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 feverishly- anticipated 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."