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Q&A: 5 Seconds of Summer’s Ashton Irwin on Skynyrd, Catering and Meeting Dave Grohl

Whether you consider them a boy band or boys in a band, the guys in 5 Seconds of Summer have had a very successful summer in 2014. Their self-titled album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, they’re on tour with One Direction and their song “She Looks So Perfect” is credited with increasing underwear sales for American Apparel. Which, you know, as long as they didn’t buy some stock beforehand is all in all a good thing.

But there’s more to these guys than you might get on first glance — not the least of which is a much deeper relationship with music and their influences than your average group that teen girls often attach to. We caught up with drummer Ashton Irwin, who told us about some of the older tunes he’s into, obsessing on Guardians of the Galaxy and how this gig helped him achieve a lifetime goal: meeting Dave Grohl.

~ How did you get into playing music?

Ashton Irwin: My stepdad got me into drumming at an early age. He used to be in a rock cover band who played songs like Fleetwood Mac and stuff like that. I followed him around on his tours and used to go watch them every weekend. I’d been playing his drums at home in the garage and one day he asked me on stage to play the song “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd [laughs]. That started me on my way. It was the best thing ever to me, I got to perform in front of a crowd of 100 people and it was he greatest thing ever. That spurred the desire to perform for people.

Are 5 Seconds of Summer covering any songs live on your tour?

Yeah, we do a cover of an older band called the Romantics who have a song called “What I Like About You.” We redid that song. Our fan base is really dedicated and supportive of the choices we make, and one thing we like to do is rekindle popularity for songs. So we redid this one and put it on the She Looks So Perfect EP. The fans really took to it, it’s a hyped up rock ‘n roll cover.

and put it on the She Looks So Perfect EP. The fans really took to it, it’s a hyped up rock ‘n roll cover.

What happens when 5SOS wife’s go into labour:

Luke: *phones liz* mom what do I do?!

Calum: *laughs* *confused face* Umm…I’m gonna be dad wow!

Ashton: I promise you I’ll be right by your side and help you get through this *kisses wife on forehead*

Michael: So is the baby supposed to come out the vagina or?? What the fuck I’m gonna be dad! *phones his band-mates*

5 Seconds of Summer: Guitars, Good Looks and Screaming Girls

Meet the chart-topping, Blink-182-loving Aussie sensations

The australian pop-punk quartet 5 Seconds of Summer have come out of nowhere to score a Number One album, along with one of the year’s best singles – “She Looks So Perfect,” with its irresistible chorus: “I made a mixtape straight out of ‘94/I got your ripped skinny jeans lying on the floor.” Tonight they’re onstage at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, opening for One Direction, playing under a MIXTAPE ‘94 sign. Most of the girls screaming along weren’t alive in 1994 – although one of the hardest-rocking ladies here is the mom with the Black Flag neck tattoo. Welcome to pop 2014.

Backstage before the show, the band is chatty and laid-back, lounging in Green Day and Nirvana T-shirts. Guitarist Michael Clifford asks, “Would you like an introductory chocolate milk? Or a beer?” He looks like the baby that would result if Sky Ferreira went back in time to mate with the Replacements’ Tommy Stinson.

Drummer Ashton Irwin is the only one who’s 20; the other three – bassist Calum Hood, guitarist Luke Hemmings and Clifford – are still in their teens. They all sing; they all write. 5SOS, as fans call them, seem to find it hilarious that they get accused of being a boy band. “It’s written by us, and it’s real,” Hemmings says. “People say, ‘Is it pop? Is it rock? What is it?’”

"It’s fun when you’re confusing people," Irwin adds. "I’ll look online and see some 30-year-old dude saying, ‘They’re not rock! Bullet for My Valentine for life!’ But his daughter probably likes our band. And she’ll start her own band."

The boys met at school in Sydney and played their first gig at a dingy pub. Twelve people showed up. Yet Irwin recalls, “I always wanted to be in a band with a bunch of dudes who loved Green Day and all that. So just going onstage and playing Blink-182 covers really fucking bad – it was the coolest thing ever.”

