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One Direction hiatus: Julian Bunetta says, ‘I know they’re taking a much-deserved break’

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Rumors that the members of One Direction would take an extended hiatus after releasing their fifth album have been swirling for weeks, and this weekend PEOPLE reported that the time off would start in March 2016.

Earlier this month, longtime One Direction producer and songwriter Julian Bunetta, told EW, “I know they’re taking a much-deserved break.” When asked if their forthcoming fifth album would be their last, he said, “They’ve been doing something that no band has ever done — five albums, five tours, and a movie in five years. It’s pretty prolific and incredible. It’s up to them. They might take a year off and miss it. They might take a year off and say you know what, I need another year off.”

Bunetta who has been working with the band on the forthcoming collection, and is credited with 1D hits like “Story Of My Life” and “Fireproof,” continued, “I think it’s important for them to have a relationship that isn’t strained by being gone all the time. It’s important for them to do whatever they want as individual men and not have to make a democratic decision for once. I think it’s important for them to do whatever their hearts desire. Maybe their hearts will lead them back together. I hope.”

One Direction’s still-untitled fifth album is the group’s first without Zayn Malik, who left the band in March. (Malik recently signed with RCA Records and is expected to put out his first solo project soon.)

“Obviously there’s a personality missing, but they’re still the same guys,” Bunetta said about recording the album without Malik. “They still have the same attitudes. It’s not like it’s worse or better. It’s just the same guys, but there’s one missing. It just changes the dynamic regardless.”

The album’s first single, “Drag Me Down,” and its music video debuted this summer, and with a dubstep influence, it teases the band’s new, more mature sound. Bunetta said the new songs feature different instrumentation. “We’re stretching out outside of the perimeters of what a traditional pop boy band would do. We’re just kind of having fun. No rules,” he said. “To be honest, I think there are six songs that could be singles on here.”

One Direction’s reps have no comment on the reported hiatus.

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