With Westlife retiring after a fourteen-year career this June, there is a void in the boy band sphere that needs to be filled. One such group that are hoping to follow in their footsteps, is British band THE WANTED - who are made up of Jay McGuiness, Max George, Siva Kaneswaran, Nathan Sykes and Tom Parker. Unlike fellow boy bands One Direction and JLS, The Wanted were formed through a mass audition in 2009 and since then have had two number one singles - 'All Time Low' and 'Glad You Came' - and two top five albums in the UK, as well as having supported the likes of Justin Bieber and Britney Spears in concert. Oh, and they’re opening for the aforementioned Westlife in their final ever show.
But British domination isn’t enough - the boys have just come off the back of a tour in America, where they sold out shows across the country and got to serenade Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show.
Coup De Main talked to The Wanted's TOM PARKER on the phone just before Christmas (and the madness of the U.S. tour), to discuss how it feels to be part of the boy band resurgence, what it was like opening for The Biebs in Brazil, and to uncover which member is a 'Star Trek' fanatic...
COUP DE MAIN: Now the first thing Kiwi fans want to know is, when are you coming down here to New Zealand?
THE WANTED - TOM PARKER: We are going to America in January and I think at the end of March and April - and then we’re going to come all around the world. So we’re going to come down to Australia and New Zealand in May, but please don’t hold me to May. Because if we don’t come in May I don’t want to get loads of: "WHY ARE YOU NOT COMING IN MAY?" / "Sorry, why did I make that promise?" But yeah, it’s going to be around May or June.
CDM: What do you know about New Zealand?
TOM: I know two facts. I know that 'The Lord Of The Rings' was filmed there. It looks absolutely amazing. It made me want to come to New Zealand.
CDM: And 'The Hobbit’ is being filmed here at the moment too.
TOM: Oh great! It looks incredible. And the second one is that the New Zealand rugby team do the haka.
CDM: Yes, and we’re the current world champions.
TOM: You are, which I was really impressed about because I was watching the whole tournament and I thought: "Wow, New Zealand look great."
CDM: Now, let’s talk about you. The Wanted was formed through a mass audition - how did you hear about that audition and why did you decide to try out?
TOM: Me personally, I was in a Take That tribute band, which was really fun - I used to play Marco, which I have absolutely no resemblance to, which is funny - and I kind of did that for a year and a half. I applied to the woman that put us together, Jayne Collins, I applied to be in another band for another record company but I couldn’t get to the audition, but... she ended up asking me to come to this one. I didn’t really expect anything of it because it was kind of my first audition that I ever went to for anything serious and then yeah, now... I’m in the band. I was like: "What?!" But still when I got into the band, you still don’t really know what to expect or who’s involved. When we got to Number One with 'All Time Low' I was like: "Shit, we’re Number One in the UK, what the hell is going on?"
CDM: Do you still regularly have to pinch yourself, even now that you’ve got two albums out and you’ve had two number one singles in the UK?
TOM: All the time. I literally do it all the time. In certain situations, I’ll sit there and I’ll be like: "What have we just done?" Playing at Wembley Stadium was an incredible, incredible feeling. We did the Comic Relief song which was a big thing for me. We don’t get to do enough things for charity, it’s always constantly promo, promo, promo, so we got to do that six months after our career had started. We had just got the first Number One and I was like: "What is going on here?" We have done some pretty big things and it is mind-blowing sometimes.
CDM: How has the band dynamic changed over the past couple of years?
TOM: The first year we were all so excited. We were like a kid at Christmas, when we’re like: "Shit, where are we going next week?" It was so exciting but we were all very naive about the industry in general. We all thought it was going to be hard work but a bit of a breeze at the same time. This year, obviously we got to write our second album a lot more. We’ve had a lot more input into what our direction is going to be and what way the music is going to be. Obviously it’s broke internationally as well and that was something we didn’t expect. Jay had never even been abroad before he got in the band.
CDM: Where was the furthest you had been?
TOM: Maybe Greece was the furthest I’ve been. I think the furthest Jay had been was the bottom of England, so when he first got on the plane he was like: "I’m going to another country!" So yeah, it’s changed quite a lot and it’s gotten bigger than I thought it was going to be, if I’m totally honest with you. But it’s been cool meeting people from different countries and different cultures. It’s been so good.
