It was easy to find Island Records’ office due to a gaggle of girls – and it was ALL girls – slouched outside. They’re the special ones, I’m told, street-teamers being repaid with an exclusive album playback and a meet ‘n’ greet with the band.
The band in question is McFly, four boys propelled to stardom with the single ‘5 Colours In Her Hair’ which went straight to No. 1 in March. It’s a song which was written after a heavy bout of Beatles-listening. And it is in fact said mop-top band staring up at your correspondent from the floor of a messy room, pictured on the cover of a five-month old copy of Observer Music Monthly – “Finally, the inside story of how The Beatles conquered America.”
It's been heavily documented how The Beatles learned their graft the hard way playing the Hamburg clubs. On the flip-side of the coin, McFly’s industry connections and the way their band was pieced together by Busted’s management, Prestige, has had its fair share of column inches over the last few months. So it is here I sit now talking to the “four normal teenagers” about, well, music… that’s after we manage to prize Dougie away from staring at the Blink 182 CD they’ve just nicked, and after DiS scares them slightly with the retelling of a ‘fanfic’ posted on their messageboard which involved two members of Busted in a gay relationship, and ended with one member of McFly pushing Busted off the top of a building or something. “I don’t like the sound of those fan fictions,” shudders Dougie. “I just like the short little messages that say ‘Tom is wonderful’,” says, er, Tom. Obviously.
DiS: Would you class yourselves as a POP band?
All: “Yes, definitely.”
Harry (drums): “100%”
What made you want to be a pop band and not rawk?
H: “We’re all still really into rock music and stuff but it all started when Tom auditioned for Busted and was into his music and influences or whatever, but that’s when he started writing and he immediately started writing with James (from Busted) and James is a heavily pop-influenced writer. And that’s when you started listening to the Beatles and Beach Boys, wasn’t it?”
Tom (vocals, guitar): “Yeah cos it didn’t start really getting into music and songwriting until I was 16.”
H: “Through those influences, we’re all really into the Beatles and stuff, The Who, Led Zeppelin…”
T: “Because it’s not really like your average pop music – because we’re a pop BAND rather than just a pop act or whatever, it’s music that we’re really proud of and whatever.”
H: “At the end of the day it is pop but we’re writing guitar parts, bass parts, drum parts.”
Dougie (bass): “It all comes to just sitting down with a guitar and just playing, the writing comes from that.”
Do you all write together?
T: “Depends who’s around. Me and Dougie have been writing a lot recently. With the first album, half of it was already written before Dougie and Harry got involved, as I started writing with James three or four years ago. We met Danny two-and-a-half years ago and the first thing he wrote for McFly was ‘Obviously’, with me and James, and that’s our next single. We never thought ‘let’s be a pop band,’ that’s just what it was.”
Due to the nature of the DiS website, we write about lots of unsigned bands and bands playing venues like the Barfly, Dublin Castle etc, so what would you say are the most obscure bands you’re into?
H: “Biffy Clyro, I’m into. Mars Volta.”
Danny: “I’m into really bluesy music. Have you ever heard of Kelly Joe Phelps? I love him. And I love John Lee Hooker, BB King, Etta James, stuff like that.”
T: “Harry’s been going on about The Used since he first met them, and I only just recently got the album and it’s SO good.”
H: “Yeah, The Used, Brand New, Incubus, Braid, Chilis…” (starting to miss the point of "obscure" here)
Da: “My idol is Bruce Springsteen; it’s gotta be!”
H: “I like The Doors.”
Taking all that into account, where do see your songwriting developing from here then?
H: “Yeah, like The Mars Volta.”
That would be interesting!
H: “Yeah! I think, although it’s pop, we like to think there’s still no rules and stuff, we can experiment. We look to other artists, maybe olden day ones rather than modern day ones.”
T: “Music is timeless in a way. The bands from the ‘60s – a great song is a great song.”
H: “Bands like The Beatles have so many albums and such variation and that’s always something we’ve got in mind.”
If you were offered to do a festival like Reading, would you do it?
Do: “Dude, Good Charlotte! (recoils in horror)”
H: “We’re a pop band! We’re not pretending we’re rock ‘n’ roll.”
