One Direction EVENT magazine interviews and covers. Harry on getting his London home finished in time for Christmas: ‘I bought it at the beginning of the year, then decided to move the kitchen. That turned into a bigger thing, and the last time I went it was all just floorboards. The builders have told me it won’t be finished till January, so when I finally get home I’ll still be staying at a mate’s house.’
Louis Tomlinson on his dream: ‘Absolutely honestly? It’s sitting in my garden at home with my girlfriend [Manchester University student Eleanor Calder] on a lovely quiet morning, having a cup of tea.’ But it’s not going to happen for quite some time. And the same goes for the band’s shared dream of getting a dog. ‘We all want a dog. But we can’t have one, because you need to have the time to be with a dog. And we never have the time.’
Every second of their lives is accounted for. An average day will start at 6 AM and finish at 1 AM. A rare day off requires planning on the level of a military operation. Liam: ‘It’s pretty hard to just ‘go out’. If you do, you can try putting on a hat and shades, but it doesn’t really work. As soon as you spot someone who’s spotted you and they have their phone out, you have about 15 to 20 minutes before you get completely surrounded.
The other day Louis and I decided to go surfing. We got out of the car and were literally zipping up our wetsuits when we spotted someone with a phone. By the time we’d got out into the water there was a group of people on the beach. I mean, that’s lovely. But it can be a bit embarrassing when you’re trying to learn to surf and then you’re worrying about trying to look cool and not fall over.’ FULL interview under
In a low-key photo studio on the outskirts of Sydney, Payne is sitting in the sunshine trying to explain exactly what it’s like to be a member of a band which – when it comes to American chart success – is officially bigger than The Beatles.
‘There’s just one word,’ he says. ‘And it’s “surreal”. I don’t think any of us have quite got our heads around it. Because how can this in any way seem normal to anyone? It’s amazing, it’s crazy, it’s like nothing we ever even began to think would happen, but it’s also just weird. The performing, the writing, the albums – all that is just more incredible than you could ever imagine. But none of us had any idea about the rest of it.’
Styles shakes his head.
Tickets for the seven Sydney dates at the 21,000-seater Allphones Arena sold out in just three minutes. They’re the first pop band since The Beatles to really break America. Their first two albums have gone to No 1 all over the world. Their latest, Midnight Memories, is certain to follow suit (the bookies aren’t taking any bets, as this is a given).
‘It is the biggest achievement any British band has had in decades,’ says Simon Cowell, who owns their label, Syco. Say what you like about them, but One Direction have done the numbers. This band are absolutely massive.’
In May they announced another world tour starting in April – this time in stadiums. Such was the demand for tickets that extra dates were quickly added. So far, they’ve sold over ten million albums. Their movie This Is Us grossed £10 million in its opening weekend. Their combined Twitter following is approaching the 100 million mark. The One Direction statistics are as crazy as the fans.
Event has flown to Sydney for the band’s only interview and exclusive photoshoot to mark the release of Midnight Memories. Before I left, their friend and occasional mentor James Corden told me to prepare to be surprised by them. Corden wrote the introductory skit for the album’s debut single, Best Song Ever, directed by his friend Ben Winston (son of the doctor and scientist Robert).
‘They’re really young, they’re crazily famous and you think they’re going to be the usual pop-star clichés,’ he said. ‘But they’re really proper, decent guys. They’re smart. They’re a lot more grounded than I would have been at their age.’
The band are here with their ‘entourage’, including head of security Scott, groomer Lou, stylist Gemma (I think they mean Caroline), Styles’s dad Des, and older sister, Gemma.
There is a separate room set aside for the boys, but it becomes obvious within minutes that they just don’t roll that way. Styles handshakes his way round the room, sniffing and sneezing his way through a bout of extreme hay fever. He drinks a vitamin shake with an espresso chaser. ‘A few months ago,’ he says, ‘we were doing calendar pictures, and my hay fever was so bad I couldn’t open my eyes, but I had to do them. They photoshopped my eyes in.’
Meanwhile, Payne takes Lou’s toddler, Lux, outside to play, Malik checks that his new tattoo (a space monkey) is covered up and Horan and Tomlinson check out the food. The first thing that strikes you about them, then, is that they’re not exactly aloof. The second thing is that they all look significantly older and a hell of a lot cooler than they did on The X Factor.
‘We’ve all changed,’ says Malik. ‘I definitely found it pretty hard to begin with. None of us really knew each other that well and none of us was really prepared. We were thrown in it together. We went through the same things. Our mums crying when we left home because they weren’t prepared either. I found it pretty hard at first. I was always trying to be too cool, like you do in school.
