Tab Interview: The Wanted
‘The tea towel was just perched over the crotch area…’ HOLLY STEVENSON interrogates boyband THE WANTED member TOM PARKER.
‘Yeah, we’re trying to compete with JLS. I mean, if they can do condoms, why can’t we do sex toys? I thought it was quite an interesting topic, but our management didn’t see the funny side.’
– Tom Parker, The Wanted
Northern boy band The Wanted have barely been on the music scene for six months, and yet they are already battling with JLS for the title of ‘raunchiest band’. When I opened the latest issue of Cosmo, gone is the usual uniform of scooped black t-shirts and distressed skinny jeans; The Wanted stared back at me, wearing nothing but strategically placed tea towels. Upon questioning, member Tom Parker dissolved into embarrassed laughter. ‘The tea towel was just perched over the crotch area, but have you seen how burnt I look? It’s a joke!’
I, however, was more intrigued by his answer to Cosmo‘s question: ‘What is most attractive to you about a woman?’ ‘The others were being very proper, saying things like ‘personality’,’ Tom explained, ‘I just said: I like breasts. It’s pretty accurate, and I just had to put it out there.’
No rumours about closet homosexuality for this boy band member, then? ‘The female attention that comes from being in a boy band is perfect. Some might say it’s brilliant. I’m a 22-year-old, red-hot-blooded male, and I’m just going to enjoy life and go with it.’
Though the idea of buying a Wanted-themed vibrator is nearly as abhorrent as buying condoms with JLS’s faces on them, Tom’s charm is almost enough for me to forgive the band their terrible marketing strategies. ‘It’s cool being put in the boy band category,’ Tom said. ‘We’re five boys in a band, and that’s just the way it is. Even though we are manufactured, we just like doing what we want and being ourselves, and this does make us quite different from anyone else. The reality is we’re just five normal guys who enjoy music and want to bring everyone along with us.’
All Time Low
His thick, Mancunian accent didn’t hide the enthusiasm and naivety in his voice. In a post-‘N Sync, X Factor intoxicated culture, it’s difficult to remember whether we’re supposed to like boy bands ironically or not (Take That?), and so the fact that it was all new to him, to my cynical mind at least, was quite sweet. Everything was ‘surreal’ or ‘amazing’. ‘Guy Chambers was the first producer I’d ever worked with,’ Tom told me. ‘Going into his studio was like: OH MY GOD!’
And why should we want all our boy band members to be embittered, secretly gay alcoholics? The Wanted boys managed to achieve a UK number 1 with their debut single ‘All Time Low’ despite looking quite a lot like JLS. Let’s give them some credit. And how did it feel to get a number 1 on their first attempt? ‘It was completely overwhelming. I cried like a girl for about 20 minutes.’ However, as Tom admits, it can probably only go downhill from here; it will be make or break with the release of the band’s debut album this week.
When I spoke to him a couple of weeks ago, his anxiety was almost uncomfortable. ‘We’re all a little bit nervous about the new album. The fan base has grown a lot in the last few months, so hopefully we can get it to number 1. But, there is a lot of pressure on us to get it to the top of the charts, and everyone’s feeling it a little bit. The reviews have been really positive, so hopefully it does well. But we’re not getting our hopes up. I think we’d be happy with a top 10. If we don’t get top 10, I’ll be gutted. We started off so well, so where can we realistically go from here?’
I’ve heard interesting things about The Wanted’s fan base; mainly that they are a bit kinkier than your average wide-eyed Backstreet Boys devotee. One of the more publishable Twitter messages from a fan was allegedly ‘get in me’.
I took Tom up on these smutty messages, but he was frustratingly vague. ‘The most common question is: ‘Can we have babies with you?’ from 14-year-olds. Some of them are a bit weird. We usually try to reply to everyone’s messages, and just manoeuvre around the dodgy questions.’ The mind boggles.
Considering that their fans’ mental health seems a bit dubious, it perhaps won’t come as a surprise that Tom is currently single. ‘I haven’t had a girlfriend for about four years, which is quite a long time, and I’m more than open to relationships. I wouldn’t say I’m looking for one, but I wouldn’t say no. It’s just a bit difficult at the moment because we’re away so much. We have to do a lot of travelling, which means I would be away from her a lot, but why not?’
The band has just agreed to a tour in America, but you can forget ‘N Sync-style, timed-to-perfection dance moves. ‘Don’t expect choreography because we’re all terrible at dancing.’ Tom admitted. ‘We’re going to leave that to the backing dancers; it takes the pressure off us. We can say: look at them, they can actually dance! I might learn some break dancing though, and start popping out some moves in the middle of the stage. Everyone would be well impressed!’
Beyond the tour, Tom has bigger ambitions. ‘I’d really love to win a Brit Award. I reckon that could happen in two or three years. If I could win one as a member of The Wanted, that would be a memorable achievement for me. Nothing like setting the bar high. We’ll see!’
This is an achievable ambition; Brit Awards, after all, are to anodyne pop what X Factor is to dying grandmothers – you can’t have one without the other. And, by the way, Tom got his wish. Their self-titled album, released on 25th October, debuted at number four this week, and the second single from it, ‘Heart Vacancy’ at number two. So, he has something to thank his tangoed torso and his slightly barmy fans for after all.