Sunday Times interview: The only things they still have control of is their hair and sleeve-rolling. All crucial decisions here, ‘What’s crucial?” asks Louis, ‘come 100% down to us’, he nods. He sits at the table while the others have their photographs taken. Behind him, Niall is half-naked. At any given point, one of them is half-naked. It’s like their clothes hate them.
I interview them one by one, grabbing them and shouting ‘Sit’ like puppies, whereupon they peer at the chair and say, ‘This is very formal.’ Upstairs they try on yet more padded jackets and skinny jeans, and gab about Perry and debate which tops are ‘more Harry’ or ‘more Liam’, even though all the tops are exactly the same, and they are too. Then they rush off for some sweets.
The publicist brings them two bags of Haribo at 5pm every day, and come and leave me bits of noninformation like doggy treats. It’s odd, like trying to interview milk. I get confused about which is which, and keep asking them about the wrong girlfriends. I still can’t guarantee I’ve matched the right quotes to the right boy, but Liam is definitely a bit angry and cried at the Katy Perry movie Part of Me and recently worried about having ‘piss’ flung at him,
Because Cher Lloyd had that at a festival. Niall is frightened of sushi and is ‘too young’ for a girlfriend, but weirdly too old for his hair, which has Shane Warne highlights and has been like that since he was 12, ‘so I’m getting past it now’. He seems flustered by girls, ‘I don’t want a girlfriend, man, not yet’. His ideal date ‘would be a theme park’, he says,
So he wouldn’t have to make conversation. ‘Like, if you have dinner it’s awkward, and if you go to the cinema it’s been done a hundred times, so a theme park is a good way of not making it awkward.’ Who gets the most girls? ‘We wouldn’t ever objectify women, ever,’ he says, solemnly. I explain the question isn’t about objectifying them, just fancying them. He thinks. ‘Harry gets around, doesn’t he?’
Harry flirts. He does this by staring into your eyes and half-pursing his lips like a knowing toddler. It’s a bit off-putting, actually. The flirting is unconscious: “Sometimes I do it even when I’m not meaning to,” he says. “Perhaps it’s just how I was meant to be.” Louis is the least flirty. He is anxious and the colour of Tango. He’s a bit frightening, like Joan Collins or Dina Lohan. He says he’s worried about getting older. “I just don’t really like the idea of being called a kid any more,” he says. “I think you can always act young. I think I’ll always be immature, so that’s fine.” Which one is the stupidest? Louis says he “isn’t thick” exactly, but he thought he could “blag” his first year of A levels and failed. Liam tells me he was once asked about Syria and didn’t know there was a civil war on and blurted, “I’d throw a party”, because “the best way to cure things sometimes is throw a party, but I didn’t mean it in that way”.(bless)
Harry thinks he might be the thickest: “I think we’re all a little bit stupid,” he concludes, “but that’s what makes us what we are. At the end of the day, we’re just five idiots in the middle of an island.”
The dream is to be Gary Barlow or Take That, minus the overeating and the drug abuse — as Niall puts it: “Take 10 years out and then come back.” Which one is Robbie? “There is no Robbie,” he says, sternly. There couldn’t be any Robbie. The band’s strength lies in its complete lack of maverick talent, the fact that they are five nice, very mediocre lads who happen, freakishly, to be much more than the sum of their parts — a phenomenon that must delight Cowell, who has long been beavering away in his forbidding onyx and fake-fur-lined laboratory trying to find exactly the right alchemy of rubbishness that will finally crack America.
Their album went to No 1 in the States earlier this year and they were immediately penned in by shoals of rabid fans who wanted to rip off their clothes, which Niall or was it Liam found “frightening” and Harry found “not as hard as you think”. Liam says that the fans in America are different because they try and rush them no matter what, “like 30 girls across the middle of this LA street”. I think he worries about road-traffic accidents; he is meant to be the sensible one, and when I ask how much he is worth, he looks serious and says: “I should probably find out.” The girls outside say the band members are worth £1.5m each — the same as each of Cowell’s teeth. Sometimes they work for two weeks without a break, and then they go home and Harry goes to Selfridges and Liam goes to a shop called “Di-or”. Zayn gets tattoos. He’s got a new one that looks like a tampon, or is it a bacterium? “It’s a mike,” he explains. He looks like an eerily handsome 12-year-old. He is extraordinarily charming. He seems amused by Harry’s love of ancient women and his seduction “routine”, which he “executes very well”.