The American boyband Why Don’t We alleged Thursday on Instagram that its production company had coerced members of the group into a toxic living arrangement that left them feeling like hostages.
In a lengthy statement, the group alleged that one of their managers for Signature Entertainment Partners didn’t allow them to leave the house and had used alarms on the doors and windows to prevent them from leaving.
The band claimed that the manger subjected them to ‘verbal abuse’ and even limited their food intake to the point that some of them suffered from ‘malnourishment’ and ‘developed eating disorders.’
Harsh treatment: The boyband Why Don’t We alleged in an Instagram statement posted Thursday that one of their managers subjected them to ‘verbal abuse and malnourishment’ for years
‘As many of you are aware, the unfortunate truth of the mental, emotional, and financial abuse we have suffered as the hands of our production company has recently come to light,’ the band began its statement.
Although the members had considered keeping quiet and trying to address the situation behind the scenes, they opted to take the conflict public.
‘We have matured to the point where we now realize that suffering in silence is no longer an option, it is not healthy for either us or our fans,’ they continued.
‘Without a doubt, publicly sharing our truth makes us feel more vulnerable, however, it is a step we are forced to take to provide the world with access to the harsh “behind the scenes” that we endured as young teens where verbal abuse, malnourishment, and ultimate control were positioned as the price of success.’
The vocal quintet — which includes Jack Avery, 22; Corbyn Besson, 22; Zach Herron, 20; Jonah Marais, 23; and Daniel Seavey, 22 — emphasized that the members were teens when the band was formed, and most were minors.
Going nowhere: The statement alleged that one of their managers from their production company kept them in a house with alarms on all doors and windows that prevented them from leaving
Starving: The members claimed their food was limited to the point that they suffered from ‘malnourishment’ and some singers developed ‘eating disorders’
‘We were 15 to 18 years old when Why Don’t We started,’ they wrote. ‘We were young, impressionable, and trusting, the result of being brought up in loving, supportive families.’
Their positive upbringings appear to have initially left them vulnerable to one of the managers at Signature Entertainment Partners, who allegedly exercised control over nearly ever aspect of their daily lives.
‘He would not only live with us during the day, but controlled us 24/7, setting an alarm that would go off if any door or window was opened,’ they continued. ‘Needless-to-say, we were not given the security code to the alarm, essentially making us hostages in our own home.’
The singers claimed that they weren’t able to get as much food as they needed or wanted while under the thumb of their manager.
‘Food was restricted to the point that some band members developed eating disorders,’ they alleged. ‘We had to sneak food in and hide it in our dresser.’
Young: The group were all teens when the band was formed in 2016, with most being minors; seen in 2019 in Washington, DC
They also outlined abusive behavior from the authority figure, whom they claimed tried to separate them from their loved ones.
‘We were verbally berated almost every day and alienated from our friends and families.’
Although the experiences described don’t appear to be typical for bands, the five members were told it was a standard arrangement.
‘We had no support system except for each other and were made to believe that this was “normal,” that every artist had to pay their dues.’
According to them, they suffered from ‘physical and mental’ harm, but the confinement appears to have negatively affected their finances as well, though they didn’t expand on that claim.
‘This is now playing out on the public stage in a continued attempt to weaponize our love for our music and our fans,’ the group added. ‘We will no longer be silenced and we look forward to finally closing the chapter on this traumatic stage in our lives by turning the page to our truth.
‘Our commitment remains to our music, to our label, and most of all to our fans who we cherish and raw strength from as we find our way through this journey.’
A representative for Signature Entertainment LLC couldn’t be reached when contacted via phone by DailyMail.com on Thursday.
Fighting back: The group, which also alleged financial abuse, petitioned the California Labor Commission to dissolve their contract with co-manager David Loeffler and to get back any money paid to his company; seen in 2019 in Atlanta
According to Management Training News, Why Don’t We’s business was organized as a manager-run LLC led by partners Randy Phillips and David Loeffler.
The two have since parted ways and have launched dueling lawsuits at each other, Billboard reported last month.
Under Why Don’t We’s arrangement with their managers, the LLC controls the band direction and owns their recordings, while the members are paid as employees, though the members also have ownership stakes.
Phillips left Signature Entertainment in 2017 to take over as CEO of the entertainment company LiveStyle, but he claims in his lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Super Court that when he returned in 2020 to manage Why Don’t We, Loeffler ‘abnegated his prior agreement to allow Plaintiff to reassume the role of manager [of Signature Entertainment].’
He seeking to remove Loeffler from the company through disassociation, a legal process in which a judge overseeing the case can terminate a manager’s voting rights for acting against the company’s financial interest.
Phillips accused Loeffler of abusing the Why Don’t We members in his suit and claimed his actions ‘irreparably damaged’ Signature Entertainment.
He echoed the band’s statement and accused Loeffler of ‘nightmarish behavior’ including ‘daily verbal abuse, yelled at her at the top of his head, sometimes for 10-20 minutes.’
Phillips also says that the five men had to share two small bedrooms in the home, even though and third bedroom was left unused, and he claims Loeffler ‘barely let them leave the house.’
Going at it: Loeffler and co-manager Randy Phillips are suing each other, with Loeffler claiming the band won’t sign a new contract or perform until Phillips is reinstated as their manager
Meanwhile, Loeffler claims the band have refused to perform live or sign a new contract with Atlantic Records unless Phillips is reinstated as manager.
He’s suing the five singers for anticipatory breach of contract and also suing Phillips for tortious interference with a business relationship over the refusal to sign the contract.
Loeffer’s lawsuit was filed in Orange County Circuit Court in Orlando, Florida.
In a statement to Billboard, Loeffler claimed Phillips’ suit is ‘without merit and in retaliation for the suit we filed against him. The allegations now being made by Mr. Phillips have no merit and will be debunked in court.’
On Thursday, Billboard also reported that the group filed a petition with the California Labor Commission on September 2 that accused Loeffler and his colleague Steven Miller of working as talent agents without a license from the state’s labor commissioner.
The band is asking the commission to throw out its contract with Loeffler and to cut off all payment to Signature Entertainment because the duo had not gotten the singers to sign a talent agency agreement.
The band’s attorney, Alan Gutman, is also reportedly requesting that Signature Entertainment pay back any money it earned while managing Why Don’t We.
After taking its complaints public on Instagram, the band was showered with praise in the comments, and rapper Macklemore posted his support with a red heart emoji.
Since its 2016 founding, the group has released two popular albums: 8 Letters (2018), which peaked at number nine on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and this year’s The Good Times And The Bad Ones, which reached number three on the chart.
Denial: In a statement to Billboard, Loeffler claimed Phillips’ suit is ‘without merit and in retaliation for the suit we filed against him’; Daniel Seavey seen in 2019 in Atlanta