CDM: Name one thing about each of the band members, including yourself, which no-one else knows...
TOM: Nathan is possibly the slowest person to do anything in the world. Literally, if you could get a slug and watch him move over the space of five metres, that is what Nathan would be like. He’s just annoyingly slow. Siva is a 'Star Trek' fanatic. Some may say geek. He loves 'Star Trek'. Max has got an obsession with snakes, but even though he’s obsessed, he’s too afraid to get one. Jay loves anything that’s old. Not women - but anything that’s like... those old leather sofas that you’d find in your head teacher’s office in the 1960's, stuff like that. Old weird lamps and stuff. I think Jay’s a bit of a traditionalist but he doesn’t like to admit it, but when you walk into his flat you’re like stepping back in time. I’ve got really, really weird skin so that when you scratch my skin...
CDM: Which people do all the time?
TOM: Yeah I know, why would you do that? But there was one time when I got booted in the face with a football and my face swelled up like Rocky Balboa. Like honestly, it was like I had fought ten rounds with Mike Tyson. I’ve got really sensitive skin and it just swells when I come into any sort of physical contact. So yeah, that’s my weird fact.
CDM: Britain seems to be leading a resurgence of boy bands. Do you think this influx of groups, especially over the last couple of years, has made it easier or harder to create a name for yourself in the market?
TOM: I think, for us as a band, it’s been quite easy... because Take That came back and they did it in a massive way. In England, they were huge anyway, but they came back with a new sound and an older look. I mean, the live shows are just incredible. And then JLS came off the back of 'The X Factor' and they were a dancing boy band and then we came out off the back of them. We’ve got a lot to thank them for because they helped us become an established band. If it wasn’t for them the boy band thing wouldn’t have recurred. We’re not a dancing band. We concentrate on our singing more than our dancing because we’re terrible at dancing. Literally, the worst dancers in the UK. So yeah, JLS were a dancing band and then One Direction came off 'The X Factor' and they’re quite young and they’ve got youngish music. We’ve all got our own unique selling point, which is a good thing; there’s not one trying to outdo the other, you know what I mean? Because we came out when JLS were about and we didn’t try dancing because it would have been an awful, awful mistake.
CDM: There’s often a certain stigma around boy bands. Obviously you guys are breaking the stereotypes by not donning white suits or sitting on stools or having dance routines...
TOM: I think you’re right. For us, we just want it to be about music. We really, really do. I know people have still got this stigma about boy bands but I think it’s starting to break and I hope that we’re doing something about breaking that. With 'Glad You Came' and with 'All Time Low' and we’ve got 'Warzone', which has got dubstep in it... The Wanted actually make really, really good songs, so I think people are coming around to the fact that it’s not just about this stigma that they make shit songs. We actually make good songs and we don’t dance and I think people are most about music these days. I think that’s a lot to do with people like [Lady] Gaga coming into the pop scene. Pop’s become a lot more; it’s been thrown wide open in terms of the extent that you can take it. It can be pop-rock, or it can be pop-dance, or it can be electro. It’s a really, really wide genre these days so I think we’re kind of doing something that no-one else is doing.
CDM: Speaking of the songs on your latest album 'Battleground', at least one member of the band has a writing credit on most of the songs. Was it important to you guys to have that creative input into the songs that you recorded?
TOM: The first album with us was learning about how to, I mean, we all play instruments - I play guitar and Nate plays piano and Max plays bass - but it was all about going into a studio process and learning how to craft the song. We all could write music before but it was about actually getting it done to the pinpoint of what’s a hook and what’s this. We had quite a lot of writing credit on the first album, we ended up writing on fifty percent of the album, which is a lot I think for a first album for a boy band, but this album’s been very... we drove the direction of the music and what we wanted the sounds to be with the producers. We sat there for hours at points saying: "That sound doesn’t sound right, can we go through some more sounds and get that sound just right?" That, for us, is a really important thing of getting the music right. We won’t just release music that we don’t feel comfortable with. We’ve been chucked so many songs and singles and we’ll listen to it and be like: "Come on, it’s shit." I don’t want it to sound like we’re preaching about 'being so individual and just caring about the music so much' but for me, music is why I got into this. It wasn’t to become a famous pop-star. It was because I have a love for music and I think that goes for all five of us as well.
