I DID not see this coming at all,” says Charlie Simpson, heart throb of once massive boyband Busted. Given what he said upon leaving the group in 2005, this is something of an understatement.

After Simpson began to grow frustrated with the slapstick, teen-friendly music the first incarnation of Busted specialised in, he branched out, forming alternative rock band Fightstar. Reflecting on the hysteria of being in a boyband a few years down the line, he described the whole experience as “torture” and insisted he was not interested in ever returning to the group.

But here we are, with Busted preparing to embark on their second UK tour since reforming last year and having released third record Night Driver last month. A long way from the juvenile kicks of early chart hits like Year 3000 and What I Go To School For, the new album showcases a lean, slick approach that can be witnessed on the club-friendly single On What You’re On.

“It’s a bit of a shock to the system to some people that Busted have changed so much,” says Simpson. “It’s such a departure in sound that it was inevitable there was going to be an interim period of people getting used to it.”

The story is all the more unlikely given that Simpson had not spoken much at all to drummer Matt Willis and guitarist James Bourne in the decade between Busted’s break-up and reformation. While Simpson clearly tried to distance himself from the group, even in his own mind, he says it only took a random visit from his ex-bandmates for the friendship to be rekindled.

The singer had previously rejected the chance to join McBusted, the hybrid project that Willis and Bourne embarked upon with fellow boyband McFly (although he did wish them all the best with it).

“A lot of time went by without us hanging out,” the singer acknowledges. “Matt and James wanted to get something going again with Busted so they specifically visited me and asked.” And Simpson said yes straight away?

“At that point I said no, actually, for the same reasons I had initially left the band for. But then we started to have conversations and during that time my mind started to change and I started to think: ‘hang on a minute, maybe everything I thought about what Busted has to be can be different now’.

“It all came through just talking and hanging out, forming an idea of what we wanted the band to be behind closed doors. In my mind, I guess... we were all doing such different things and leading different lives. I sort of compartmentalised Busted in 2005 and put it away in my mind. I definitely did want to get away from it all when I left, to shut it off and concentrate on other things.”

Simpson has always been pretty honest about his musical reasons for leaving Busted and Fightstar gave him the chance to channel his heavier rock influences. Even now, when talking of the R ’n’ B and electronic leanings of Night Driver, he speaks of wanting to move away from Busted’s early work.

“The only thing we knew was that we didn’t want to make an album that sounds like we did 10 years ago. For a start, the band broke up because I had drifted away from that. We basically broke up on musical grounds so it would be very strange to come back and make music that represents where we were a decade ago.

“So many people are shocked that I came back to the band because I said I never would. It makes sense that I would, though, because the band is so different.” That might be the case, but Simpson, Willis and Bourne now find themselves in a strange position; wanting to push ahead in a new direction but understanding the obligation to please their old fans by playing the old hits.

“I don’t want to distance myself from the early songs at all,” Simpson insists. “It is really fun to play that stuff and we all enjoy it. For me personally, I’m more excited about the new material but we would never not play the old songs because fans would be annoyed by that.” It is blatantly obvious that Simpson is looking towards the future, though, and commendably so.

“By the time we release another record there will be as much new music as there is old music. The set needs to fit together – you can’t have two separate entities. I think that it is definitely achievable to combine the two sides, though.”

While critical reviews of the band’s first two albums were mixed at best, Night Driver has been received with general positivity. The Guardian praised Simpson’s vocal – or “huge larynx”, more accurately – in calling the record a “sonic rebirth”. Meanwhile The Evening Standard declared that Busted Mark Two are a “synthpop act with shades of Daft Punk”.

“A lot of people have said it sounds like the work of a whole new band but then a couple of days later they come to love it,” says Simpson. “I’m so proud of this record – I think it will stand the test of time with our fans.”

Yes, what of Busted’s infamously obsessed fanbase? If you were a teenager in the early 2000s, it seemed like either you were Busted mad or knew several friends who were. Again, Simpson is torn between the old and the new.

“We definitely want to bring our original fans with us but also try and hit new people. I do think there will be fans that listen to and like this record that weren’t Busted fans before. That’s exciting.”

One trope that has repeatedly come up in Busted’s post-reformation press briefings has been the youth of the band in their first incarnation. Simpson and co have been keen to stress both how young they were at the time and how much wiser they are now.

Specifically, Simpson feels the new version of the group have much more “control” over their own music and image than ever before. “It’s so different now – for a start we’ve had 12 years experience in the industry. Age brings control and we are totally in control of our own destinies now. This time around we paid for the record ourselves.

“That’s really important, because part of the problem I had 10 years ago was that I felt we had no control. We were being told what to do by various people.” Busted haven’t been the only boyband in history to be dictated to by a record label but Simpson insists the group had full creative control back in the day – at least until the music reached the mixing desk.

“I remember being told we had to have a radio mix that sounded a certain way and it drove me crazy. I was saying I want the drums louder and an A and R man was saying he wanted it different. If you don’t own the rights to the music, you are always at the mercy of a record label.”

Now the power is back in their own hands, the rejuvenated Busted are on a mission – and an ambitious one at that. “We just want to make something as timeless as possible.”

Busted, Brighton Centre, King’s Road, Tuesday, February 14, 2017, 6.30pm, £32.90, call 08448 471515