Interview: One Direction’s Liam Payne talks setting records and ardent fans

One Direction goes only one way: straight to the top. On Wednesday, the British boy band accomplished what no other act from the U.K. has. Not the Beatles, not Coldplay, not Pink Floyd, not the Spice Girls. This week, the quintet became the first group from the U.K. to debut their first album at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. “Up All Night” knocked Bruce Springsteen”s “Wrecking Ball” out of the top spot, selling 176,000 copies.

The group”s Liam Payne, whose voice is the first you hear on the band”s rising single “What Makes You Beautiful,”  says he can”t get his head around coming in at No. 1. “We never expected anything like this to happen. We thought we might have a record in the U.K., maybe, but never come out to America and have a No. 1 album. It [is] beyond all of our wildest dreams,” says Payne.

Payne is joined in the band by Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson. They all auditioned as solo acts for the British edition of “The X Factor,” but Simon Cowell suggested they should form a collective. Even though they didn”t win “The X Factor,” they landed an album deal with Cowell”s Columbia-distributed Syco Records. “Up All Night” came in at No. 2 in the U.K. in November.

One Direction”s record-setting debut comes on top of the band”s March 12 appearance on “Today” that drew 10,000 fans to the morning show”s concert series.

“It was incredible,” says Payne. “When we came to the front of the stage and saw how many people there were, it was literally my most amazing moment so far. I remember while performing [‘What Makes You Beautiful”] looking up to the right and seeing two American flags on a building. It was so amazing.”

During its time in the U.S. opening for fellow boy band Big Time Rush and conducting a radio promotion tour, Payne says he noticed that fans in the U.S. “will go to a lot further lengths to get noticed” than their U.K. counterparts. “The thing that really sticks out for me is a young lad made a hat that”s really tall so it stands out in the crowd out of Crayola markers and cello tape that he wears everywhere so he gets noticed.” Yes, even though the vast majority of the band”s fans are girls, they do have their male fans, says Payne, adding that he got chased down the street in New York a few weeks ago.

Payne admits hat the term “boy band” has a “cheesy” connotation. “I think the whole thing, boy band, it”s a little bit of a dirty word,” he says. “They say  it”s not a good think to be in a boy band. We want to change that. We want to make  the boy band cool. It”s not just about dancing and dressing the same.” (Check out our piece about the boy band resurgence here).

One Direction already has transcended the usual boy band in that the members wrote three songs on “Up All Night.” “I think we”d like to do more writing on the next album, but when you”ve got so many good songs coming at you, you can”t turn down a good song.”

Though there have been rumors of One Direction having its own show on Nickelodeon, Payne says “we”re not confirmed to do a TV show at all.”

One Direction will embark on its own headlining U.S. tour starting May 24 in Fairfax, Va. For a full list of tour dates, go here.

Follow Melinda Newman on Twitter @HitfixMelinda