Upcoming album releases, a post-pandemic hunger to tour and energy-reviving yoga: ahead of their Take My Hand tour, the Australian 4-piece talks 10 years as a band and the tough yet necessary sacrifices made along the way.
“Dillon, you will never guess who I am interviewing,” I exclaimed down the phone to my brother when I first heard that I’d been given the chance to talk with the beloved Australian 4-piece, 5 Seconds of Summer. “They’re that band you love that sang that song…” he hesitantly replied before proceeding to belt out the gut-wrenching chorus to their hit “Amnesia” word for word – a skill he assured me that he had managed to master due to him spending hours on end listening to the track ring out of my childhood bedroom. A fangirl I may have been, but my brother’s ability to recall 5 Seconds Of Summer’s lyrics instantly is an undeniable testament to the irresistible blend of angsty pop-rock and hysteria-raising melodies that members Luke Hemmings, Michael Clifford, Calum Hood and Ashton Irwin have been providing us with since their beginnings, over 10 years ago.
Having first captured our attention with underground releases such as “Out Of My Limit” and “Beside You” back in 2012, the group of childhood friends-turned-bandmates embarked on a decade-long journey that has taken them through four album releases and stints on every stage imaginable. And the result? The members found themselves at the helm of the zeitgeist as a part of a band set to alter the music sphere. Riding a wave towards the release of their most dynamic album yet – a claim backed up by its two hotly received singles “COMPLETE MESS” and “Take My Hand” – the quartet is now setting off on the most ambitious leg of their journey so far, powered by a post-pandemic hunger to perform live.
Returning to what can clearly be labelled as their second home, the band is set to grace stages across the globe in the form of the Take My Hand tour, an experience that I was privy to as they took to Wembley’s OVO Arena for a night sure to be etched into my brain for the foreseeable future. An outsider yet to be bewitched by what Ashton describes to me as the ‘prog rock’ sounds of the band may have found themselves puzzled by the endless stream of girls braving the harsh British weather to queue for merch and piling into the venue. However, a few minutes spent under the flashing lights of the band’s newest set would be the only thing necessary for them to gain clarity.
Perfectly curated and blending past hits with unreleased material as if kismet, the four-piece ensured that the hesitant fathers dotted in the audience were lulled into a blissful trance as they watched their daughters and accompanying fans fall into states of pure euphoria at the hands of their sweet sound during their most recent show. A performance that brought the energy of true rockstars and the melancholic harmonies synonymous with any pop hit, their most recent display was a musical experience unlike any other. And after an explosive tour through their discography was complete, the piercing screams of fans pleading for more ushered forward an encore comprised of “Youngblood” and “Ghost of You”. Inviting us to sway along to their tunes and fall helplessly into our feels, the band treated us to a final serenade before their inevitable exit from the stage.
Now, you’d expect all of the above to be enough to catapult four young men into the blinding lights of stardom, never to return to a relatable status. This has not been the fate of 5SOS. On a sunny April morning, the band gathered in their respective L.A. residencies to join me on a Zoom. Just like a conversation akin to those exchanged between you and your own friends, an unwavering brotherhood radiated through the screen as Calum, Ashton, Luke and Michael threw quick-witted jokes at one another and pondered a shared experience of leaving home whilst in the tender throes of teenhood. An ode to their refreshingly humorous approach to life, Calum joins our Zoom under the name of ‘Lord Farquaad’, yet that is not to say that each answer received wasn’t one of heart and passion. But rather a hint towards the sarcastic veil that would lie over our chat in a bid to ensure that they stayed true to their laid back selves, never to come across too seriously. Their endearing demeanours laid bare for me to see, to be in their presence is to be in the presence of true artists, and more importantly, real friends.
From letting me in on the intimate creation process behind “COMPLETE MESS” and divulging their favourite memories from over the last 10 years to explaining how yoga is the key to their electric stage presence, 5 Seconds of Summer sat down for a chat with Wonderland ahead of their Take My Hand tour. Head below to enjoy…
Hi everyone, where are you guys right now, first of all? Luke Hemmings: Los Angeles! Michael Clifford: We moved here six or seven years ago!
Are you enjoying it? Calum Hood: It’s amazing. For what we do it is one of the best places to be!
