GEORGE: About a year after we came out in America, One Direction came out, and they kind of smashed us all over the place. Let’s be honest, we had major success in numbers -- “Glad You Came” was as big as anything at the time -- but after “Glad You Came,” they kind of whopped our asses.
SYKES: My first thought when I saw One Direction all stood there on The X Factor as a five piece was “Oh shit,” if I’m being completely honest [Laughs]. You could just see that that was going to connect and be massive. And then the first time I heard “What Makes You Beautiful,” again I had the same thought, but with a different four-letter word [Laughs]. It was just a brilliant song.
GEORGE: We met them when they were on X Factor, actually. We thought it was cool to see these young lads, these young men so excited and hungry for about what was going to happen.
SYKES: I was having a massage and they all came into the dressing room, and I think every single one of them slapped me on the back -- what a lovely introduction that was. [Laughs.] But no, they were lovely. They came in, we chatted with them for a bit. The energy they had was just fantastic. You could just feel it, it was infectious. They walked out and we were like, “Yeah they’re gonna get massive.”
GEORGE: Obviously, they had no idea, we had no idea what was around the corner for them. It was never a worry or competition -- all we cared about was how good our music was. The only time anything was mentioned about One Direction was: “Holy shit, How big are they?” It was never, “Oh, damn it, we need to be bigger than them.”
SYKES: They grew their fan base in an amazing way, and the songs were great. They were just good. It got to a stage where we were on about the same level, and we had a conversation -- “All right, guys, you need to make a choice. You need to stay in the lane and go alongside them releasing great pop songs, or you can make the choice and go a bit cooler with your image. Go out a bit more, and kind of be seen as the edgier alternative to One Direction.” That was the decision that was taken, and personally, I think proved to be the wrong decision. But I think nobody would’ve stopped what was going to happen with One Direction. No band on the planet was going to stop that from becoming the success that it became. But there’s arguments that we could’ve ridden alongside it for a bit longer.
[After we met] on The X Factor, a few of us stayed in contact -- obviously, that went away when half the band decided to start war with One Direction, which just got messy and unnecessary. I remember seeing Niall out one night, and I was like, “What the bloody hell has happened?” and he was like “Don’t even get me started.” I think we saw Harry as well, we were both really drunk in some place in L.A. We just had this wonderful embrace, and it was the acknowledgement like, “This isn’t between us. We’re good.” It was very weird to have that split of members in the band that didn’t get on, and the members in the bands that did, but then couldn’t, kind of, publicly show affection. That was probably a mistake in deciding to pursue that Twitter spat. That was really not a good idea.
They’re really nice boys. I’ve seen them a bit more while I’ve been doing my solo stuff and they’ve been doing their solo stuff as well, and they’ve been nothing but lovely. So that’s really great to see as well, with the amount of success they’ve had, to still be really nice people, still be very grounded, to be very music driven -- I just think that’s great for music.