Abs' old muckers Five split shockingly last September after four years together, breaking Bliss-girl hearts everywhere. The lads had only just released their third album, Kingsize, so as soon as Abs joins the Bliss fashion crew in Levi's flagship London store, we have to ask him what went wrong?
"I know it sounds crazy, but I don't even know why we split up, man. It wasn't like we all kicked off or anything, and you can't pin it on one person," insists Abs. "Scott had a kid and probably wanted to stay home more. Sean was kind of shy, more a behind-the-camera guy. Rich, I've no idea where his head was at. J was maybe just thinking: 'I'm a bit old for this.' I was the only one who was like: 'This ain't right man, I'm still hungry. I still want it!"
Which is why he's the first of the lads to launch a solo career... with this month's single What You Got.
Abs is a super-friendly ball of energy, and is soon whizzing around pulling out clothes he takes a fancy to, chatting ten to the dozen and giving it some cheek for our photographer, Darren. We're here to find him an outfit he'd wear on a romantic date, and it soon becomes obvious that if it's outsize and denim, he's on it. "One word - baggy! It's all about big and baggy, man!" he grins, describing his casual, urban style. "But if I'm going somewhere posh on a date I will pull out something smart, like a nice shirt. I don't look too bad when I bursh myself up."
Today Abs is sporting baggy blue jeans, a black Hustler zipped hoodie, black old-skool Nike trainers and a car bonnet insignia belt buckle. "It got stolen off a Mercedes," he explains mysteriously.
So what type of girl does he go for? "At first it was all about blondes, then I got a thing for dark-haired girlies," he 'fesses. "But now it's just like... whoever!" It's a good time to pop the question: is 23-year-old Abs single at the mo? "I am indeed. Very single," laughs Abs, before turning serious. "The thing is, I want a relationship 'cause I miss so many little things about being in one. I was in a big relationship for four years when I was in Five - my first major thing - with my girlfriend Dannielle. I miss having someone there who's nice to be around." But wouldn't he find it hard to have a steady girl given the temptations of the music biz? "No, if I've got a girl, that's it, I'm 100% committed. I'm a one-girl boy. When it comes to being single and I ain't got no ties, then hey, that's a different story..." As if on cue, a girl fan approaches and asks for a piccie with the Abster. He's happy to oblige, and even suggests doing another for her gal pal. Whadda sweetie!
Bliss fashion stylist George suggests Abs might like Levi's new engineered Stripy denim, in streaky dark and light blue, so Abs dives into the changing rooms with a baggy jacket and jeans. The trousers stretch way beyond his feet, but he doesn't care - heck, he doesn't even blush when he flashes his pants. And talking of underwear, Abs is soon inspecting a brief Levi's pair and joking: "I'm a boxer's boy myself. I'm not even going to attempt to put that on!" Shame!
Suddenly Abs spots his perfect woman - togged up in a long, distressed denim skirt and punky cut-up denim bra top. "I love that, I'd like it if a girl wore that," he murmurs. Unfortunately, she's also a shop mannequin without a head, but Abs poses with his 'model girlfriend' anyway. "Yeah, girls in denim. I like that nice, easy-going look."
Abs is chuffed to spy a DJ booth and starts bopping around (he's a keen DJ in his downtime). "My new solo sounds not that different from Five," he says. "There's a song for everyone on the album. It goes from two-step to slowed down, cool, mellow stuff to mid tempo, with a bit of reggae feel." Abs wrote all the lyrics himself, teaming up with Five's former producers. "I was probably known more as the rapper in the band, whereas on this album I'm singing a lot more," he says.
Abs' main regret is that Five split with unfinished business. He'd have loved to release a couple more singles off the album and do another tour. "We'd just gone to No.1 with our single Let's Dance and it was like 'arggghhhh!' I felt sad that nobody wanted to sort of hold it together as much as me," says Abs.
These days he doesn't see much of the Five boys, as they're all pretty busy (J is taking time out; Scott has his own radio show; Ritchie is signed up to do an album; and Sean will probably stay in the music bizz but behind a mixing desk, says Abs). "It's kind of like school friends - you know, the way you keep in touch with each other when you're at school, but then break off and do your own thing when you leave. But not many people get to even be part of this industry, and I've had two goes at it. So I ain't taking nothing for granted," he grins.
Next up we hit Niketown's state-of-the-art sports megastore on Oxford Circus. Abs soon finds himself in a big metal cage, following video instructions and kicking a footie ball. "I get lucky sometimes and score a goal and it makes me look good," he puffs boyishly.
Hunting for tops, we head upstairs where Abs models a light-brown zip top with 'Records' written across it. Another relaxed date option sorted (although the Bliss posse quite liked the white vest with the shoulder-tattoos look, glimpsed while Mr Breen got changed!) Now our boy just needs shoes. Abs checks out some seriously vintage trainers, admitting, "I'm not into over-the-top techy trainers, unless I'm performing and need something a bit bling bling. I prefer casual old-skool ones." He picks out some low-key but funky black Nike Air Max Dolces, £125.
"They're quite slick. You can get away with wearing them with anything," he drools, as the store lets him keep 'em for free. Twinned with his new stripy jeans and zip top, it's his fave 'cool' date look. Kerching!
Abs' Style Guide
So how would Abs like a gal to dress when she's on his arm? "Anything chilled - as long as she looks good in it. Tight jeans and skirts are good, long or short, and tracksuits can look sexy, in a J-Lo way, too." In pursuit of fanciable girl gear, we swing down to funky clobber store Superlovers, on Covent Garden's Neil Sreet. Abs immediately pounces on an outfit: a cute tan hockey skirt and trackie top combo with pink side strips. He also oggles some panda bear wrist bands and suggests a green US college-style vest top might look kinda sexy. Does tomboy, skate style float his boat then? "A bit more girlie than that. Leave the baggy scruffy look to me, man!"