Do you miss Australia sometimes? CH: I do a little bit! Ashton Irwin: I miss the pace of Australia; it is very laid back. It has got an island vibe even though it is huge. It is kind of slower and that is cool.
Let’s start at the beginning! You have been doing this for 10 years, which is crazy to think about! Have you guys got a single career highlight from over those years? MC: Honestly, one of my favourite things that we have done is filming a – I don’t even know what you’d call it – an hour and a half long show but mixed with skits and just funny footage from over the years. We kind of got to act out these scenarios that would only make sense to our die-hard fans! There was definitely something so rewarding about being able to create these skits for our fans to be able to watch and totally understand the inside joke that we were hitting on – it was just really fun and one of the most creative things that we have done! CH: For me, the highlight is that we are still great friends. There have been so many highlights, to be truthful, and they kind of span the whole of the band’s career. But the fact that I can text Ash when I am feeling amazing, and I can also text Ash when I am not feeling amazing and this guy will be at my doorstep within 10 minutes, that is the true joy of being in a band. AI: That is how long it takes to get to your house!
10 minutes! You are neighbours, that is exciting! Do you not annoy each other? AI: My vibe is that Calum has low-key got an awesome pool. So when it is 180 degrees in L.A., I kind of go at my own will into his backyard and utilise it!
You have a spare key and let yourself in! I love that! Before we get into the present, I want to keep it in the past! LH: Let’s go back!
Do you guys remember the first song you wrote together? Maybe the first lyric? MC: I remember us working on this song called “Out of my Limit” together! This was the first official song that we ever released. I remember coming into the rehearsal room and Calum being like, ‘I’ve got this idea’, and that was the first time that we jumped into a recording studio and we were still so unaware of what to do in those environments. We were sort of just faking it. That was a pretty amazing moment and Calum especially had a really strong passion for songwriting and he really helped us to discover who we are as a band.
So, “Out of my Limit” has a special place in your hearts, I’m guessing? LH: Oh yeah, now it’s like triple platinum… MC: Yeah, biggest song ever! LH: Definitely not – we maybe sold 1000! MC: No, I think it was about 700!
So, we are talking about songwriting, and obviously with your new song “COMPLETE MESS” you are the sole credited writers! Do you think that has given the track a bit more of an intimate feel? Do you think it is more representative of you as individuals? LH: Yeah, how could it not? We have written a lot of songs over the years and we have learnt so much about songwriting; it is crazy that this is the first song that is just us! It is very exciting and it has definitely captured the band in its purest form. CH: Yeah, we have met people along the way that we have considered to be mentors, but it is your job as the artist to be able to speak up for yourself if you are not feeling that type of way, so I think that we have always held a consistent line of being represented through our music because it is important to be able to voice a message that if yours. That feeling obviously intensifies when you write just with your bandmates. There were a string of things that happened during the band’s timeline that made us feel a little more empowered and a little more independent. So it was a natural process that led us to the moment in time where we got into the room by ourselves and we said, “this could be the record that we back ourselves with in terms of creating this solely as a band,” and it has just been a proud moment.
That is so exciting, especially for your fans to see you in a more pure form. And Michael, you have done the production here which is new for you I am guessing? How did you even end up in that conversation where you were like, ‘I want to produce a track’? MC: I had always loved creating and producing stuff and I had never really produced and released anything, but it was a real passion and I was trying to get better. We went out to Joshua Tree on a writing trip; we were going to just vibe with each other because we hadn’t seen each other for a really long time. The guy who was meant to be coming up and recording us called and he was like, ‘Hey, my car broke down so I can’t come.’ So it was like, ‘Ok, well, I have my gaming laptop, let’s just make some stuff, just the four of us’. From there it naturally evolved and I was so thankful that the guys let me be a part of this and record it and trusted me with this song. I actually never checked up on him after his car broke down. LH: He’s still there
You guys have also mentioned that the track is about a romantic relationship, is this rooted in experience or is it more of a universal theme that you have touched on? LH: I would say a bit of both! The dream for a lot of songwriters is to have something that is a personal story but can also be related to by lots of people. AI: I think internally in the verses it is a don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone sort of thing. But it is written from about three or four directions, which is kind of how all of our songs come to fruition. So, there might be a pre-chorus that I wrote from my personal experience and then verse one is written by Luke, then the second verse is written by Calum and I at lunch and the bridge is written by Mike who added a melody.