CDM: You personally co-wrote the songs 'The Weekend' and 'Lie To Me' on your latest album. When I listen to both the songs they’re like opposites of each other. One is about wanting a temporary fling, while the other is pleading with the girl to hide the truth so you can stay together - which song is truer to your personality, when it comes to relationships?
TOM: I think, probably 'The Weekend', if I’m honest with you. I love going out and partying. I’m twenty-three, I’m loving it. But I think 'Lie To Me', when I wrote it, it was something that I know goes on, I felt that myself. I’ve been through it. It’s like, I know this girl’s doing something to me but I’m not ready to hear it right now, you know what I mean? I don’t want to know the truth, so just lie to me. Which I think both of them kind of relate in a way to instances that I’ve been through.
CDM: Is it true that you also produced a bit of 'The Weekend' as well? Is that something you would like to do more of in future albums?
TOM: Yeah, I did. I love starting from nothing and a track just appearing after throwing something up. You’re like: "Whoa, this created something from nothing." It’s a really strange feeling actually, but yeah, I love producing and if The Wanted finished, I’ve love to produce and to write as well.
CDM: What do you hope fans take away from listening to your album?
TOM: I just hope that people can relate to it in some way. When we were writing it we wanted our personal experiences to be other people’s personal experiences. Like 'Warzone' especially... I think a lot of people go on about [how] guys cheat on girls and stuff, but I think it happens both ways. I think that girls are sometimes as guilty as guys, so for us, we wanted the guys to listen to that song and think: "You know what, yeah the girls do just do it as much as the guys." Every critic that’s written about the album, everyone’s always had a favourite which is a good thing, I think, because we wanted to write songs where each one is as strong as each other. We didn’t want "oh this is just going to be an album track" or "it’s an album filler". We wanted to write the music as good as it could be. I think we achieved it.
CDM: You got to open for Justin Bieber and Britney Spears this year for a couple of shows and you’ve just been announced as the support act for Westlife’s final ever show. What’s it like being on the same bill as worldwide superstars like that?
TOM: The Bieber thing was just pretty surreal, if I’m totally honest with you. When I think back to the start of my career, that’s kind of where I was heading, but obviously it was just: "Oh my god, Justin Bieber. We’re on the same tour as Justin Bieber." In Brazil, as well. Two things I didn’t expect at the start of my career was just rolled into one feat. It was a really surreal experience but an enjoyable one. He’s a really, really nice lad. Really down to earth, which honestly I really didn’t expect. Because when you’re a superstar you can be a bit of a diva and he just wasn’t like that at all. And on the Westlife thing, that’s just crazy. A lot of people have been saying Westlife aren’t about anymore and maybe they’re going to hand the baton down to [us] and they’ve been speaking about us really nicely in interviews... we’re doing it the way that they did it and obviously it was massive for them, so fingers crossed everything’s going to go to plan.
CDM: Justin Bieber fans are known for being extremely dedicated and loud, so how did The Wanted fans compare?
TOM: What I’ve noticed is the more countries we go to, the louder the pitch get of people. When we went to Brazil to support Bieber, it was honestly a noise that I don’t even think a dog would have heard. It was like: "Is that even in the frequency of ears? What is that?" It was crazy. I mean, fans in England I thought was nuts, but when we go to other countries I’m like: "Wow, they really are really crazy." It’s been really fun; it’s just really fun to go to different countries actually to see how people react in different ways.
CDM: Fans down here want to know, would you ever consider doing a triple bill concert with JLS and One Direction?
TOM: Do you know what? That would be absolutely great. I’m not too sure Sony - because obviously they’re both signed to Sony and we’re signed to Universal - I’m not too sure if they’ll let that happen, but me personally, that would be great.
CDM: Say you can only achieve one more thing with The Wanted, what would you like that to be?
TOM: I want us to do a world tour and visit every country in the world. Even like Uzbekistan. I want to do a gig in every country in the world. That might take us four years, I don’t care. I want to do one in every country in the world.
CDM: And finally, do you have a message for your New Zealand fans?
TOM: I can’t wait to come there. Hopefully in the middle of next year , maybe May or June. And thanks to everyone who has gone and bought the single and the album. And yeah, I just can’t wait to come visit you all and do a bit of a radio tour and come and put on a gig for you because we want you to see us live. And we love you all for all your support!