Filled with sleek black furniture and sharp-dressed drinkers, the Spy Bar is a gathering point for Dublin's hip and beautiful. It's normally heaving with - as one punter puts it - "the fittest girls in the city", and it's the perfect spot for a SH night out with two of Ireland's favourite boys, Kian and Nicky Westlife.
We found that the boys in a corner of the relaxed VIP area. Laughing and messing each other, they're clearly closer than two coats of paint - not always the case with band mates in pop. And in a hangout like the Spy Bar, with its cool clientele, they can chill out without worrying about being harassed. "We have to choose where we go carefully, because there are some places we should avoid," says Kian. "Rough places where people will pick on you just because you're in a boyband.
Kian knows the hazards more than most. It's only a matter of weeks since he traded punches with a couple of lads outside a chip shop of his hometown in Sligo. Singing in a successful band is, it seems, enough to earn you a smack from some people.
"I didn't press charges because I didn't want my younger brother to get a brick through his window at night when I'm away." he says. "At the end of the day, I'm still here and those lads are the ones who'll be sitting on the streets drinking cans of lager at three in the morning." He continues, smiling, "I gave as good as I got at the time and there were two of them - so that satisfied me. You saw the pictures of me with a black eye in the paper but I'd like to seen the pictures of them."
It sometimes takes more than a smooth voice and a pretty smile to survive in pop. When having a quiet drink turns you into a target for abuse, you have to have an incredible level of self-control. No surprise, then, that the boys often take a bodyguard with them on nights out. "People get drunk and come over shouting, 'Can we sit with you lads?' or girls you've never met come on to you," explains Kian, while he mimes, gently fobbing off the advances of imaginary people.
"It happened to me the other night," says Nicky. "I was in a restaurant having a drink with my ma and this drunk guy comes up to me saying, 'You're rubbish, there is loads more talented bands than you. Why don't you do dance music?' I just said, ''Cos I can't dance', which I thought was really funny, but he got really offended. What do you do? In the end I said, 'Just move. I don't want to talk to you'. If they're really having a go, you want to smack them. But you can't - hit them first and they'll sue you."
"I don't blame J for smacking the guy who was winding him up a while back ," adds Kian, remembering J's arrest in Dublin. "We wouldn't have done it but maybe that's because we've got a higher level of tolerance than him. But this guy was really slagging off Five I can totally understand where he was coming from when he lashed out. He reached the point where he snapped."
Getting low down and dirty
Just like Five, Westlife are contradicting the long-touted view that boybands are namby-pamby, clean-living lads. But the bands are just as comfortable with riotous parties as they are with ballads and cliff-top videos.
"People just assumed we were clean-shaven mammy's boys because that's always been the easy thing to slag boybands off for," says Nicky. "Just look at Robbie," adds Kian. "He's always been wild - it's just that no-one looked for that side of him when he was in Take That. Nobody saw them as hard lads, they just assumed they were nice. It's the same with us."
The boys admit they're partly to blame for cultivating that image. "At first, we always wanted to say the right thing," says Kian. "Reporters would ask if we argued with each other and we'd say, 'Never! We're great mates!' But of course we fight! We kill each other sometimes! We're the same as any 21-year-old lads. When Five called us a pack of pussies, we laughed and thought, 'OK, bring it on'!"
Any bad feeling between the two bands has evaporated - as proven on the famous hotel-wrecking night out in Tel Aviv earlier this year. "It was drinks, it was parties, it was shaving foam everywhere, it was madness," says Nicky, as Kian chuckles at the memory, "Abs was in a wardrobe for ten hours trying to whistle. Shane's got this special whistle and Abs just could not do it. If you could have seen the roomˇK we really didn't mean to, but we ended up completely trashing it."
But for one member of the band, the hell raising has had to be postponed for a while, "Bryan was always up for a laugh," says Nicky. "But now he's straight off home to look after KerryˇK"
"Nah, the truth is he's not allowed out any more!" laughs Kian. "It's matured him," continues Nicky. "He's more serious now - which is a good thing 'cos he is a messer. He still is, but not as much now. When the baby's born he's going to be so relieved and excited, he'll be out on the gaggle for a week! He's not been able to go out that much but once he knows the baby is healthy and Kerry's fine then he'll be able to relax.
Splitting up and going solo
While the 'Life believe they can match any of their boyband peers at hard living, they're even more confident they can outlive them in the charts. Four years into their career and they're aiming to stick around for many more to come.
"We don't want to come and go like other pop acts," says Nicky. "Even the most successful acts of recent times didn't last that long. Take That were only together for about six or seven years."
"We look at ourselves as singers rather than your everyday boyband," explains Kian. "Our music is timeless, like the Beach Boys or the Bee Gees. We concentrate on what sounds good in the long run."
But didn't those particular bands dare to dabble in something bit more energetic than your average Westlife ballad once in Westlife?
"Hey, listen!" says Kian. "This new album we've recorded is easily our best yet. The ballads and the up-tempo songs are the best we've ever done. It's not necessarily about making the music we like - we're writing and recording songs the fans want, that's what's important."
"The other thing we've got is a great bond. We're like a family with the same goals and ideas, whereas I know for a fact that there are other bands whose members can't stand the sight of each other."
"Look at what happened to Boyzone. Their ideas changed. Ronan wanted to do his own thing and the whole thing just ended up dwindling away."
