“There are people listening to Sleep Token now who started out listening to Busted.” Watch Busted discuss metal's gatekeepers, tribalism, and their hurt at being abused by the rock community when they first started

Busted at Download festival, 2024
(Image credit: Future)

Busted have spoken to Louder about their appearance at this summer's Download festival, acknowledging that playing at the spiritual home of metal, Donington Park, represented a "huge journey" from their pop roots. 

The Essex pop-rock trio were one of the most successful bands of the early noughties. Released in 2002, their self-titled debut album sold in excess of 1.2 million copies, spawned a UK number one single in You Said No, a number two single, Year 3000, and two number three singles, What I Go To School For and Sleeping With The Light On. Their second album, A Present For Everyone, released the following year, included three UK number one singles, Crashed The Wedding, Who's David, and Thunderbirds/3am, and sold almost a million copies in the UK alone. 

Speaking to Louder's Stephen Hill before they headlined the Avalanche Stage on June 14, the trio expressed delight at the fact that they'd finally been embraced by the rock community, and admitted that they themselves couldn't have imagined playing Download at the peak of their pop success. 

"We wouldn't have done it in 2003," admits vocalist/guitarist Charlie Simpson. "The whole scene was completely different back then. A lot has changed in 20 years. I think that tribalism within music genres has dissipated, largely because of streaming: you've now got Ed Sheeran doing collaborations with Bring Me The Horizon, which, again, wouldn't have happened in 2003. So it felt like a good thing. And actually, when we were announced, I was interested to see what the vibe was, and everyone was actually loving it man."

When Stephen Hill points out that, while authenticity has always been important to rock fans, Busted always wrote their own songs, while certain pop-punk bands who were more accepted by the rock community in the early noughties employed the services of outside writers, Simpson says, "I feel like the entire landscape of pop music back then was very different: it was very manufactured. And 99.9 per cent of the bands that were making pop music, had nothing to do with the actual making of the records, they were formed by the likes of Simon Cowell and put out there.

"So when a band like Busted came along, it was sort of marketed to that audience, we were being marketed as a pop band, rather than, like, Good Charlotte, who I think came through the alternative rock scene. People weren't used to a band in the pop sphere doing everything themselves, and I think that took a minute for people to grasp." 

Asked if it hurt to be shunned by rock magazines at the time, co-vocalist/bassist Matt Willis replies, "If I'm honest, yeah. I'd love to say that I was bigger than that, and that it didn't affect me, but it did. The biggest thing for me was that people I admired, didn't like my band, which I found quite hard to take. I'd go to certain rock shows, to see certain bands that I loved, and I'd get some shit in the crowd... that really pissed me off.... I felt quite down about that shit, but I kinda got it, because you know, we all know these people, and I know how fucking cynical they are. It did take a moment to kinda get over that shit."

"Busted became a huge gateway into rock bands," says Simpson. "You look at bands like Neck Deep, they were hugely influenced by Busted at a young age... Now there's people listening to Sleep Token, or whatever, that may have started when they were much younger listening to Busted. Busted bringing guitars into the mainstream... did put a lot of kids onto guitars which I'm immensely proud."

"I think we were always a pop band, but with a rock spirit," adds co-vocalist/guitarist James Bourne. 

Busted split in 2005, but reformed in 2015, and released the electronica-influenced Night Driver album in 2016. They recently revealed to Rolling Stone UK that they're recording an "experimental" new album with former Bring Me The Horizon man Jordan Fish.

"We’re in a position where we give less fucks and we just want to do what makes us really fucking stoked," Matt Willis stated.

Watch the band's interview with Louder below.

Busted talk Download Festival, heavy metal and being hated by rock fans - YouTube Busted talk Download Festival, heavy metal and being hated by rock fans - YouTube
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