The pop-punk trio spill all on their fourth album and their plot to topple The Greatest Showman from the album top spot.
It’s 2005. The rumours are swirling about Brangelina, three quarter length jeans are still very much a thing, and a helpline has to be set up after one of the UK’s biggest bands announces their split.
The heartbreakers in question are, of course, Busted; the pop-punk trio from Southend-On-Sea made up of James Bourne, Matt Willis and Charlie Simpson, who stormed the charts with ridiculously catchy songs and yell-at-the-top-of-your-lungs lyrics that their teenage fanbase admittedly didn’t quite understand at the time. (Spoiler: he did not wet himself when he flew over France in “Air Hostess”.)
Disbanding after the release of their self-titled debut record and sophomore album A Present For Everyone, the future looked bleak for Busted fans until late 2015 when the boys revealed they were back in the studio writing together. Dropping Night Driver the following year, it wasn’t quite what OG Busted fans expected, leaning away from their pop-punk roots and more towards synth-pop sounds. But now the guys are back to doing what they do best.
With their fourth studio album Half Way There (Yes, that is a cheeky “Year 3000” reference) set for release tomorrow, the three-piece are returning to the pop-punk bangers that made people originally fall in love with them over a decade ago. We caught up with them to find out how things have changed, what the new record is all about, and why they’re ready to take away the top album spot from The Greatest Showman.
The album’s coming out tomorrow! How are we all feeling? Charlie: Really good! Matt: I’m fucking nervous, man. I’m really, really cross because fucking Greatest Showman might beat us! We’re going to get number two to fucking Greatest Showman. Charlie: I mean I liked it before I knew it was going to be number one… Matt: I love that movie, I love the soundtrack, but now I fucking hate the fucking that soundtrack. It’s just going to fuck us. Charlie: Do you know how many people it’s fucked? A lot of people! Justin Timberlake was fucked by it, Slaves were fucked by it! And now it’s going to fuck us Matt: It’s banned in my house now, my kids are not allowed to ask Alexa for fucking Greatest Showman ever again. But now I’ve got it in my head that it’s okay that we’re number two. I mean, no it’s not, I’m lying. Charlie: We’d love to get number one. James: We should get one of those plaques with like “Congratulations Busted! You’ve have never had number one, only number two this year, number two this year, number two this year!’ Matt: I really want the number one album. We’ve never had one and it feels fucking weird that Busted hasn’t had a number one album! Charlie: Yeah, we’ve had nine number one singles… Like Showman you’ve had your time, you’ve had a lot of people’s times. But Hugh, he’s just such a loveable guy, so you can’t be too angry at him.
Well moving on from The Greatest Showman woes. It’s now been four years since you guys officially got back together. How would you say it’s different this time? Matt: Fuck, it’s been four years! Well it feels totally different to be honest. We’re still the same guys but life is kinda totally different. You know, if I’m honest, back in the day Busted, I kinda think back to those times and I’m like “Fuck man!” Those were just the most mental experiences. None of us really understood what was happening. Charlie: We were cogs in the machine the first time and now we are the machine, you know? James: I definitely didn’t feel like a human being. Matt: We wrote some songs and then we were taken from obscurity and then it was like, boom! Here’s this fucking crazy life that you’re going to live for three years. You know it was very weird and then it was like, oh that’s all over now. Charlie: Was it three years? It feels like 10 years! James: What’s mental is that it was to the point where we were the priority on a major label in different territories doing loads of different promo, and with schedules that were nuts. Things like eating or if you’re cold and you have to find a warmer jacket, that stuff is like second to the schedule because you are on this thing. Like you’ve got this thing, and then this, and then on the way to the airport that’s when there’s interviews. Remember that woman from Germany that was asking us really nuts questions, like graphic sex questions?
I can remember there being these big quotes on Smash Hit Magazine back in the day making a huge deal that one of you kissed someone once… Charlie: You’ve just given me a flashback of one of the things I fucking hated. Matt: That’s the thing, like really if I’m honest, at that time I hated it. Charlie: It was always what celebrity have you kissed and what’s your favourite colour… Like who gives a fuck? What are you talking about? You forget how weird it was. James: I remember one time we went to Holland and the questions were just like holy shit. Charlie: That’s what’s so different now. Matt: Also we were just the worst the role models for children, when I think about it, like we were the worst! You just had to look at us. All the normal pop bands were good looking, well dressed, we were just these scrappy kids who were just getting dragged around. Charlie: Now it’s awesome. Different, but awesome.
One of the big things with your new album is that you’re going back to that original sound and vibe of those years… Charlie: We are! We’re going back to where we couldn’t have before. We couldn’t have made this album 10 years ago. We just wouldn’t have been able to make an album this rock. I don’t think the record label would have stood for it. It’s a proper pop-punk record, so I always feel like this album is the band that Busted could have been. It really is awesome because it’s like going back but not going back. It’s like a rejuvenation of the old sound. I think that’s why the fans are digging it so much. Looking at the reaction online, it’s amazing to see. Night Driver was awesome, but I think it confused a lot of people. We loved it, but I think for a fan wanting to hear Busted again, people had to re adjust their mind as to what they were hearing. James: It’s like a nice little story arc. A creative curve in our story.
