Backstage in Sheffield (Photoshoot)

#023 – Backstage in Sheffield x3 photos


OTRA At Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield

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Video 1 – Welcome Video

Video 2 – From the Beginning

“Basically we are all a mess”

The band is broken and so are they — nearly. As the four remaining members of One Direction come to the end of their gruelling UK tour, they talk to Louise Gannon about pies, Pilates and why they need a rest

ON A miserably grey day in Caledonian Road, north London, large groups of teenage girls sit huddled on the pavement outside a brick-built warehouse.

Elise, a student from Krakow, is carrying a fake Chanel clutch. She believes this accessory may attract the attention of Harry Styles, 21, who arrived 11 minutes earlier in one of two black Range Rovers and entered the building, along with Liam Payne, 22, Niall Horan, 22, and Louis Tomlinson, 23. In other words: One Direction.

Elise and the rest of the fans will wait another eight hours for one more glimpse of the band as they exit the building. Nobody appears to be mourning the late-departed Zayn Malik, 22, who quit the band in March, claiming he wanted a “normal” life. “Zayn never happy,” shrugs Elise. “Now he gone.” They take selfies, note number plates, talk to drivers, send endless texts. Within hours, their number has trebled.

This is life for One Direction. They have millions in the bank (last year the band collectively earned £202,000 a day), travel in private jets and limos and own property portfolios. But they can’t step outside without hordes of fans following them. They have 24/7 security and are as familiar with travelling inside the boot of a car as they are on the white leather seats of a Learjet.

The last time I interviewed them was in Australia. Payne told me a story about the time he and Tomlinson drove to a remote beach outside Sydney at dawn to learn how to surf. As they pulled on their wetsuits, they spotted one person with a phone. Within 20 minutes, more than 100 people were on the sand. Less than an hour later, their security advised them to leave the beach. “Sometimes, it’s like living in that TV show 24,” he said.

You can see why Malik wanted out. But already the fans have forgotten him.

One Direction are not a conventional band: they are a social-media musical phenomenon. A creation of the pop Svengali Simon Cowell, they were assembled on The X Factor in 2010 and went on to break America with their laddish wit and unschooled charm, propelled by a huge Instagram and Twitter following. (Styles is the most popular man in the UK on Instagram, with 13.3m followers.) Five years in and they have just finished their fourth world tour and are set to release their fifth album, Made in the AM, in two weeks’ time.

It’s been a giddy rollercoaster of superstardom, tainted recently by a deluge of negative press stories about cancelling their Belfast gig after Liam apparently had a last-minute “meltdown” due to the pressure of fame. This came on the back of Malik quitting and Tomlinson soon to be a babydaddy (he’s not with the mother, Briana Jungwirth, the American stylist, but they are “still good friends”). Most damaging of all are the rumours that the remaining four are about to split. Things didn’t improve when, in August, the band announced they were planning to take an “extended hiatus” next year. “We still haven’t found a time to actually say definitely when,” admits Payne.

Inside Big Sky Studios, the band is in the midst of a 10-hour schedule of 50 interviews with press from around the world. Slots are between 10 and 20 minutes. Style — the only British magazine to be included — is given 20. While we wait, we’re made to listen to three songs from the new album. They are all instantly catchy pop songs, co-written by professional songwriters.

At 5.45pm, in this vast warehouse studio, a producer announces: “The boys are eating lunch.” Breakfast was midday.

Finally, Harry Styles emerges from behind a huge TV light, limping, a bootcast strapped to his leg following a stage injury. A wounded pop god in his black skinny jeans, Liberty-print floral shirt and girlishly long “Harry hair”, he explains why he isn’t that hungry.

“Bullet coffee,” he says, in a broad Cheshire accent. “It’s black coffee with a spoonful of butter in it and a spoonful of coconut oil, all mixed up together. I’ve been on it for two days. You don’t get hungry.” His diet makes you wonder who is looking after the boys.

Much has been written about Styles, especially about his sex appeal: exes include Taylor Swift, Kendall Jenner and, notoriously, the TV presenter Caroline Flack, who dated him when he was 17 and she was 32. He looks taller than he does in photos, not quite so baby-faced, and has the relaxed, fluid grace of a cat. We talk about Mick Jagger and how much he likes the Rolling Stone’s clothes.

“I was looking at a photograph of him and Bianca [Jagger] the other day and he was wearing this amazing yellow suit. I’m a massive fan and I like him a lot. I don’t know what he thinks of me.” I tell him Jagger still wears 28in waist jeans. He grins. “I wear 26in waist women’s jeans. Boom.”

There is no sign that Styles feels any pressure from this bizarre life he has led since he was 16, swapping his part-time bakery job for stadiums and screaming fans, with his every move covered on social media. “I do yoga, a bit of meditation, Pilates,” he says. “I’m reading a book about Buddhism.” He talks about books, films, custard ice cream in the American Midwest and how he buys NutriBullets for “any of my mates when they move into a flat”.

Every member of the band has put their money into property, buying at least one place for themselves, either in or just outside London. All have bought new houses for their parents — except Horan, who has so far paid off his mum’s mortgage, bought her a car and rents her a flat in London. Horan’s dad, who split from his mum, is reported to have politely turned down his son’s offer of a new house. Mostly, these millionaires don’t have time to spend their money, or even spend time in the houses they have bought.

After Styles bought his big house in north London “in about 2011”, he filled it with builders and ended up moving into the attic room of the producer Ben Winston (son of the genetic scientist, Robert) and his wife for 18 months. “That saved me,” he says. “I was only supposed to be with them for three weeks. Nobody knew where I was — that can actually, sometimes, be possible.”

