By Clare Butler
If millennial’s are seeking a nostalgic pop fix from the late 90s boyband boom then a1 are top of ‘the a list’ for standing the test of time.
The four-piece famed for hits such as ‘Caught in the Middle’ and ‘Same Old Brand New You’ are currently living their best lives with sold-out UK arena dates for their 20th anniversary.
And in case you’re wondering – they still have the dance moves down to a tee for ‘Take On Me’.
I meet Ben, Christian, Mark and Paul backstage at the O2 Academy in Birmingham, where shortly before hitting the stage they share snacks and stories like it was only yesterday they were sporting the cover of Smash Hits magazine.
“It’s like we’ve slipped back into the natural situation of us four being a group making plans, writing songs and performing together again,” Ben says.
“The demand for this tour has been incredible.”
Pauls adds: “The speed of it selling out was amazing and really shocked us.
“All the tickets went in four minutes – we had this whole promotion plan for it and then it wasn’t needed anymore.”
It’s the first time that the band have toured as a foursome in the UK in 15 years since Paul left in 2002.
“I messaged Christian and said ‘how are you doing’ and we got chatting and I decided to meet with all the guys and the rest went from there,” he explained.
“It was all very natural, nothing felt forced.”
Over the past decade Ben, Christian and Mark have gone on to have major success across Scandinavia and Asia, releasing two albums and taking part in Norway’s pre-selection for Eurovision in 2010.
Ben laughed: “Eurovision is like the kiss of death.
“We were very sceptical about doing it but then you realise in Scandinavia it’s huge, so we saw it as a platform to be able to release new music.
“Our initial strategy was to do it and make a big name for ourselves. Then we came second in the contest and everyone was distraught for us – but actually for what we wanted it was perfect.”
But it’s clear from our chat there’s no place like home.
“You can explain to your family and friends how big you may be somewhere else but then they can’t actually experience it, but now this is an opportunity for them to come and see,” Ben adds.
“When you surprise people with songs we don’t think they will remember and then you actually see them singing the words back to you it’s brilliant.”
The noise of the crowd can be heard from backstage and the lads are eager to get out and impress.
Christian adds: “We are doing a lot of gigs all over the UK for the Boys are Back Tour next year joining 911, Five and Damage so we’re hoping that everyone will come out and see us for that too.”
But it’s not only a1 getting back on the road that has delighted fans – but the announcement of a new album for 2020 too.
Mark adds: “Any any chance we get to be together we spend writing the album, everything is place and we can’t wait for the fans to hear new stuff.
“There will be stuff on there that is reminiscent of our old classics.
“It’s going to be epic.”
> Tickets for The Boys Are Back Tour, including at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall on 25 February 2020, are available at bit.ly/TheBoysAreBackUK
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