When One Direction announced they were kicking off the next stage of their world domination plan on Wearside, I put in the standard request for interviews... review tickets... locks of hair etc.
Predictably the polite reply we got was that it would be unlikely the band – Niall, Liam, Zayn, Louis and Harry –would have any time for interviews ahead of the concert at the Stadium of Light on May 28. Boo hoo.
Always looking for the half cup of silver lining though, I turned my attention to the next best thing... their most successful tribute ba
nd, Only One Direction, who have been gigging up a storm all over the UK and beyond, offering 1D fans a fix. (Like when you really want beans on toast, but you’ve only got the own brand basic range tin in the cupboard, left over from the student lodgers you used to have... or something).
The best bit as far as I was concerned, though, was that this all-boy singular direction collective have one thing that the genuine article will never have... a North East member.
Back of the net!
Twenty three-year-old Aaron Foster, from Teesside, has been on board this particular coat-tail juggernaut for the past year or so, and couldn’t be happier about it.
“The way I see it, doing this means I don’t have to get a proper job,” says the musical theatre graduate who has found a niche playing band member Liam, following a brief stint as Niall prompted by a bleached hair do for a modelling shoot.
“I know loads of people who want to be artists and performers but have to do normal jobs, like working in shops or something, to keep them going in between auditions and acting jobs.
“Being in a One Direction tribute band is what I do while I’m waiting for the auditions and jobs to come in... so I’m travelling all over the place with four other great performers, performing on stage, sometimes to thousands of people at a time, and getting paid for it. What’s not to like?”
Such is the appetite for One Direction injections, this tribute band have found themselves going from a couple of gigs a month in the early days to taking in 20-date tours of the UK - a summer one is in the immediate offing.
And that’s to say nothing of their recent 10-day jaunt to Dubai, where they were asked to sign everything from arms and phone covers to jackets and designer bags.
“This one guy was asking us to sing down the phone to his sister in India. It was mad,” says Aaron, who went to Stockton Riverside College before going off to study musical theatre at the Midlands Academy of Dance and Drama (MADD) in Nottingham.
“We always used to say that being in the band was our bread and butter money, but as it has gone on, it has started taking up more and more time.”
It wasn’t long after graduating from MADD that Aaron moved to London and got wind of the auditions for a new tribute band.
“This was the first tribute band I’d auditioned for,” he says. “I mean, this isn’t a career choice - of course it’s not. I don’t think there’s any of us who went and trained as a singer and dancer thinking we were going to be in a band paying tribute to One Direction.
“I knew there was a stigma attached to tribute bands. People tend to assume they’re not going to be that good.
“But with us, we’re all really strong performers in our own right, so we make a really strong band. You can see people in the audience becoming surprised at what they’re seeing... people are always telling us they can’t believe how good we are and what a great show we put on.”
What they probably don’t say is that the boys are dead ringers for the real One Direction lads. And Aaron makes no apologies for it.
“We’re not a look-a-like band - we weren’t chosen because we happen to look like a member of One Direction,” he says. “Of course, we do our best to try and look as much like them as we can... I wear a cap backwards because I saw Liam do that once and it means I don’t have to do my hair,” he laughs.
“And our Harry has got curly hair. Mind you, he’s probably about a foot taller than the real one.”
When it comes to the real band, I wonder if Aaron has studied them in the flesh.
“I haven’t seen them perform,” he says. “I met one of them, though - Louis. I went to an event for Yorkshire Tea, as you do, and there was this steam train going around London. He was on there with his family.
“We got chatting but I never dropped in that I was in a One Direction tribute band... I thought it might be a bit bizarre. He seemed sweet enough, though.”
But he would probably struggle to go on a steam train through London these days without creating a cloud of hysteria.
“Yeah, you can’t imagine the kind of attention they get. We get tiny glimpses of it. I always compare it to a flash mob kind of situation,” says Aaron. “People go crazy for us when we’re on stage and then we often do a meet and greet afterwards where we’re signing all sorts and posing for pictures.
“But give it five minutes and we can disappear again. It’s like fame but without the hassle.”
Only One Direction will play Stockton Arc on August 8. For full details of upcoming dates, visit www.onlyonedirection.com
One Direction open their Where We Are tour at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland, on May 28.