They have drivers instead of cars, and stylists who shop for them, so they end up talking a lot about food. It represents the breaks in their jam-packed days and is something of an obsession. When Tomlinson enters the room a few seconds behind Payne and Horan, he says, as they arrange themselves on the sofa: “Sorry, it’s just I needed a bit of Greggs. Sausage roll and a steak bake. You can’t beat it.” A £2 lunch is what makes this pop star very happy.

Well trained, their phones are switched off and, bar the odd bit of nudging and pushing, they pay attention. They are all dressed in versions of skinny jeans and casually tight shirts. Like Styles, Horan also has one foot in a cast, a war wound from the tour.

Like siblings, all four know each other’s habits intimately and settle into specific family roles. Tomlinson, from Doncaster, is the confident eldest, Payne, from Wolverhampton, is the responsible one: the only one whose long-term relationship — with his secondary-school sweetheart, Sophia Smith — has stayed the course. Styles is the easygoing and thoughtful diplomat, and Co Westmeath-born Horan the excitable extrovert.

Asked how they would describe each other, Horan says: “We divide into two sides of a coin. The pie and pint boys and the protein-and-Pilates. Harry is protein-and-Pilates. Liam and me flit between the two and Louis is all about the Greggs. Harry is superfit. He does 12 five-minute rounds of boxing every day and goes for runs. Except he can’t do it now because of his boot.”

But it is Payne who was recently voted sexiest man of the year by Attitude magazine and lauded for his rippling pecs and perfect thighs. “I’ve been letting all that slide,” he groans, admitting he didn’t go to sleep until 3am. He looks tired and pale, the dark shadows under his eyes emphasised by his black shirt and black jeans. In fact, he looks like he is coming down with flu – little wonder that two weeks laterm, he was the source of the cancelled gig. “Basically, we are all a mess.”

It could be the most prescient statement they make all day.

As a band, they rarely do interviews. With a profile built on social media, Snapchat and five-minute television appearances, they certainly don’t do “in-depth”. Like puppies, they were taken away from their families as teenagers by Cowell and set off on this bizarre, gruelling, money-making odyssey. It’s said that Payne’s mother bought a lifesized cut-out of her son to keep in the house, as she never sees him. Every second of every day is accounted for. They often wake up oblivious to which city they are in, generally unable to leave their hotel due to the fans.

Each of them says they have come to terms with the way they live their lives, but you wonder how they are really coping. They are well-versed in trotting out the lines about “the fans”. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the fans,” says Payne. “You have to remember that. You can’t complain about it. And yes, it gets crazy, but it’s been all we know. Because of social media, we’re probably the first band to go through it like this. It’s intense, but you’ve got to be grateful for that. You’ve got to be grateful there are people screaming for you, standing outside your hotel room.”

Horan adds: “When things got tough for us this year [with Malik leaving], the fans stayed loyal. That’s a big one for us. They were there.”

“If we went back to before we were famous and told ourselves this would be what it was like,” says Tomlinson, “we wouldn’t even be able to prepare ourselves for it. There was no preparation for this, except to say roll with it, good and bad, keep rolling with it. It’s what you’ve got.”

As a band, they often travel separately for security reasons, or simply because they need a break from each other. There are two planes — a party one and a quiet one. Styles is generally on the quiet plane. “I read books, watch films, sleep.” Payne nods. “Sleep. None of us ever gets enough sleep.” Most of the year is spent travelling, touring or promoting, except January, when they get one whole month off. “Top banana,” nods Tomlinson.

I ask how they feel about Malik’s departure. According to psychologists, most of our communication is in our facial expressions. Tomlinson looks hurt, Styles looks sad, Horan looks away. Payne shrugs: “We sort of knew it was coming. We saw a lot of the signs, especially in a lot of the gigs abroad that we did. And it’s sad. Like with a football team, or when someone in your office goes. But the fans stuck around, they didn’t believe it was the end.”

Tomlinson nods: “It was hard. I think maybe for me the most. But he wanted to be happy and he wasn’t. Everything had always been good and then something bad happens and you have to make decisions, you have to work out what you want, and it makes you really know what you want, and we all knew we wanted this. The good thing was, he left just before we made the album. It was like, ‘Right, let’s make it the best album.’ So we worked our backsides off because we want to show we are a band, we’re here, this is what we do.”

So why then immediately announce a break? Payne rolls his eyes. “It’s just a break. It’s not a split. We’re not going anywhere. In five years we’ve done four tours, five albums, we’ve done films. I’ve not even watched our films, because we are always running for the next thing. I’m really conscious that all this crazy stuff has happened to us and, you know, I haven’t even taken it in. We can’t ever answer questions properly because stuff hasn’t sunk in. I want to just sit still and let it sink in. We just want a little break. I don’t know if anyone’s noticed, but Katy Perry hasn’t done anything for a year…”

Horan adds: “Basically, this is where we are at with 1D. We’ve had five years of craziness. Now we all need to go away, become mad old recluses, then come back again with giant beards. That’s the plan.”

Outside, the temperature has dropped and the screens of 100 mobile phones glow in the darkness as the fans continue their vigil. Elise, sitting with her back against the wall, is merely a shadow in the gloom, the fake Chanel bag invisible. I warn them the band won’t be leaving for hours yet and a heavily made-up girl rolls her eyes. “We know that already,” she says. “We’re waiting.” The story of their lives.

Made in the AM is released on November 13.

(Source: The Sunday Times)

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