When Simon Cowell told E! News earlier this month that One Direction members will continue to pursue solo projects, he might have reaaaaally meant it.

As part of an interview with Billboard for the magazine's April 2 cover story, Cowell, who's worked with 1D since they appeared as independent acts on X Factor in 2010, said he's not sure the group's current hiatus has an expiration date.

Zayn Malik quit the band in March 2015, and the remaining four members proceeded to take a break shortly after their On The Road Again tour concluded in October.

"I don't know if it's a hiatus or a breakup, to be honest," Cowell said. "In a weird way, I don't want to know. I don't think they've had enough time to experience what it's like not being in the group to really answer that."

"Whenever I was with them, we talked about [the hiatus], and I couldn’t argue with them," he added. "They had achieved so much in a short period of time, and I didn’t want them to get jaded. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to trust people more, particularly artists. They’ll decide when they want to come back together."

That recent trust considered, Cowell jokingly recalled One Direction being "a nightmare" to work with upon their initial signing to Syco.

"They were like five puppies — really excited, loads of opinions, always wanted to hang out," he said.

Louis Tomlinson, who told Billboard Cowell is trustworthy and "lovely and kind," said the exec's treatment of One Direction over the years — especially toward the beginning of the guys' careers — is a true reflection of his gentle temperament.

"We were at the height of our immaturity, always running around and being mischievous," Tomlinson said. "There were so many meetings where Simon had to snap us to attention, but he was very patient."

Read the full interview here, tell us what you think of Cowell's words and check out our full ranking of One Direction's entire catalog here.

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