But how can they be so sure that Westlife won't go the same way? After all, the tabloids tell us that Bryan's leaving to look after Kerry and the baby, and Shane's going soloˇK
"That's just a load of rubbish," scoffs Nicky. "We're sick of these stories. We'll go out when we reached our peak, end it all with a big farewell gig. We'll leave with a bang. I would say that's another five years away, at least."
"I would hate to go solo," adds Kian. "It's hard enough to tour all the time and be away from your family when you're with your mates in band, but it would be much worse on your own. We asked Ronan what it's like and he said that it's really lonely."
So aren't the boys ever tempted to jack it all in and live the good life off their mega-earnings? "Hahaha! Some chance!" laughs Nicky. "People think we're absolutely minted when we're not. You have to take about three-quarters off what the papers say we earn to even get close."
"My father gets it all the time from work mates," says Kian. "They say, 'When's your son going to buy u a new house and a big Mercedes-Benz? He must be a multi-millionaire.' And he's like, 'Er, no.' That said, we live the life. We've got nice houses and cars but we appreciate what we've got. We all remember that our first car was something like a beaten-up old Ford Fiesta and that we used to share a bedroom with two of our brothers."
"Yeah," Nicky jumps in. We were all talking the other day about we were skint, and what's the smallest amount of petrol we've put in our cars - and it was about 40p. You don't forget things like that. Of course, our lifestyle is very different now. But we haven't become big-headed. I don't think you can in Ireland."
Time to head for bed before it all gets too messy. Just need to sort out the bill... Generous as ever, the lads ever to foot it. Do they always have to pick up the tab when they're out?
"Nah, and your good friends don't expect you to," says Nicky. "Probably three nights out of five you'll end up buying extra round and that's fair 'cos you earn more."
"And if you're out with all your mates having a meal, one night out of ten you'll slip away and make sure the bill's paid," adds Kian. "No, you'll slip off to the loos and make sure someone else pays the bill!" laughs Nicky. Don't worry boys, We've got this one coverd.
The Voice - Westlife Conquer The World
Well it has been a busy 12 months since The Voice spoke to Westlife in Singapore last November. They've released an album, topped the charts again, got drunk, got engaged and even given birth. The Voice takes a look at what they've been up to.
Some might say that Westlife should rename themselves Goodlife, as their career is going from strength to strength. They have just release their third offering, World Of Our Own, which launched itself straight at the UK number one spot, having sold a phenomenal 50,000 copies on the first day of release. And their first single from the album, 'Queen Of My Heart' performed just as well, making it their ninth UK number one out of ten releases - only 'What Make A Man' momentarily broke the momentum peaking at number two. And just to put that in perspective, Take That only had eight number ones over a period of six years.
But how does the new CD differ from the previous two? Well it has to be said that it doesn't to any great degree - but then again why argue with what works. Many of the tracks stick to the classic ballad formula that has made Westlife famous, but they have included a couple more upbeat songs. What is different is that fact that, surprisingly for a studio band, the boys actually wrote several tracks on this album themselves.
"We wrote over half of it ourselves, which we're very happy about. About half of it is up tempo, which is good for our world tour next year. It's definitely better than the other two albums," Shane says beaming with pride. Bryan is little less subtle, "You have to go and buy it because it's an absolutely fantastic listen especially if you are driving."
But what else have Westlife been doing since last November. Well few could have missed the engagement of Bryan and ex-Atomic Kitten Kerry, not to mention the arrival of a new McFadden in the form of little Molly. On a less cheery note, Kian was attacked by two ex-schoolmates in his home town of Sligo, proving once and for all that the quintessential punch up outside the kebab shop on a Friday night still applies to stars.
And talking of attacks, although on a less aggressive note, Westlife have experienced fans rushing the stage at their gigs on more than one occasion in last year. Mark smiles remembering one such incident. "We were in Asia last year doing a showcase concert in his arena, and there were about 10,000 girls there. The place was so packed that they were starting to faint. Anyone who did was pulled across the barrier and put at the side of the stage with the first aid crew. There was his one girl who obviously faked that she had fainted and was lifted over the barrier. All of a sudden she leapt up, somehow managed to get away from security and jumped up on the stage towards me and just leapt on me. Security were literally dragging her off and she just wouldn't let go." Now there's an idea.
But while the boys never look like they are too unhappy at being stormed by girls, would they ever actually fancy any of their fans? Kian says, "Yes, I have. Quite a few actually. There are fans that we meet and they are very nice people. Seventy percent of them I would have no problem taking out on a date. I have dated a fan before." Apologies to hospitals around Hong Kong - emergency wards are sure to be filled with swooning girls from that statement.
But the most important event of the last 12 months has got to be winning the Record Of The Year at The Smash Hits awards. Mark looks flabbergasted even now. "We were totally overwhelmed by it and we really didn't expect to win at all. I didn't even really think we were in with a chance of getting into the top five because there was such stiff competition. I mean there was Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears and Ronan Keating - the lot. It was such a great feeling. I was so chuffed. Out of all the songs that were released in the whole year, the public picked our song. It was very emotional."
So emotional, in fact that the boys got boisterous and hit the bubbly in a bout of celebratory drinking and childish drunken shenanigans. According to dotmusic, they were so amused by Shane's Best Looking Male award that they pinned him to the ground and drew all over his face. Love your work fellas.
So what's next for Westlife? World domination perhaps? Keep an eye on their website
for details of that world tour. www.westlife.co.uk