Asked to describe where they come from, they chime in with words like “barren,” “dry” and “wasteland.” As Irwin says, “It’s not a nurturing place for music. As soon as I met these guys I thought, ‘We’re all gonna get the fuck out of here with this band.’”

Despite all the pandemonium, 5SOS are nowhere near sick of hearing girls scream. Irwin says, “I love how Duran Duran had the female fan base, then it grew until males started to like them too. It’d be cool even if we had a five percent male fan base.” The lads nod in agreement. Hemmings adds, “I’d come to our shows just to pick up girls.”

Album Review: 5 Seconds of Summer, Self-Titled

5 Seconds of Summer, the Australian based pop-punk band, has gained some international exposure since opening for One Direction during their Take Me Home Tour. Do not be fooled by their affiliations with One Direction— they’re emphasizing that they’re a band, not a boy band, contrary to the claims of countless critics. “How am I supposed to tell them apart from all the other boy bands?” asked Amanda Dobbins rhetorically in her Vulture review titled, What Is 5SOS? Your Boy Band, Explained. “Well, they’re Australian, which is new,” she replies, “And they play instruments — like, real ones. Guitars and drums. They are a boy rock band.”

Labels aside, 5SOS has come a long way from the days YouTube covers that brought them to fame in the online realm.  They’re writing original music and working with producer John Feldmann, really showing the capabilities of these young men.

Lead vocalist/guitarist Luke Hemmings, guitarist/vocalist Michael Clifford and bassist/vocalist Calum Hood all attended Northwest Christian college when they started posting up YouTube videos of themselves covering popular songs. Drummer Ashton Irwin was the last to join in 2011 but was clearly a missing piece to this puzzle. Despite only having Facebook and Twitter to thank for promotions, the band signed a deal with Sony ATV Music Publishing and later released an EP entitled Unplugged that reached number 3 in Australia’s iTunes chart.

Their international buzz began when One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson tweeted out there YouTube link and stated he has been a fan for quite some time.  Later on, Niall Horan —also a member of One Direction— furthered the band’s fan base when he himself tweeted out 5SOS’s video link for the song “Out of My Limit.” 5 Seconds of Summer finally got their big break when One Direction asked them to open up for their worldwide tour in 2013.

They announced in November 2013 that the band signed to Capitol Records.

The four guys told Vevo Lift in an interview that their influences have always been bands like Good Charlotte, Blink 182, and Green Day.  In the same interview they stated, that they take 90’s and early 2000’s rock and mix it with todays pop to stay modern and be played on the radio. These influences and mixture of genres has definitely been reflected on this album.

The album’s first track and first worldwide debut single is “She Looks So Perfect,” which has a great combination of a pop melody and a rock sound.  A catchy hook does the trick to hit number 32 on the US Billboard Hot 100, making this track the band’s first top 40 single.

The four-piece band collaborated with Benjamin and Joel Madden of The Madden Brothers, who helped write songs on their first studio album. Amnesia,  the result of their collaboration, is now their latest single off the self-titled album.

Despite being tossed into the pop category, 5SOS doesn’t shy away from writing lyrics like “She’s got a naughty tattoo in a place that I wanna get to” in the first verse of “18.”

It’s easy to recognize why 5SOS are subjected to the pop boy band genre. With a pop melody and clever lyrics, these boys can definitely tug at your heartstrings. In songs like “Everything I didn’t say,” lyrics such as “I wish that I could of made you stay, and I’m the only one to blame, I know that it’s a little too late, this is everything I didn’t say,” make young girls all over the world get weak at their knees. Also in their song “Beside You,” belting out lines like “she sleeps alone, my heart wants to come home, I wish I was, I wish I was beside you,” it’s hard not to catch the young teen girls demographic that loves boy bands.

All in all, these guys are much more than some boys playing instruments, making music, and this album reflects that. They have substance to their songs and show potential for a long and great career ahead of them.

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