‘I found it really hard talking to people, answering questions – you don’t want to sound like an idiot, so a lot of the time you don’t say anything at all. Then you realise everyone is in the same boat. None of us knew what we were doing. You can’t take yourself too seriously, and you all start to relax into being who you are. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to do this on your own – if you weren’t in a band.’
Horan nods. ‘I mean, we were all just kids. Who knows what to say? Now I’m pretty excellent at small talk. You get pushed straight in and you just have to grow up fast.’
Styles – who has dated It girl Cara Delevingne, Taylor Swift and 34-year-old Caroline Flack – is the one who receives the most attention. Three days later at Sydney’s Allphones Arena, he’ll be the one who gets the loudest screams. But strangely, of all of them it’s Styles who analyses himself the least and seems the most relaxed.
‘I would absolutely hate to be Harry,’ says Payne. ‘Because I don’t think I’d cope with that extra level of attention.’
But Horan adds, ‘He definitely found the whole experience all very easy.’
Styles nods. ‘It wasn’t that long ago I was working in a baker’s, and now I’m doing this. ‘I’m very lucky, and as far as I can see it’s all good. I don’t overthink anything. Everybody else analyses you from your hair to your eyebrows to the way you wave your hand. If you start worrying about it and overthinking everything you do, it all just becomes false, so I think, “Just carry on as you are, do what you do and get on with it.”’
He once said his hair got so much attention he wanted to shave it all off.
‘Well, it’s grown longer now and I like it like this,’ he laughs. ‘I’ve grown into it. I think we’ve all changed, loosened up.’
‘And now we all actually look like ourselves,’ laughs Payne. ‘We’re older. We’ve all got hair everywhere now – even Niall. We’ve got bigger, we’ve got stubble, we’re turning into men.’
Payne has developed some serious abs himself.
‘I’ve always wanted a strong body, but I never had the focus to do the training. We have a trainer with us, and for me it’s been one of the best things about this tour, getting into the shape I want. It can be tricky using gyms in hotels. The other day I was sweating through the last few minutes doing dips and the electronic doors kept opening and shutting with girls standing behind them, screaming at me. Another time I went into an empty gym, and there was just me and a girl in full make-up, a dress and high heels actually running on the treadmill, watching me.’
Yet despite the private jets, the personal trainers and the high life, a down-to-earth Northern vibe pervades. They show pictures on their phones of their mates at uni. Tomlinson grins. ‘They probably have more of a wild time than us because we’re always working.’
Styles talks about the comparison with The Beatles.
We all sat and watched the film of them arriving in America,’ he says. ‘And to be honest, that really was like us. Stepping off the plane, the girls, the madness. It was exactly the same as when we got there – just 50 years earlier. But none of us think we’re in the same league as them music-wise. We’d be total fools if we did. Fame-wise, it’s probably even bigger, but we don’t stand anywhere near them in terms of music.’
Payne is perhaps the most analytical member of the band.
He first auditioned for The X Factor when he was 14, but was told by Cowell to come back in two years. He went on to study music technology before returning to The X Factor and ending up in One Direction. ‘You dream of things happening like this,’ he says. ‘But then you don’t really ever expect it to happen. It was all so incredibly quick for us, and it’s only really now – a few years on – that you start to have some sense of it all. At first we were just unbelievably grateful that we’d even got a record deal, let alone anything else. Then it went very mad very fast, and you spend the first year or so thinking you don’t deserve any of it.’
Tomlinson nods. ‘This year, we turned up at the VMAs [the MTV Video Music Awards, attended by the likes of Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Justin Timberlake]. ‘We still feel so new and like we’ve got no mates on that level at all. We were put with all the hip-hop crowd, sitting next to Drake, which was pretty cool, and Rihanna was right in front of us. But we don’t actually know any of them. Harry knows Elton John, and he’s incredibly nice to us. But our actual mates are people like Little Mix and JLS.’
While the world around them focuses on the phenomenon, the band themselves are focused on the music. Even in the eye of the storm, they have one eye on the future. There’s no talk of cutting and running, no thoughts about when it’s all over. Tomlinson and Payne each co-wrote around half of the tracks on Midnight Memories.
‘We’re still learning,’ says Payne with endearing honesty. ‘But we’re getting better and better. It takes longer to get your confidence in writing than it does in performing, and we’ve definitely started to hit our stride. Working in the studio is the best thing for me about being in the band.’
