Flash back to the early 2000s and Busted and McFly were two of the biggest boy bands in the UK, with eleven number one singles and numerous arena tours between them.
Sadly things came to a premature end for Busted when lead singer Charlie Simpson opted to pursue his more metal musical leanings following the boys’ second album.
McFly, however, stuck together through better or worse (cough cough the Lindsay Lohan movie ‘Just My Luck’).
During their tenth anniversary shows, McFly invited two of the Busted boys (Matt Willis and James Bourne) to join them on stage for a couple of Busted songs. The success of these one-off performances led to a hugely successful UK arena tour as McBusted, which even included a stadium date at Hyde Park, with Backstreet Boys as their opening act!
Now armed with a self-titled album, the McBusted boys are are currently on Australian shores playing the support role on the One Direction tour and are set to perform two headline shows from this Sunday.
We sent Brad along to meet the boys whilst they were in town and to chat about all things McBusted… just when he could get a word in!
The currently on-hiatus McFly, made up of singer/guitarists Danny Jones and Tom Fletcher, bass player Dougie Poynter and drummer Harry Judd, were particularly excited to return to the country where they recorded their fourth album ‘Radio : ACTIVE’ in 2008.
“That was a really exciting time for us,” Tom recalls. “The album before (2006’s ‘Motion In The Ocean’) was recorded in the middle of Ireland and it was really good going away somewhere where we were kind of isolated, so I guess we’d had a taste of it before. We just thought, ‘Hmmm what if Ireland was Australia?’”
“Our manager assured us that it would be the same cost to do it in Australia,” Harry rationalizes. “Was it?” Matt asks.
“I don’t know! We were just like ‘We HAVE to go and record on a beach in Australia’,” Harry laughs.
It was the band’s first trip down under, as they had previously never made a concentrated effort to release their music here during the earlier part of their career. But the boys tell us that Australia wasn’t the only country to miss out.
“It was a missed opportunity,” Harry concedes. “Our singles and albums were No.1 in the UK and we did arena tours, but for some reason we were never an international priority.”
“The excuse always used to be ‘You have to focus here because it’s going well here’,” James adds in relation to Busted’s lack of international success.
“That’s so true, that was exactly what the fucking excuse was!!” Matt chimes in.
“Things are picked up so much easier with the internet now,” Harry says. ”We still get messages from fans all around the world begging us to come out.”
“Different areas have to fund you going over, so it becomes a little bit political,” Danny explains. “If you’re already making money somewhere it will fund you to go there. Then you promote yourself and everyone makes more money in that territory. You rely on your label to push you in these different territories and help you out, whereas we just want to go where people want to hear us.”
“Sorry,” Matt interrupts. “I’m just looking at Katie (the guys’ Universal Music rep) subconsciously going ‘Yes… push us…let us reimburse you’,” he laughs cheekily.
The boys tell us that despite wives, pop star girlfriends and babies, they are determined to make their presence felt here.
“We just bring them all with us!” Dougie, boyfriend to Ellie Goulding, laughs. “This support slot is a huge opportunity for us, we’re doing as much promo as possible. We love it here and we feel like if we can make it work then absolutely we will come back.”
“If you’re going to break anywhere, you want to break somewhere you want to go on holiday,” Tom adds.
Both bands previously had varied chart success in Australia; ‘What I Go To School For’ by Busted just missed the top 20 in 2003 and McFly’s ‘Love Is Easy’ peaked at No. 12 a couple years back.
Although it’s the group’s highest charting song, don’t expect to hear the latter at a McBusted gig.
“Love Is Easy’ doesn’t really fit the McBusted sound,” Dougie explains. “We just want to keep the energy up. Also as much as our back catalogue has been amazing for us, we have a new album that we want to play as well. The McFly and Busted songs we do need to complement them.”
One of the highlights of their self-titled album is the new single ‘Get Over It’. The up-tempo punk pop track comes with a particularly mischievous video.
“Normally we look into video treatments quite a lot and maybe change things or get a bit arsey about stuff,” Matt admits. “But when this one came through we were just like, ‘Yep’.”
“The director was a really cool guy, “ Tom divulges. “He came over to my house to talk me through the scenes and stuff. It was really good to see how much he cared about our song. The guy in the gorilla suit was a bit of a diva though!”
“It wouldn’t have worked for us,” Harry insists. “As good as ‘The Big Reunion’ was, it really focused on the desperate moments and sad vibes of them breaking up. McFly never broke up! It’s not a reunion for us and McFly and Busted together aren’t a reunion either”
The boys reckon McBusted’s success comes down their sound being, for lack of a better term, timeless.
“What’s interesting about our music is that a lot of boy bands and pop music define an era,” James contends. “You can listen to a 1990s boy band, and they sound like the pop music of that moment whereas our bands never sounded like any of the music that was around at that time.”
“I think that’s why we have that hardcore fan base but struggle with things like radio. With radio, more than ever, it’s become a club that you get let into. No one can dictate whether they’re going to get massive radio.”
“There are other bands that get a hell of a load of radio but can’t sell a ticket,” Harry concurs. “The Sugababes were smashed on the radio but wouldn’t be able to do this. We’d rather be in the position we’re in where we can do big tours and play to sell out crowds.”
In Australia, playing to sell out crowds means not only their own headline shows (this Sunday in Sydney and on Tuesday in Melbourne), but also supporting the biggest boy band in the world, One Direction. The boys know that they’re in for a challenge.
“We’re very aware that we’re going out to thousands of people who have probably never heard of us before,” Tom acknowledges. “Weirdly, it feels like there’s no pressure because you can just go on stage and have fun and hopefully by the end of it you have people jumping up and down and singing along. In Brisbane so many people knew the words to ‘Get Over It’ and some of our other songs. It almost felt like one of our own shows, it was amazing.”
Despite One Direction being more of a traditional boy band, McBusted don’t feel like they are selling out their more alternative image by opening for them.
“In a way they’ve kind of got that anti-boyband vibe in that they look more like rock stars than a boy band,” Harry says. “They don’t really do coordinated dance moves… what’s that called? Choreographed dance moves!”
“As time goes on, we really don’t care about stuff like that,” Matt confesses. “We just want to do cool stuff. This is an amazing opportunity given to us by an enormous band. We are just stoked to be there.”
The boys would even consider letting the new kids on the block (pun intended) join their super group. “We’d take 1D any day of the week,” Danny laughs. “Only them though. We’d have to call it ‘McBustedrection’,” he adds cheekily.
With time running out, we couldn’t help but point out the injustice that Busted managed to fit their whole name into the new super group whereas McFly only retained their Mc.
“You could have BusFly, but that’s even worse,” Harry suggests. “They all sound bad” Matt adds, laughing. “We’re not chuffed with this name. It’s not like McBusted are going home going ‘yes’!”
“Originally, we were doing it for Busted, but it’s taken on a new life,” Danny clarifies. “We never thought it was going to be a whole thing. We just thought it was going to be a small tour!”
Now the band is getting prepared to go on their second arena tour around the UK, as well as support 1D on a further six stadium dates across Europe. As a result, the boys are quick to admit that the perks of their job are many and varied.
“The shows where everybody is having a good time,” Tom answers swiftly.
“Lots of travelling and not having to organize it,” James jokes.
But it’s left to Matt to sum things up.
“When you look out at a crowd and they fucking dig what you do. Nothing can top that feeling, it is the best thing ever.”
McBusted’s debut self-titled album is available now.
They play headline shows at Sydney’s Metro Theatre on Sunday night (sold out) and at Melbourne’s Palais Theatre on Tuesday night (with Masketta Fall as support).