So what was the process between creating Night Driver and the “rejuvenated” sound of Half Way There? Charlie: We went through quite a tough time. It took us years to write this record. We weren’t coming up with ideas we all agreed on at all. We got to the point after Night Driver of like “Where do we go from here?” because we didn’t really think about going back to the original sound. We had two albums worth of material and the songs were good but it didn’t really have an identity. Then we wrote “Nineties” and there was a lightbulb moment, and it was so obvious! The album just wrote itself after that, literally it just flew out. Matt: It’s strange. We didn’t want to make the most obvious decision and then we were like “Let’s just fucking make a Busted album!” You kind of just get too many things in your head. You start thinking “Where does this fit on radio? Where do we sit? Are we relevant anymore? Are people going to give a fuck about us anymore?” All that kind of other stuff plays in your head and then you write terrible music, or not terrible music, but you write the wrong music for who you are because you’re writing it for other people. Then we just went, “Let’s just write a fucking album that makes us smile and we have fun making and kind of feels like a Busted record” and it was the most easy, fun thing to do. I think that comes across in the record too, It feels like a Busted record. Charlie: Exactly. With Night Driver, we just loved that sound and went with it but then after that, we were like “What do we do now?” and it was that question: “Do we just try and fit in with?” Because guitars aren’t a massive thing at the moment so do we try and fit in with what’s going on with radio? But we were like fuck that! We should just do stuff for the fans, that’s the most important thing. It’s a weird one you know? The charts are just full of guys just creating music on computers. Everything coming out that just sounds the same. James: You know how people used to just hate boy bands because everyone was doing the same? It’s like with DJs now. Charlie: Everything just sounds the same! Everything! It is so boring. So we were like let’s just do our own thing and actually I’m so glad we did because we stand out more doing that. Matt: And we are going to lose out on number one to a musical theatre album…
So tell me a bit about what were the inspirations for that album and the stories behind it all? Charlie: This album is a lot about the band, story telling about the band. Night Driver was more about a feeling you know, more of an emotional feeling. We’ve got songs on here that directly talk about our history, the last one particularly is a story of the band and the 90s and the nostalgia about us growing up. I think it’s a more personal record and it’s more related to our story. Matt: Night Driver was more of our concept record in a way, whereas this is a proper Busted album about Busted. You know there’s some silly shit.. it’s part of what we are, you know? We’ve got a song called “Shipwrecked In Atlantis” which I fucking love and is just a ridiculous fucking story. It made us laugh and we had fun and it made it onto the album. James: With Night Driver there were instruments on the album that weren’t played by us. There’s a saxophone solo on “On What You’re On”. On the first track on Night Driver, the first 30 seconds is just instrumental, a little bit of synth noise and kick drum, and if you’re a Busted fan, it’s understandable listening to that, you really don’t hear Busted. You hear a song that we made, but you don’t really hear Busted. I think that that was the thing for this album that we really wanted people – from the beginning to the end – to hear Busted. Matt: Don’t get me wrong, I feel like our fans completely supported us with Night Driver, because they are our songs and they’ve got an element where you can hear Busted in them, but it’s not the Busted they remember and probably not the Busted they wanted. When you hear that Charlie’s back and are like oh fuck this is happening and then hear “On What You’re On”, it’s probably quite confusing. They saw us doing something different, which we needed to do to be honest. But this is a happy return for Busted fans.
Is that the kind of feeling you want people to take away from the record? Matt: I really want people to just remember why they love Busted. Our fans deserve this record. James: I want to prove that we can make a Busted album still! I think some people might have thought that Night Driver was because we’d forgotten how to be Busted, but it wasn’t, we just wanted to make that album. We can do a Busted album, we just didn’t feel like making it then.
And the reaction has already been amazing. The crowds at The 100 club loved it! Charlie: That was my second favourite show we’ve ever done after Glastonbury. There was a lot of love in the room that night. Matt: I think that’s what’s so special about the shows we’ve got coming up, because we’re doing these massive shows and every one is going to be a moment. If you do a big long tour of 28 dates, no matter what venues you’re playing, the middle kind of merges into one really. With this one, I think every one will be a really memorable night. And it’s Busted back in arenas now!
How are you feeling about tour? Charlie: Super excited, man. It’s going to be like a rock show! It’s all standing, no seats. I love that. Get some moshing going. Matt: And these songs really work in our set, it really flows and feels good. There’s a few songs which fans haven’t heard us play for years and years! A few special ones that we get pestered about all the time…
Please say “Falling For You”… Charlie: Maybe… There’s going to be some fun stuff, man. Then some festivals in the summer!
Heading back to Glastonbury? Charlie: Hopefully! James: Maybe if we get this number two record! Seriously, if we beat Greatest Showman, we’ll rename the band “Greatest Showmen”.
Finally – just have to prove a theory – Half Way There is a “Year 3000” reference right? Charlie: Indeed it is. Matt: Well done. Not many people get that. James: Once you’re halfway through the album, you’re officially halfway there.
So there are seven albums planned? Charlie: Absolutely!