Make no mistake about it: The Wanted are having the time of their lives. Only a year on from their huge Number One debut single ‘All Time Low’ and they have already become one of Britain’s biggest, most brilliant pop bands, living a dream that has far surpassed even their most optimistic expectations and all with their best mates at their side.
Hard working and quite plainly loving every single second, the band have already notched up four anthemic Top Five singles and two Number Ones, been viewed a staggering 30 million times on YouTube views and sold 400,000 copies of their eponymous debut album, which shook pop music to its core upon its release last October. A year on and The Wanted are now set to shake up the charts all over again with their feverishlyanticipated second album, a euphoric widescreen classic of epic-pop proportions. It comes at the end of simply phenomenal 2011, a year that has seen The Wanted become serious pop players.
With their ferociously infectious tunes, rock solid friendship and laddish charms, they have stamped all over the typical boy band mould and brought a blast of much-needed fresh air to British pop music. The accolades have followed accordingly: The ‘Best British Single’ Brit Award nomination for ‘All Time Low’ in February. The sell-out nationwide ‘Behind Bars’ Tour in March/April. A deal with prestigious American label Def Jam in April. Slots at the iTunes and V festivals in July and August, with 15,000 hollering revellers packing out the Big Blue Tent at V for a set many agreed was a highlight of the festival. All this from a band who started out paying their dues performing in somewhat dodgy nightclubs and a school tour that took them across the whole of the UK.
Most significantly of all, the five piece even found time over summer to move out of their two adjoining flats in South London – where they lived in ‘Friends’-style harmony with Jay’s pet lizard Neytiri – and now each live alone, ten minutes apart, while Max is currently house hunting with his new fiancée, Coronation Street’s Michelle Keegan. “Basically, we’ve just grown up,” smiles Max. The change is evident in their sound too: this time round, The Wanted have distilled the dance floor thrills currently defining planet pop and added their own deliciously unique twist. Combining the cinematic melodies of second generation Take That with their own personal musical influences, it is an album that sounds like an immediate classic, yet is also one very much of the moment. But what else would you expect from a band who sounds a bit like Coldplay on ‘All Time Low’ yet covered Example’s rave-pop masterpiece ‘Kickstarts’ as a b-side? Certainly, ‘Battleground’ is the sound of a real pop band exploding into ecstatic maturity, recorded in both the UK (at producer Steve Mac’s studio in London) and the U.S.A, at singer/songwriter Diane Warren’s L.A studios overlooking the Hollywood sign. “She’s an evil genius,” laughs Jay, “and also the most ‘real’ person we met out there.” The lads have pooled a spectrum of production wizards: from Xenomania’s Brian Higgins (Girls Aloud, Pet Shop Boys, Kylie) to their long-term collaborative “dream team” Steve Mac (JLS, Ronan Keating, Leona Lewis), Wayne Hector (Cheryl Cole, Britney Spears, The Wanted’s ‘All Time Low’) and Ed Drewett, to acclaimed singer/ song-writer Jack McManus (sometime collaborator with Groove Armada). Most tellingly of all, the band have found the confidence to put their own stamp on the writing and production too, allowing the album to reflect what they – five young men who are almost giddily passionate about music – are listening to right now. “With the first album we were more involved than I ever thought we would be but this time round we’ve co-written on nearly every single track or written it - the lyrics, music, everything,” beams a clearly chuffed Jay. “Obviously music changes year by year and we’ve incorporated what sounds good to us right now. So there are elements we wouldn’t have had before.
There’s grungy dub-step pop, some of it’s really dark, some of it’s just massive.” All of it is world-class contemporary pop music. The two singles we know already: electro rave thriller ‘Gold Forever’ (recorded for Comic Relief, No.3 in March 2011) and the monster Europop summertime No.1, ‘Glad You Came’, which Jay says was the moment “we could feel things changing for us, getting bigger”. On a promotional radio tour, adds Max, they saw screens flashing messages from the public, “saying ‘oh my God, that’s the song of the summer’”. Since its release, The Wanted fever has undoubtedly stepped up a gear. With their feel-good anthems finding equal favour on both dancefloors and radio playlists, they are unequivocally the band of the moment. Proving that beyond all doubt is ‘Battleground’ which is quite possibly the pop album of the year. From the exhilarating electro-pop of ‘Invincible’ to the tormented strings of 'Warzone' and the throbbing electronics of ‘Mad Man’, the album twists unexpectedly between both the epic and atmospheric and the sheer euphoria of their own brand of future-pop, best summed up in astonishing new single ‘Lightning’. Lyrically, the lads have also progressed, this time taking in the bliss and the treachery of romantic relationships in equal measures. “It’s not just I love you and you love me,” notes Tom. “There’s real stuff in there.” It’s the clearest sign yet that The Wanted now have world domination firmly within their grasp. This autumn, they’ll take a step closer to realising that possibility when they support the most famous teenager on Earth, Justin Bieber, on his sell-out South American tour which includes a show for 120,000 fans in Sao Paulo in October. Self-confessed fan Justin personally requested The Wanted join him on the road after the band supported the Canadian pop titan at London’s 02 Arena in March 2011. “The Brazilian fans,” Jay has heard, “are already going mental.” “We’re having to get two extra security personnel!” thrills Siva. “And get a van with bullet-proof windows!” marvels Nathan.
