“How do you make up a grown-up Busted album?” - We sat down with the band to talk new album Half Way There
After years of rancour, pop trio Busted finally reunited in 2015 for a successful reunion tour and album campaign. It was a year of sellout crowds and overjoyed punters, all amazed that the impossible had happened and the band, who’d always maintained they would never reunite, were back together.
But then what? Would the band quietly dissolve again? Or would they keep going? Well, they’ve kept going and are back with a new album titled Half Way There.
Their comeback LP Night Driver was a synth-driven, electro pastiche, whereas new album Half Way There is a real return to the band’s roots. Kavinsky and Duran Duran have been replaced as influences by Blink-182 and Green Day, producer Gil Norton is at the controls and the band’s taste for tongue-in-cheek lyrics has roared back.
We spoke to the band about re-embracing pop-punk, why they’re unafraid to be silly again and their plans for their March arena tour...
When did you decide that you wanted to make another album straight away? Rather than go away, have some time apart, do solo projects...
Matt (Willis, bass/vocals): “It felt like the natural thing to do. I never considered the idea that we wouldn’t make another album.”
Charlie (Simpson, vocals/guitars): “Anything else would have given totally the wrong impression. It would have made what we’d done look like a smash and grab job. And it wasn’t. We got back together for creative reasons and we wanted to carry that on. This is much more than a reunion tour.”
Did you carry on writing while you were touring?
Charlie: “We ended up with two albums’ worth of stuff, but a lot of it just sounded weird. Night Driver was its own thing and we love it. But it was basically a concept album. We ended up veering into this new land, which wasn’t really 80s, but it was still electronic. It was an effort to fit in with what’s on the radio at the moment, which is dog s**t.”
James (Bourne, vocals/guitars): “The last two albums reflect the fact that we’re making music we want to make. We’re not thinking about trying to fit in with anything. We’re just doing it because we want to.”
When did you decide to pick up guitars again?”
Charlie: “When we wrote ‘Nineties’. We were sat in a studio in Hammersmith and it was the first time it was just us three. We’d always had someone else there, producers, writers, whoever. We were pretty much at the end of our tether and we couldn’t work out what to do. So we booked a room, just the three of us and we wrote ‘Nineties’. We went back to simple s**t. The album wrote itself after that.”
And, if you’re going to play guitars in a room, getting Gil Norton to produce you is pretty much as good as it gets…
Matt: “He is awesome. I remember the first time I heard Foo Fighters’ ‘Monkey Wrench’, I nearly wet my pants. I still play that album, The Colour And The Shape, all the time. He’s just brilliant.”
Charlie: “Every album he’s worked on, you can hear it. The drums are amazing, the guitars are amazing, he’s got it.”
Matt: “He’s a total perfectionist. This album was really hard work. It was a laugh, but it was really gruelling. He works in his way and that takes some getting used to.”
Last time you worked with John Fields, how did the two compare?
Charlie: “We’d write and record a song in a day. They could not have been more different. The processes were total opposites. Night Driver took three weeks. The whole thing. This album took six months.”
Matt: “I loved making Night Driver and I loved John Fields. It was fun and he made it a great experience. Gil was totally different, he was absolutely what we needed.”
Other bands we’ve spoken to after working with him all say it’s intense…
Matt: “I’m so glad other people say it’s hard work. I was worried I was just really s**t. Most of the songs you’d be on take 36 or take 37 and he’d finally say ‘Yeah, we can move on’.”
Charlie: “He doesn’t want to use conventional ways. He doesn’t want to cut corners or let computers do the work. You want to create a delay with a guitar? You’d better find a way to do it with a pedal. He won’t let you take the easy road.”
Is the album reflective of the stuff you were listening to? Are you listening to Green Day and Blink-182 again?
Charlie: “Not really, we weren’t thinking about it like that. The influence was Busted. How do you make up a grown-up Busted album?”
Matt: “We weren’t looking to sound like Green Day or Sum 41 or Blink-182 or any of those bands. We only looked at ourselves. Let’s make a rock record and get Gill Norton to produce it.”
What kind of album is this lyrically? It seems more tongue in cheek…
Charlie: “It definitely is. There is some autobiographical stuff in there. Night Driver was a very outward looking record, this is more about us, it’s more about the band.”
Matt: “We weren’t ready for that on Night Driver. It was too early, we hadn’t been in a room together for 10 years, we weren’t ready to talk about our history and to be honest with ourselves.”
James: “This is an age-appropriate version of what we used to be. It’s the same tone.”
It’s a hard balance to strike though. It’s harder to make dick jokes in your late 30’s…
Charlie: “That’s the thing I fear the most. You get the balance wrong and it’s just awful. But I think we have struck the right balance. It had to have Busted’s identity in it.”
James: “The pop culture references are a big part of what we do. On those early records, we’ve got Britney Spears and Dawson’s Creek in there, now we’re writing about Elon Musk. That’s what’s in our lives now.”
Charlie: “Doing tongue in cheek lyrics to banging rock music is very different from doing it in teeny sounding pop music. When you hear Blink do it, or you hear us doing it on this record, it works. When you do that, you can be silly, it really works.”
Matt: “There’s a boldness in it. No one has the balls to do it anymore.”
When did you decide the album should be called Half Way There?
Matt: “It’s a ‘Year 3000’ reference. We’re halfway to the seventh album. We weren’t sure people would get it, but we really love it.”
You’ve got a big tour booked for March…
Charlie: “We’re going to be doing 20 songs. It’ll be a big set. It’ll be a good bulk of the new ones, but plenty of old ones too.”
Matt: “You always to drop in as many new ones as you can, but you don’t want to piss everyone off.”
Charlie: “There will be a few from Night Driver. You can’t mix it up too much with the others because it needs quite a different setup. But it’s got its place in our history.”
Busted’s new album Half Way There is out now.