Townsvillebulletin.com.au: In pop terms, they were the perfect package.
Seven sexy members, a successful TV show that aired in 100 countries, a spin-off “junior” group, a legion of fans, four number one singles, a number one album and a host of merchandise (singing dolls, an official magazine and a fan club), all driven by the success of said show.
For Simon Fuller, the man behind S Club 7, it was the dream. He’d just been fired by the Spice Girls and needed a new mission. This time, bigger and better. A publicity machine that supported its own interests while entertaining thousands of youngsters around the world.
The group formed in a similar fashion to the Spice Girls with an advert in The Stage, the same paper that advertised for members of a girl group that would eventually become the world’s biggest.
Each member of S Club 7 had their own responsibility and strength within the group. Some members — Jon Lee, Hannah Spearritt, and Paul Cattermole were brought in as actors for the TV series. Rachel Stevens and Tina Barrett became all rounders, singing, dancing and acting, while according to band member Bradley McIntosh, lead vocalist Jo O’Meara “had the strongest lead vocals for a lot of the ballad songs. Me and Jo were brought in more for the music side of things.”
“We weren’t put together just as a band, we were put together as a band and a TV show. You needed some acting skills, it was all part of the package. All of our music was incorporated into the TV show.”
They continued their success for four years, but the intensity of their schedule would eventually create cracks. “Those years were beautiful, amazing, we got to do things like perform for the Queen,” McIntosh told news.com.au. “Life was very fast paced. You never knew where you were going to be from one day to another. I was sixteen, fresh out of school, the world was my oyster. It was a lot of hard work, really early mornings, you’d have to learn dance routines, learn your lines, we’d film the TV show for three to four months, then we would have to promote the TV show and singles, and travel around the world to do so.“
“As soon as you were done with that single or show, you were onto the next one. You’d be filming these videos, then you would have to prepare for a tour. Then you’d be getting ready for the next season of the TV show. It was never ending, year after year, it was back to back, really full on. We didn’t get much sleep but we were quite a grounded band. Every one in the group were grounded people. There were no divas. Everyone was really friendly and well mannered.”
But eighteen years since they first blasted onto the charts with Bring It All Back, S Club 7 has been whittled down to just S Club ... 3. These days, they like to call themselves S Club Party.
Jo O’Meara, Bradley McIntosh and Tina Barrett have been working as a trio since 2015 without band mates Rachel Stevens, Hannah Spearritt, Paul Cattermole and Jon Lee.
“There’s three of us this time around, it’s fine,” McIntosh told news.com.au. “Some of the others are doing different things at the moment. It will be nice for the three of us to come out and have a bit of fun with it.”
A year beforehand, in 2014, all seven members reunited for British charity Children in Need. It was the first time they had performed together since their ironically-titled S Club United tour in 2003. During that tour they announced the band would split — two weeks after they were forced to deny the same rumours — and just months after Paul Cattermole left the group. His departure would cause a catalyst of change that no one could escape.
Yet despite the surprise for fans at the time, McIntosh said the plan had been perfectly crafted to fit with S Club’s publicity machine. After all, there was a TV show to produce and storylines to fill.
“The good thing about our situation was that it was all written into the TV show, so it was all kind of planned,” McIntosh said. “We sat down and said, ‘OK, Paul wants to leave’, we discussed it. He was in a relationship with (bandmate) Hannah and he didn’t want to be in a working relationship. It was done in a really nice way for the fans. You didn’t see someone get angry with someone or storm off. We all worked together on it, and were happy to do so.”
Yet despite O’Meara claiming it “felt right” that the band was back together as a seven-piece in 2014, McIntosh says the group were “really chill” about the decision to let Cattermole go.
“We were the most laid back group together, we were really chill about it. We were you like, you know, respect, that was his decision. We were like, ‘you know what Paul? He’s our boy, he’s our friend, that’s his decision and that’s what he wants to do. And we support him and stand by him’. We tried to ensure the transition worked out, which it did, it worked out fine.”
Yet scandal followed, after reports surfaced the band had received just £600,000 (A$1m) despite their four years of work that generated more than £50 million (A$83m) in profit. Spearritt’s parents reportedly hired a legal team to chase lost earnings, but according to McIntosh, the band “carried on what we were doing.”
“It was a really smooth thing, we weren’t one of those bands that were dropped by their label or anything like that. We had really steady success and when the team came together, we said we’re all happy to call it a day. A lot of pop bands around us were getting dropped by labels or breaking up. We thought we don’t want to be one of those, let’s do it the right way. We announced it the right way, it was nice.”
McIntosh explained it was Barrett who initiated contact with the rest of the S Club crew and “talked about the old times”, including the possibility of a comeback. “Everyone was free and available and were up for doing a reunion tour. The fans were calling for it, they wanted us to do something. We said, ‘you know what? All the other bands out there are doing it, we may as well get in there and do one as well’.”
Yet after a sold out UK tour that McIntosh described as “really beautiful”, four of the band members disappeared, leaving Australian fans with S Club 3.
The trio will join similar UK groups including B*Witched, Atomic Kitten, East 17 and Liberty X in a “live concert spectacular” in what will be their first tour for any version of S Club in Australia.
Despite overwhelming success here, McIntosh claims “Simon Fuller never told us” just how popular the band was in Australia. “We were too busy filming TV shows,” he laughed. Despite the somewhat disappointing turn out, McIntosh says S Club still stands relevant today because “a lot of the songs are quite relevant, there’s nothing out there, no one out there, bands out there that are in tune with family, community. We’re very grateful that we had songs like that.”
The trio are also available for private, ‘S Club Party’ wedding services, while McIntosh and Cattermole are available for DJ sets.