The Jonas Brothers woke their fan base up from shallow slumber recently with their sudden reunion, six years after they split. But the JoBros have another band to thank for their initial success.
On the other side of the pond, far removed from the Jonas’ Disney-groomed, squeaky clean image, there was the potty-mouthed pop punk group Busted, who unwittingly provided the Jonas Brothers their first ever Top 40 single — ‘Year 3000’.
The song, which took Busted to No 2 in the UK in 2002, was re-recorded by the Jonas Brothers in 2006, becoming their first single to chart and break the Top 40.
“I didn’t really think much of it,” bassist Matt Willis told Gulf News tabloid!, ahead of Busted’s March 14 gig at the Irish Village, Dubai.
“Suddenly, I got a royalty cheque about a year later, and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a big royalty cheque!’ I had to Google ‘Jonas Brothers’.
“They wanted to change some of the lyrics, which I wasn’t very happy about, but I kind of let it slide, because they had a much younger audience. They couldn’t say things like ‘triple-breasted women’ — so, silly little things like that… It was a much cleaner version, which I thought was a bit lame,” said Willis.
Busted weren’t like the Jonas Brothers, or any other band on the radio — because they weren’t on the radio, period. Their explicit cheekiness left them in limbo.
“We weren’t alternative enough for alternative radio or rock radio. But we weren’t pop enough for mainstream radio, so we were in this no man’s land and we’ve always been in that world... We could kind of do whatever we wanted,” said Willis.
The boys were 16 and straight out of school when Busted formed, with the lyrics to prove it. ‘What I Go To School For’ told the story of a lad whose only reason for attending class was Miss Mackenzie, a teacher he was pining after.
Is it strange to still be singing some of these songs now that Willis is 35?
“If anything, it makes it a little bit funnier. It’s a bit surreal that I’m still singing, for instance, ‘Year 3000’, [which] we wrote then we were like 17 and we were a little bit drunk and we just watched ‘Back to the Future’. We wrote this silly song for a laugh … and it’s our biggest song,” said Willis.
POP PUNK OR BUST
Busted disbanded in 2005 as tensions mounted in the band. Youngest member Charlie Simpson wanted to focus on his other group, Fightstar. But despite a messy break-up, their reunion years later was painless.
“It was easier than I anticipated it being. I built something up in my head,” said Willis. The boys spent a week writing together in Minneapolis at a friend of guitarist James Bourne’s.
“I came back and my wife was like, ‘Oh my God, how was it? Did you have any heart-to-heart chats and get stuff off your chest?’ I was like, ‘No, no I didn’t!’” recalled Willis, laughing.
“We just had fun. We’re not changing the universe here. We’re writing pop music with guitars.”
The band released their fourth album ‘Half Way There’ last month, peaking at No 2 on the UK charts. But their 2016 effort, ‘Night Driver’, failed to break into the Top 10.
“It was a massive departure in sound for Busted. We just wrote an album which made us smile, influenced by big, 80s filmic music. It didn’t really connect with our fan base in the way that I think they wanted it to,” said Willis.
When it came to ‘Half Way There’, the boys scrapped three albums worth of material before they settled on something much closer to their roots.
“We already have a fan base and an identity. Why are we trying to be like someone else?” said Willis.
One of the tracks, ‘Shipwrecked in Atlantis’, will have its music video filmed right here in Dubai — at Atlantis, The Palm.
“It just makes perfect sense," said Willis.
A LOST GENRE
Lamenting the lack of guitars and live drums on the radio today, Willis remembers how ‘Dookie’ by Green Day changed the game 25 years ago.
“It spawned a generation of pop punk bands that went on to be Blink 182, Sum 41, New Found Glory,” said Willis.
“Now it just seems to be dance tracks with female vocalists, which is cool … Like, I really like Dua Lipa’s songs, I think they’re [expletive] rad. But do I wanna to listen to an album? No. But then, is anybody listening to albums like they were back in the day?” the bassist asked.
Willis could see the upside to this, nevertheless: “I think that makes people less tribal about music. When I was young, you were either into, like, hard core or punk rock or metal or dance music, or you were the R’n’B guy. Now, those lines are really blurred and you’ve got people like Post Malone headlining rock festivals. It’s a different world we’re living in now.”
*Busted perform at the Irish Village on March 14. Tickets are Dh175.