T: “There’s not many pop BANDS…”
H: “There isn’t. There’s Busted and they’re a three-piece guitar act which, in its own way, is different anyway.”
Da: “We was thinking of going to a jam night at the pub the other day. Not a lot of pop bands can plug in and play!”
H: “As soon as people see us with guitars and stuff and see us even just moving to our music they’ll go ‘oh they think they’re all rock’. Like I said, we know we’re a pop act.”
T: “It’s just something that takes time for people to accept that there’s pop BANDS around (he emphases the word ‘bands’ thoughout this interview).”
H: “It’s like Duran Duran, you know.”
Da: “It’s like people say ‘you’re just another boy band’, they’ll say ‘oh, I’m going to see the Rolling Stones, that OAP band’ or ‘I’m going to see The Used, that middle-aged band’.”
H: “It’s just stereotyping. Whatever. Just let people say what they want.”
Do you feel you’re constantly defending yourselves?
H: “At first, with the Busted connection I was a bit like… (tails off) But you just think, there’s no point. Otherwise you’d be fighting all day long. Let people have their opinions and you prove them wrong if you feel they are. I think people maybe are beginning to accept it and it’s not because they don’t like the band, it’s because they don’t like the music – not that they think it’s WRONG what we’re doing. Because what we’re doing isn’t wrong.”
T: “No, that’s just stupid and narrow-minded.”
H: “But if they wanna be narrow-minded…”
Da: “I suppose if I saw us on TV I’d be jealous in one way but I’d think we’re cool in another way.”
T: “When we did Top Of The Pops live a lot of guys our age who’d doubted us said ‘well done’.”
H: “That’s one thing that’s really important to us, is to get across that we can actually play.”
Da: “Me and Tom have been playing guitar since we were five years old. Private lessons and stuff. And these two are becoming amazing musicians.”
H: “Well, we’re alright… average. Hehe.”
How are you coping with your fame?
T: “Fine. For us, we’re just four average teenagers.”
Da: “When I go home to Bolton, I always forget I’ve got to get back down to London.”
Do: “Nothing’s changed at all. There’s nothing to cope with.”
H: “People treat you differently. One thing I find hard is going home and going somewhere I haven’t gone before and people will whisper.”
T: “You suddenly become the popular relative in the family. It’s pretty weird when that happens. Suddenly I’m the best nephew they ever had.”
H (in a camp voice): “Oh, you’re such a good boy.”
Conversation turns to gigs they’ve been to recently…
T: “That’s the good thing about being in a band – you get free tickets.”
Have you ever tried the don’t-you-know-who-I-am routine?
H: “I did, and he didn’t. So I was like, ‘fair enough then!’”
Seen any bands recently you’d recommend?
T: “Incubus were SO GOOD.”
H: “Foolproof. Their single is out on the 14th of June (on Island Records. Convenient!).”
Do: “If you’re into The Used and stuff like that, it’s wicked.”
H: “It’s really really cool.”
T: “And they’re funny guys too.”
What can we expect from your album?
H & T: “Some songs.”
Da (with pride): “A few lead solos!”
H: “It’s quite varied but with a ‘60s style. But it’s not like any rip-offs.”
Da: “With the album we’ve got the ‘60s thing but when we play live we’ve got the Marshalls and Mesa Boogies and just whack it out.”
H: “It’s quite different live. So if you wanna try and check us out live, that would be cool.”
When are you next on the road?
T: “We’re doing the summer road shows, and we’ve got the big Olympic torch gig in front of Buckingham Palace…”
Do: “Which will be on TV.”
T: “… It’s in front of 70,000 people.”
H: “Playing live.”
T: “That’s the only problem being a pop band now is that with all the TV you do they want to make you mime. They don’t have the sound systems to set it up and stuff.”
H: “Yeah, and that’s when the main public see you so they automatically think we just mime.”
T: “So when you do get to do TOTP live people realise ‘oh, they CAN play’. You know, if we ever get the option to play live, it’s always YES.”
Got a message for our readers?
H: “Check out the album. It’s cool. Just give us a chance.”
Do: “If you still don’t like it after hearing the album, fair play.”
H: “And PLEASE buy our second single!”
The single ‘Obviously’ is released on June 26th. Their debut album, ‘Room On The Third Floor’, follows on July 5th.