"THIS is the album that Busted always wanted to make," declares Matt Willis.
"I don't want to be negative about old Busted because I love Busted and have such fond memories, but this is what we are about ."
In the corner of a West London Italian restaurant, things are getting noisy.
The pop punk trio — Willis, 35, Charlie Simpson, 33 and James Bourne, 35 — are discussing the old group versus today's one while talking over each other, interrupting each other's questions and laughing a lot.
"The truth is, we are a better band than people think," says Bourne. "We are a real band."
Simpson adds: "That's the stuff I had issue with in the old days.
"It's funny, as some people said they're confused that I left the band citing creative differences yet now we're going back, doing the same thing.
On the new album tracks like Reunion and What Happened To Your Band show off the trio's knack of writing a punchy pop song with lyrics about life as men in their 30s.
All My Friends is a midlife crisis ballad with lyrics about friends cheating on wives and taking drugs.
"Life has definitely changed and we see it in our friends too," says Willis. "Suddenly, my priorities are different. I am kind of adjusting to all that s**t. I hope by the time I get to 40, I will be in my stride."
The Brit Award-winning boyband were massive in the Noughties with hits such as Year 3000, Crashed The Wedding and You Said No.
But in 2004 fans were left heartbroken when Simpson, frustrated with Busted's sound, quit claiming his time in the band was like "torture". And Willis and Bourne called it a day a few weeks later.
All three carved out successful careers. Bourne with Son Of Dork and musical theatre, Simpson with Fightstar and solo albums while Willis had solo hits, won I'm A Celebrity in 2006 and moved into acting as well as playing in "supergroup" McBusted with Bourne and McFly.
In 2015, Busted reunited, announced a UK tour and comeback album Night Driver was released in 2016.
There are no signs of any divisions as they joke around during our chat. Simpson says: " Night Driver was a step in a new direction but I wouldn't say it represents the real sound of Busted. So this is like a second comeback ."
"I'd call it a sonic reunion," adds Bourne, nodding his head in agreement. "That's what we should've called the album."
While all three band members agree Half Way There is their best and most credible album, they admit it wasn't an easy album to make to begin with.
"This album was quite a difficult album to write," says Simpson. "To be honest we nearly broke up again."
Willis adds: "There were points where we were really butting heads and it was becoming quite stressful because we weren't together on what we wanted to do. We all had different ideas and we all wanted to pursue different avenues and we didn't really know what the Busted sound was today."
Having gone through difficult times before, the three worked through their issues.
Foo Fighters, Pixies and Jimmy Eat World producer Gil Norton was on board to produce the album so Busted kept writing through their stress. Once they had written the nostalgia track Nineties, things started to take shape.
Simpson says: "We wrote that song and we were like, OK, we can do this. Let's make a Busted album, but Busted in 2018."
Willis adds: "Once we knew we just had to make a Busted record it was a lightbulb moment and it spurred this level of creativity between us. We just wrote the whole album in a month then we went to record it really quickly."
All three agree that they relish the freedom they have today compared to the old days.
'Great to not give a s**t about any of that'
Simpson explains: "Nowadays we don't have people telling us what we can or can't do, we make our own decisions.
"Busted wrote great songs, but the elements of production and the way it was marketed, it was all very young, which we can't moan about because it made us a huge band. Back then, we fitted a certain mould. It was great to make this record and not give a s**t about any of that ."
Willis adds: "With Spotify it is the playlist generation now and we like what we like to hear and play. Before, we were a tribal generation so you were into emo, metal, garage or pop but you could never be more than one."
Bourne, who has also written for The Vamps, Mel C and 5 Seconds Of Summer, says it is the enjoyment of writing stories within songs that's the best part of being in Busted.
"We weren't really appreciated for being songwriters at the start and that annoyed me more than anything," admits Simpson. "But today I want to be in the band and I am very happy as we are all on the same page.
"We might go and do other projects and take some time out, but we never need to break up again because we are all on the same page."
As well as being better songwriters, they all agree they've improved as musicians.
"We have raised our game," says Bourne. "That comes from the time away from each other, we've just got better with age."
They are also grateful for their success and experiences when Busted took off, but the touring and promotional cycles were relentless.
Bourne says: "For about two years, I'd wake up to a car outside, get straight in and go to the airport where our tour manager would put us on a plane. I didn't know where I was going ."
Willis adds: "We didn't have control of anything. We were being run by a machine that we didn't know how to stand up to. It was crazy."
The constant travelling left them exhausted and when Simpson wanted to leave, the breakdown in communication between the three friends made things worse.
Willis, who has three children with TV presenter wife Emma, says: "Charlie and I have kids now and are open with family, but back then we didn't know how to talk.
"Today people are more open about mental health and talking about feelings. On the last Busted tour before the split I could see Charlie was f***ing miserable. I thought he wanted to kill himself as he looked so unhappy but we didn't talk about it."
Simpson admits to feeling guilty about leaving his two old friends when he quit.
He admits: "I felt awful — even though they were 100 per cent supportive."
Bourne says: "The whole fallout was handled really badly."
Willis went through his own ordeal with drugs and drink addiction. After a failed stint in rehab, in 2008, he was given an ultimatum by his wife and entered The Providence Project in Bournemouth.
"I wasn't ready for it the first time, I wasn't ready to accept help," he admits honestly. "I find talking about it very difficult and I don't want it to be glamourised debauchery .
"Addiction is a f***ed up thing and so many go through it. But I hit rock bottom before I would accept any help. Now there are things I put in place every day to make me not relapse."
Willis also wasn't that keen on the spotlight after he won I'm A Celeb.
He laughs: "I only went on it to help with my solo album. I didn't know anything about the show but I was told it would help with my music if I went to the jungle, ate some bugs and jumped out of a helicopter.
"After I won I was asked to be on shows like Loose Women and was recognised by taxi drivers — and my album flopped."
Bourne adds: "When I hear people say they want to be famous I want to grab them and go, no you don't, what are you thinking? Ed Sheeran must get pestered wherever he goes. Fame shouldn't be the price he pays for sharing his music with the world."
Older and wiser, Busted are looking to enjoy more success with their new album.
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Willis says: "We are dying to get out there and play these songs. This is the best time to be in Busted.
"We talk to each other, we know how to say no and we are there if anyone is struggling. We all have our own lives and do other things too and that's what keeps us fresh and happy."
• Half Way There is out February 1.
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