Tomlinson says, ‘You start off just listening to everyone, but the more you do, the more decisions you start to make yourself. At first it was really hard: you sit in a room with writers asking you about your love life and stuff like that, and they start to piece together a song. But you keep on doing it and we’ve written more and more. This album is definitely more rock, more of us. Writing the songs ourselves – that’s the thing that makes you start to feel you deserve to be where you are, not all the other crazy stuff. We do look at other bands – even people like Take That – and see what it was that made them. Whatever else, it’s the songs that are going to last, so that’s much more of a focus for us.’
They’ve discovered the paradox of fame on this world tour. As Oscar Wilde wrote, ‘In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.’
One Direction are loved by millions, but barely get to spend any time with the ones they love. They’re travelling the world, but – bar arenas, hotels and television studios – they get to see very little of it. And it’s pretty hard to be rock ’n’ roll when you’re confined to your hotel room.
‘A lot of the time we actually prefer sleeping on the tour bus,’ says Payne. ‘We park it next to the venue and just stay there. We have our DVDs and Xboxes and we have a quiet bus for sleeping. It’s actually a lot easier than being in a hotel.’
Girls are everywhere, but the ones they want to be with are – in the case of Tomlinson and Payne – back in England. Malik’s fiancée, Perrie Edwards from Little Mix, flew into Sydney a few days earlier, but they got to spend just one evening together.
‘But that was really nice,’ says Malik. ‘We went for a meal, sat around just chilling. You have to believe that in our relationships it’s about absence making the heart grow fonder.’
Tomlinson, who has been with his girlfriend for the past two years, nods.
‘I think we’re actually all pretty good boyfriends. We’re definitely romantic. But when we actually get to be with our girlfriends, we just want to do the normal stuff we never get to do, like watching crap TV together and staying in. It’s definitely harder, but I think we’re in relationships because we want to be in them and we want to make them work. You only get distracted if you want to be distracted.’
Most of the day-to-day energy on tour appears to go into the logistics of getting them from A to B.
‘In America it was completely crazy, exactly like it is here,’ says Payne. ‘In New York it was terrible, because the traffic means the cars go so slow the fans are everywhere. Sometimes it’s a bit like living in a version of the TV show 24.’
He pauses. ‘When I think about it, I do start to worry about this whole social-media thing. I’ve seen documentaries about kids just staring at screens all day long, living through Twitter. It does make me uncomfortable; kids should be out living their lives, getting out, enjoying themselves. There are lots of times when I think about signing off from Twitter completely, because you feel you ought to stop feeding the machine.’
They’ve been able to kick back in a few bars in America and at a couple of beaches in Australia with friends of the security team. And Malik managed to get his tattoo on Bondi Beach. ‘We went at two in the morning,’ explains Horan. ‘It was pretty quiet, but it was absolutely beautiful.’
Several members of the band have bought houses for their family, and each has bought one for himself. Tomlinson recently got Malik to use his financial adviser (also used by Styles). He’s half-embarrassed to say it, but he does have an investment portfolio.
‘Not just one thing like property; you spread your money across investments,’ he says. ‘You just have to be pretty responsible.’
They’re not like average 19- and 20-year-olds. None of them can wait to get home. They miss their families, their friends, the relative freedom of the UK. They work 14-hour days, six days a week.
They’re unfailingly polite, leaping up to let others sit down, listening respectfully to Harry’s dad’s advice. And they don’t take offence at personal questions. Harry grins when I ask him if he has a girlfriend.
He’s now single, he tells me, ‘But no one ever knows that. There was a picture of me the other day with my “secret girlfriend”. I didn’t see it, but my mum rang up because they’d used a photo of me and Gemma [his sister]. She’s not my girlfriend!’
It’s a few days later, and the band are due on stage in Sydney. They’re running late because they’ve been presented with an award (for the fastest-selling sell-out shows ever) and have been chatting to Dannii Minogue. The frenzied screams of waiting pre-teens and teenagers in the arena reach an ear-splitting crescendo. They go on stage in the clothes they’ve been wearing all day. There are no outfit changes (bar Liam taking his top off), no dance routines and very few special effects.
What One Direction do is as far from slick as Justin Bieber is from being cool. They screen special video messages and giant montages of fan artwork, and in between their big hits they talk, answer Twitter questions from the audience (‘Which one of Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs would you be?’) and generally praise their fans. It’s more ‘an audience with…’ than a concert, and as a piece of 21st-century interactive entertainment, it’s ingenious stuff.
Two hours later and the band are off stage, clambering into blacked-out vans as Scott and his team organise a police escort back into town. Tomorrow the band fly to Melbourne, then it’s Tokyo and finally home.
‘A proper cup of tea,’ yells Tomlinson. ‘And Christmas,’ says Styles. Their schedule between now and then is completely full, but no one is complaining.
‘We can sleep when we’re 30,’ says Payne.