Hit nineties pop group Steps are playing a game. Lisa Scott-Lee and Claire Richards are trying to work out who the Chancellor of the Exchequer was when they formed 20 years ago, in May 1997.

As they confer, a giggling Ian 'H' Watkins, sat behind the pair, slyly tickles their backs. Swatting him away, Richards correctly answers "Gordon Brown" to the delight of her bandmates.

It's just one sign of the affinity and energy retained by the group, who split so acrimoniously at the turn of the millennium, when Richards and H decided they wanted to form a duo.

Since then, of course, things have been patched up, and the band reformed in 2011 for a Sky Living series and a string of concerts. Now, more than five years on, with the exception of 39-year-old Richards, they have all celebrated their 40th birthdays, but that does little to deter their energy and positive affront.

I catch up with them after the release of Scared Of The Dark, the lead track from their first album proper in 17 years (they released a Christmas record of largely covers in 2012).

"We didn't know how people were going to take it," confesses Lee Latchford-Evans.

"We know fans love the old stuff, it's been proven. But the new material, we thought, 'Oh God, we're from 20 years ago, the charts have changed, how they buy it has changed, how it charts...'."

Although they still aren't quite sure how the charts work (they repeatedly ask about the difference between streaming and buying), they take great delight in following Scared Of The Dark's climb on the iTunes Store, and admit they've been sharing positions and updates via their WhatsApp group.

They listened to the song's first play on the radio in the car together - almost 20 years to the day after they gathered to hear their debut release, the now iconic 5, 6, 7, 8.

"It felt like we had started all over again," reflects Watkins.

"There were tears, and shivers and camaraderie and love, and it was so amazing. We were together for 5, 6, 7, 8 listening in a van. It feels like deja vu."

Their WhatsApp group is also what supported the band's relaunch. With all five scattered around the globe now, it meant they could all receive instructions to post the same updates from their social media accounts at the same time.

"I was in Dubai, Faye (Tozer) was in Mexico, H was in Wales, the other two were in London. We were all over the world waiting, pouncing with our phones pressing send," explains Scott-Lee.

Probed on why now was right for the band's third coming, the five are adamant it isn't purely a gimmicky return to mark 20 years, but that they want to "inject pop back into pop music".

"New music is the key for us to have a new energy with Steps," says Tozer, "because we couldn't have asked the fans to come and see us again with just the old songs. We were so ready to give them something and I think it has breathed new life into us."

They promise the new record, Tears On The Dancefloor, despite its name, will add some colour and light relief to a "grey world".

"I think the world needs a bit of light-hearted fun," says Latchford-Evans, "Steps always brought that. We've got upbeat music, we like having a great time, we just want the audience to join in with us, forget their worries for a while and just have a bit fun, and that's what we want to bring back."

And the album wasn't thrown together, he insists, but was two years in the making, and the band listened to around 50 tracks before settling on the final tracklist.

"We are really protective of us," explains Richards. "Protective of Steps.

"It is ours, it is our legacy and we're always very cautious about doing something that might damage that."

It's clear, behind all the jokes and buoyancy, this is a group who really want this comeback to succeed.

"Do you not think though that music, and fashion, have a 20-year cycle," Tozer reasons.

After a pause, an unsure Watkins asks: "Does that mean we'll do this again when we're 60?"

"Oh God, that scares me!" Tozer replies - but perhaps don't bet against it.

  • Steps are at the BIC on November 27. Tickets are available from bic.co.uk.