Over the years, the world has been graced with groups, from Take That and *NSYNC, through to JLS and One Direction. Having populated the charts with hit after hit and amassing an army of adoring fans, there’s no escaping the influence of boy bands in this ever-changing industry. Zach Loizou, Tommy Lyon, Pedro Santos, James Thomas, and Ryan Burns, collectively known as Here At Last, have some big shoes to fill. Even without the backing of a record label they are doing pretty well for themselves and it looks as if that will continue, especially with a fan base as dedicated as theirs who have got them to where they are so far. That doesn’t go unnoticed.
2023 saw Here At Last release their 8-track debut EP, EP1, through their very own independent label HALO ARMY, which was named after their fanbase. “We’re unsigned, we don’t have a record label, and so what keeps us going is our fans and their support. They are the reason why we’re here today, James explains. ‘“That doesn’t mean we haven’t had some quite bizarre interactions throughout our time as a band but 99.99% as a band, our fans have been incredible. The support is overwhelming but in a good way.”
When it came to the writing process of EP1, there was one song in particular that took its time to perfect. “I’d probably say the song, ‘Let Go’. With this EP, we wanted a song no one had heard and only heard when they did get the EP,” explains Pedro. “We wanted a song that kind of closed everything off and would allow us to connect a little bridge alongside onto the new chapter, which could be our next EP or whatever the case may be. ‘Let Go’ took a while to get right, but it also came quite quickly. We overthought it, but then realised it’s perfect the way it is. We know the fans enjoy it as well and it’s created a great bridge of what’s next to come.”
The music that Here At Last listens to, more recently, has played a big part in the music that they currently make. “At the start, we didn’t really know what we were, in terms of our sound,” Zach explains. “But recently, we’ve had more of a say when it comes to writing our own songs. A lot of the songs we haven’t yet released have more of what we’d like to play. Definitely, with the new music coming out, people will be able to hear a difference in our sound and it’s because we’ve had more of an influence on that.”
A few memorable moments for Here At Last so far include the release of their EP, which “got to number one on the iTunes charts, which is pretty cool, and to be able to say that is amazing,” says Pedro.”That’s something we never thought as an unsigned band that we’d be able to do.” As well as this, their sold-out show at Shephard’s Bush Empire was one they all look back on fondly. “It went better than we had ever hoped for,” James adds.
Not everyone can say that they played a show with the legends that are Take That at Hyde Park. “If you told us two years ago that we’d be doing this two years later, we would not have believed it,” says Pedro excitedly. “We were all nervous beforehand and as soon as we got on stage we performed like no other. We always have fun, we always forget about there being loads of people. That’s the best part about it. No matter what stage we get out on, and however many people, we’re always the same. We enjoy it. There is a little bit of pressure for a support slot, but we’ve done quite well for what we’ve done so far.”
Having had to reschedule their headline UK tour for the beginning of next year, Here At Last can’t wait to head back out on the road to play their brand new EP in front of their fans and do what they love most, which is to perform live. “We’ll be playing a few totally unreleased songs, which we’re really excited to show people. We’ll be bringing even more energy and we’ll try and make it even more of a show,” says James. “Those people who were at Shepherd’s Bush knew we put on as much of a show as we could and we’ll try and one up that.”
“One thing that is really exciting though is that we’re playing in two cities that we haven’t performed in before which are Birmingham and Glasgow,” adds James. “They’ve sold really well. We can’t wait! The next tour will probably be more places. It’s just being able to get back out there to perform to our own fans.” Getting to see The 1975 live gave Here At Last some inspiration when it came to their live performances and how to make their shows even more special. “Me, Ryan, and Pedro went to see The 1975. When we watched them, it made us look at the showmanship more than anything,” Zach explains. “So when it comes to our live shows, rather than it just being a concert, we’d make it more of a show.”
As the five guys all share a house together and have been on this journey at Here At Last as a collective, it is impossible to not see each other grow as individuals and as a group. The experiences they have all shared so far are ones they can all truly share and reminisce about together. “I think now it’s more so learning about each other. When we started releasing music, we were still learning so much,” expresses Ryan. “So now that we’ve progressed, we know for example certain people like certain things or we know something may not fit our style as we try and piece together things that suit us. We’ve grown massively since then.”
“Funnily enough, we were looking at videos of us from a few years ago and we were unrecognizable in that sense! Because it’s subtle changes over time, you don’t really notice it, but when you take a step back, you can see it clearly,” Zach adds. “We all had the same goal of trying to make it in the industry, as solo acts or buskers,” says James. “Everyone had their own special attribute that molded together to form one fairly functional band. The chemistry we have as friends is the backbone of the band, we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t all like brothers, so I think that’s what really carried it.”
