Hot on the tracks of US heartthrobs the Jonas Brothers, who played River Plate stadium at the end of May 2009, are British heartthrobs McFly. The band, who have been topping the UK charts since 2004, should clearly be pensioned off by now according to the complex longevity laws of pop music, but Harry (23), Tom (23), Danny (also 23) and little Dougie aged just 21 are on their first South America tour and plan to stay together for some time yet.
Apart from Danny being voted “Most Fanciable Male 2005” by readers of now-defunct British teen bible Smash Hits, one of McFly’s other career highlights is that they are the youngest band to have an album debut at number one — Room on the 3rd Floor snatched away the title from The Beatles with relative ease when it went double platinum back in 2004.
Flying in from Brazil two days ago where fans jumped onto their car and they were smuggled out of their hotel for fear of mobbing, McFly are playing La Trastienda Club then heading to Chile. Doing the media rounds is part and parcel of the career they have chosen and I’ve been promised time with at least two of them. But which two? It turns out to be blond vocalist and guitarist Tom Fletcher and drummer Harry Judd, a hooded top covering his dark locks.
The single-dimpled Tom says: “We arrived Wednesday afternoon and were taken out for dinner in the port for steak. Then we had a photo shoot on the bridge there in the morning and as we’re only here for a few days, that unfortunately means we can’t go out much and see stuff.”
In Brazil McFly played to 6,000 fans a night: in Buenos Aires it’s a different kettle of fish as the maximum headcount will be 900, a more intimate experience for the band, and very different to what took place at River two weeks previously when Jonas Brothers played to a hormonally charged audience of 65,000. Tom says: “We saw them before we left for South America and just missed them in Sao Paolo. It’s crazy to think that we even have any fans, as we’ve never been to Argentina before, so we’re just building at the moment.”
Making music for six years and with an average age of 22, it seems that these young men, certainly the 50 percent of the band I meet, are grounded, coherent and laugh politely at my jokes. How very un-rock ‘n roll. They seem to be the kind of young men my 22-year-old sister could probably take home to dad, and not the young men who made a journalist friend of mine cry in an interview once, so she tells me. That’s a bit more rock ‘n roll. So how do they manage to remain stable amid the chaos?
Harry says: “Our lives are normal, like next week we’ll be back in England doing normal things, so I’ll drive to the country to see my mum and dad. We’re not celebrities who get followed by the paparazzi. We have great fans in the UK but when we’re not touring we have a quiet life. Although we have more fans in England and play bigger venues, we actually get more privacy.
“We’re all best friends within the band and if it was any different we’d struggle to enjoy what we do. We still have friends from school and that is really important to us.”
Tom adds: “Yeah, next week we’ll be going to the supermarket to buy milk and cheese, and we all have interests outside the band too.”
Having found fame as teenagers, I ask whether they have missed out on completing their secondary education. Tom says: “Harry and I did the first year of AS levels and then we left to join this circus! We are all genuinely close and even in the most stressful of situations we always manage to have fun. None of us ever strived to be famous — music is what we’re passionate about, and fame is a by-product of that.”
Harry adds: “A lot of my friends have been to uni and are now looking for jobs. We’re so lucky to be in a band and have an amazing lifestyle. It’s quite hectic but we do get time to ourselves. We’ve been doing it for six years now so things have calmed down a bit. At the end of the day we’ve all got each other. None of us could do this alone, and apart from anything we’d be quite restricted with our talents! Well, I speak for myself.
“Although we all want to be in the band for a long time, there will come a point where we can have the luxury of taking some time off, and perhaps go backpacking. But right now we’re young and want to concentrate on our careers.”
Still concerned about that missing chunk of education, I decide to give the pair an Argentina quiz. First up. Can you name the president? It’s a unanimous “no.”
What was the year of independence? “Oh, I studied history,” pipes up Harry, “but it was all about World War II.” Again, a big fat zero.
“This is why we’re in a band! We don’t have any other career options,” laughs Tom. They vow to return next year when they find out that Argentina will be in full fiesta celebrating 200 years of independence.
Question three. How many neighbouring countries does Argentina have? Name them. This brings on a collective groan. Bravely, Harry ventures to “chuck some ideas about. Brazil? Peru? Chile?” while Tom claims that “something just popped into my head and went.” A likely story indeed.
While their grey matter is silently churning away, I catch a snippet of conversation from the other side of the room where Danny and Dougie are under scrutiny. “…I’m going to start wearing leotards, I think.”
Harry quips: “You’re lucky you’ve got me and Tom, as it would have been a totally different interview with those two. I’d be surprised if they even knew what country they’re in.” Now it’s collective laughter.
Language spoken? In unison they reply: “Spanish.” Tom racks his brains to come up with the word for “no” — and fails.
In question five they are asked to name the currency. “I’ve got a friend who’s studying Spanish and travelling here and he’d have been far better in this quiz,” says Harry. More collective laughter.
The pair rapidly name three famous Argentines (Evita, Maradona, Messi) so it is upped to six. “You’ve got a lot more out of us than you would have out of them,” says Harry, nodding once more towards the leotard-obsessed Danny and Dougie.
And it’s the end of the quiz. There are no prizes for your few correct answers, Tom and Harry, but jolly well done for trying. And Danny and Dougie, just to confirm, McFly are playing Argentina tonight, and you’re sold out.
First appeared in the Buenos Aires Herald in June 2009.