’s senior VP of music and talent, became a convert.
“I could not believe the line outside of screaming teen girls,” she said. “It reminded me of the audience of the late ’90s and 2000 for Backstreet Boys and ’N Sync.”