Being able to do what they love together has definitely been a positive to being in the band, but just like everything, it can have its negatives. “There’s pros and cons, For me personally, some of the shows that we’ve done, I don’t think I would have been able to stomach walking on stage on my own. But when you get to do this with your mates, it’s not really a lot you can ask for,” says Zach. “Timing is also important. Once you’re ready, you’re ready to go for example. But you have to then realize you have to wait for four others as well”, Pedro mentions. “Or if one of us is having a bad day or things aren’t going right in the morning, you’ve got to wait a little bit longer to help someone figure things out.
Having each other to speak to about pretty much anything can make dealing with pretty much any situation a lot easier. Rather than just being members of a band, they see each other more as brothers.
“We are very lucky that we have each other, Tommy says with pride. “We’ve lived together for so long now that we know when someone’s down and we can always talk to each other about anything. We have supportive parents too.” Zach adds, “You’re literally bringing four brothers in your life. I’m the only one with a brother and suddenly I have four more! It’s like having a second family. You go from being looked after by your parents and then all of a sudden, it’s like if you don’t cook, you don’t eat. We have four people who know exactly what we’re going through because we’re all going through the same thing. It’s easier to have those conversations with these guys who can understand.”
Through it all, it’s the simple things like going to the gym and going for runs that help Pedro stay motivated and inspired throughout the day. “I love going on walks and getting coffee and coming back home with a fresh mind.”
“We go to the gym every morning and whilst I get ready to put my shoes on, I have this motivational speaker guide that I listen to, adds Ryan. “I only listen to the same bit every time and all I hear every morning is if you want to be the best, then be the best and that’s all I get every morning!”
One of their songs, titled “Like The 90s,” focuses on the idea of someone not being themselves on social media and also in real life. For a band that spends a lot of time on social media, it is important for all of them to stay genuine and authentic, for their fans and themselves. “I think for us being quite genuine and interacting with our fans as much as we can is a bit thing, explains Ryan. “There’s some sort of stereotype on social media where things have to be a certain way. For us, it is important that we show the ins and outs of things we do. We love to share the fact that yes it’s ok to have bad days and all these little things that we like to push onto the people that enjoy our content and our music.”
“It’s quite draining, adds James. “We are on it constantly and sometimes it can take you out of reality. But we always try and do as many normal things together that don’t involve social media. Like watching a film, going to the gym, etc where we have specific times in the day when we’re not on our phones and take the time to live outside of the social media zone.”
Here At Last don’t just use their platform to share their music, but to spread the word on important topics such as mental health and bullying which is something they can all relate to. With the position they are in, having had the opportunity to visit schools around the UK a few years ago and deliver these positive messages was a no-brainer for all five of them. “We all suffered when it came to our mental health at different points. One thing we did say was that if we ever got a big platform or a chance to speak to people we’d tell people that it’s alright,” says Zack. “We’re not that different in terms of age so we know that a lot of the people that we talk to have gone through something at some point. If we can make someone’s life easier, that is the plan. We went there and made sure, on top of promoting our music and shows, we wanted to be there for a good reason.”
“When we went into these schools to share our experiences, we did mention issues we dealt with like hate comments, etc. So for us, it is quite easy for us to speak to each other because we’re dealing with the same thing,” says Ryan. “But I know here and there we might have individual issues, but because we’re all there to share a common experience it makes it easier to speak about everything.”
It’s the little steps that help make a big difference. For Zach, Ryan, Pedro, Tommy, and James, together they have experienced a lot of amazing moments, doing things that they used to only dream of. On the outside looking in, there may be a few common misconceptions about what life can be like being in a band. “It’s not easy! Mentally and financially, but you carry on going through with it if it’s what you want to do,” Ryan mentions.
Pedro explains, “I think being in the music industry forces you to go outside of your comfort zone a lot of the time. As a boy band, we have massive shoes to fill, but at the same time, we want to be as original as possible, so we do find it slightly hard.”
As Here At Last continues to navigate their way through the industry, what they are seeing so far from the rise of artists through social media to how mental health is being spoken more about, gives these five guys hope for what’s to come for them and their peers. “I like how we’re seeing a push on artists’ mental health and a recognition of artists being looked after more,” says James. “If you go back years and years ago, artists were just a product. You look back at interviews with One Direction for example, and they talk about how they were mistreated and with such a lack of support, it’s crazy to think that was only 10 years ago. But now our manager looks after us and our mental health. It is really refreshing to see.”
“It’s people like Caity Baser who one day think, ‘I’m gonna put up some videos,’ and then all of a sudden, they’re playing around the world. It’s crazy! It just shows the power of social media. It’s also quite inspiring for us as five normal lads who grew up in completely different places and have come together to do exactly what these people are doing. I think it’s quite inspirational to see how people are coming up through this relatively new app.”
“There’s no shortcuts to any place worth going!” concludes Zack.