And that’s just the start. In early 2012, The Wanted then embark on their inaugural U.K Arena tour culminating at London’s 02 Arena in March, before jaunts across America, Europe and Australia. It goes without saying, they simply can’t wait to get started. This is everything they have worked for and everything they hoped for, and it’s turning out to be more fun than even they imagined. “In the end I wanna look back on all this and say, I’ve travelled the world with these boys,” notes the huge-eyed Max, rather sweetly. “And not only have I made friends for life, we’ve done something that hardly anyone gets to do. Be successful in music worldwide. And I know I will never forget that.”
MEET THE BAND…
Maximillian Alberto “Max” George, born 6th September 1988 in Manchester. Shaved head, green/hazel eyes the size of galactic moons. Football fanatic (Man City supporter) and sometime player with Man City. Sounds like a geezer, blubs like a girl. “Am I the most masculine member? Maybe! But actually, out of all the boys, I’m the most affectionate (begins fondling Tom’s knee). I know no one cries like I do at films. I’m such a soft arse, especially if it’s about animals. When I was a kid I cried when Jaws died. ‘The Plague Dogs’, an old animation, I was heartbroken, it took me a week to get over that.” A traditionalist at heart – “a family man, I’m very close to me family” – he’s always believed in marriage. “Well, I’ve not always had marriage on me mind like - heheh! - but yeah, I’ve always had family values.”
Siva Kaneswaran, born 16th November 1988 in Ireland. Half Irish, half Sri Lankan. Hair like Elvis, face like a sculpture in bronze. Began modelling at 16, was signed to the Storm Agency. The beauty industry taught him: “That there are beautiful people who are absolutely not beautiful inside. Definitely.” The day he first heard the finished ‘Glad You Came’ (at an otherwise “boring” meeting on Nathan’s 18th birthday), he’d imbibed so much champagne he was, notes Jay, “swaying like that!” (vigorous swaying as if a yacht untethered in a hurricane). Siva spends all of his free time in his home studio, writing and recording tracks or just playing his guitar. With a soft-spoken Irish brogue, he is deceptively serene. Jay: “Seev is very down to Earth. Humble. Very creative. He also brings a sense of balance and culture. And a flute-like singing voice and a green Mini Cooper.”
James “Jay” McGuiness, born 24th July 1990 in Nottingham. Hair of curls like a 10 year old boy, face of a sensitive poet. Attended dance classes aged 13, graduated from the Midlands Academy of Dance and Drama (the superbly named MADD) in 2009. Never shuts up. Sometimes, when asked on the likes of a video shoot, “to play with my collar like some sort of Armani model”, he feels “like a goon”. Animal lover and lizard owner. Named PETA’s Sexiest Male Vegetarian 2011. Was pleased to note, while supporting Justin Bieber at the O2, “I had a brilliant vegetarian selection, from which I feasted”. Laments the demise of Top Of The Pops. “Back in the day it was Top of the Pops and now you have to get on the morning (news) shows or somehow get on X Factor. We’ve done it once, in a guest slot, but it’s like it’s the new Top Of The Pops times millions, you don’t get those viewing figures on any other programme. Which is a joke!”
Thomas Anthony “Tom” Parker, born 4th August 1988 in Bolton. Hair like a Britpop guitar player, face like a ‘Gillette: The Best A Man Can Get’ model. An Oasis/ Stereophonic devotee, he’s played guitar since aged 16. Studied Geography at Manchester Metropolitan University, dropped out to be “Mark Owen” in Take That tribute band Take That II despite looking nothing like Mark Owen. “No-one looked like anyone in the band, it was ‘can you sing? Here’s a job!’ (begins singing in a breathy highpitch) “’Baaaaabe...ah’m here again!’ I used to do Howard at points as well (sings as if with five feet of lagging around his neck) ‘Neh...vah! For-giiiit where you’re comin’ from!’ I was never Gary though, ‘cos I was shit.” Max: “Tom never stops. He can’t switch off. We can do fifteen hours of work, get home and I’ll be, ‘I don’t wanna hear about anything to do with us, I’m turning my phone off, Twitter, everything, I am chillin’. Whereas he’ll get back and I’ll hear him going (world’s strongest Bolton accent) ‘mate! We’ve had three and a half million views now! See what it says on Twitter, mate? We’re top ten in Mexico” (just tweaked as We weren’t sure that Sri Lanka is true!! )
Nathan James Sykes, born 18th April 1993 in Gloucestershire. Proud to admit that he looks like a feature on the website www.lesbiansthatlooklikejustinbieber.com (featuring, curiously, Robbie Williams’ teenage eyes). Attended Sylvia Young’s Theatre School from age 11, enduring 5 a.m commuter starts each day. Winner of several singing competitions including ‘Britney Spears Karaoke Kriminals’ in 2003. Doyen of sarcasm and dry humour whose spectacularly rude quips cannot be printed in a family publication. Jay: “He also does great piano playing and has a good set of teeth.” Nathan: “These aren’t fake!” Diehard Manchester United supporter and lover of all good soul and R&B music. Has contemplated calling the Wanted’s second album “Alan”.