as1one: Photos From the Billboard Cover Shoot

The scene at the Chipotle on Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley at first looked much like any other Friday evening. Six good-looking guys in their early 20s sat around a table eating burritos, laughing and ribbing one another. They had landed at LAX that morning after a 16-hour flight, but despite their jet lag, the vibe was lively.

Then an emergency alert lit up one of their cellphones. Seconds later, a warning buzzed on another device. And then another, and another, and another, and yet one more. It was Oct. 6 — already Oct. 7 on the other side of the world in Israel — and the moment things got very real for as1one, the first-ever boy band comprising Israeli and Palestinian musicians.

The guys had arrived in Los Angeles from Tel Aviv, Israel, to lay down tracks for their forthcoming debut album — a trek made following months of visa coordination and more than a year since the group officially formed, after first being conceived in the United States years prior. The team behind as1one, led by longtime music executives Ken Levitan and James Diener, envisioned a Middle Eastern version of BTS, and in the effort to create it, Israeli and Palestinian casting directors had held auditions in major cities and tiny villages throughout Israel in 2021. (Auditions could not be held in the West Bank or Gaza due to logistical challenges.) A thousand young men auditioned; the six who were glued to their phones at the Sherman Oaks Chipotle had made it in.

Read the full Billboard cover story here.

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