It seems like it is a tour through the band’s emotional record, which is quite exciting! Am I right in saying that the track’s name is also inspired by a shirt that you used to wear, Luke? LH: Yeah, so the song was in its infant stage; we are talking in the first 30 minutes of the song being a song. We had just cut the umbilical cord. And I think Michael said to me, ‘Oh, it’s like that shirt too’! MC: I couldn’t believe that we didn’t write the song about the shirt if I am honest. I was like, ‘wait, did you just go deep into your subconscious’?
Do you still have the shirt? LH: I do, actually! I have it! MC: Will you wear it today? LH: I want to wear it, I tried it on but it’s a sleeveless shirt. It’s a long way away from the 70s dad shirt that I am wearing right now!
You’re going to have to bring it back for the Take My Hand tour, I think! Speaking of the tour, I want to talk about your stage presence. I have seen you perform before and the energy you bring is what is most noticeable. How are you planning on maintaining that energy this time around? AI: Well, this is a really good question and I will give you a half-serious answer. I really love yoga, and I do it multiple times a week so I can play the drums for a really long time.
How will it help you play the drums for a really long time? AI: It decreases my inflammation and arthritis because I hit the drums with every fibre of my muscle and that really does a lot of damage to my skeletal frame. So to maintain that energy on stage, we all think about things like that. LH: My energy comes from Ashton because he is an animal. MC: I also think it is easy when you have the crowd to feed off of, especially because we haven’t toured in the last two years. We feel very ready to get back out there and I think more than anything, we are reinvigorated. We are a band that started because we wanted to play live and play to people and it is kind of the main reason we do this. So, there is nothing but positivity for the shows that are coming up from us.
I know we have just spoken about new music but I feel like I couldn’t interview you without talking about the old stuff! Is there a particular throwback 5SOS song that you are excited to perform on this tour? MC: I am gonna throw this out there. TikTok is a bit of a weird place. For some reason, “She Looks So Perfect” continues to go viral – I have no idea why. Obviously we will always play “She Looks So Perfect”, but you know what? Another one that continues to pop up on TikTok that we don’t play is “She’s Kinda Hot”. Maybe we do a TikTok moment. LH: I am excited to play “Ghost of You”, but it’s not that old.
It’s mid-way! I was talking about your very early days. Are we getting “Amnesia”? LH: Yeah, you’ll be getting a little bit of “Amnesia”. Usually known as ‘Wamwesia’. AI: The guys haven’t confirmed this yet and this is just what I want personally, but I want to have a shot at this song called “Voodoo Doll”.
Love it, it’s a classic! AI: It would just be so weird. I remember we wrote that song together, Cal! CH: Yeah, we did too!
You also have an album on the way! How are you feeling about that, what is the vibe this time around? AI: It is absolutely diverse in every sense and the band has really pushed to attain a grounded identity in pop and rock. It has really progressed in both lanes. The pop songwriting has been worked on and we love melodic songwriting, hooks and unique concepts. But on the other hand, the rock side of the band has improved in terms of the recording itself, and I have been more into the musicianship. Obviously, that comes with recording the record internally; the band are actually prog rockers at heart.
Prog rock? What is that? AI: It is kind of complicated rock and roll. It has lots of fancy parts and the compositions are more complex than your regular pop song structure. So, it has got a bit more above!
A bit more depth! Amazing, I also know that it has not got an official title yet. But, what is the deal, have we got a list going on? Have we got a favourite? AI: You know what, Erica? After this, I literally have a note on my phone written down right here that says, ‘call guys about album name – confirm today’!
No way, you’re choosing today! Have you got a list going on with a few potentials? AI: We have gotta hone in today.
Well good luck with that call, guys! This one is a bit of a deep one, but I am going to throw it in there. We have spoken about your wonderful careers, but do you feel like you’ve had to sacrifice anything for them and if so, what? AI: Oh my gosh!
I know, I am sorry! I am grilling you! AI: No, it’s ok! I love to dive in in the AM. The sacrifice has been pretty unreal, it has been pretty intense and the older and more consciously aware of your own life that you become, the more you realise the weight and repercussions of sacrifice. When I left home, my brother was nine and now he is in university so I sacrificed a lot of that time with my family, and so did the other guys. That is one of the things I think about deeply when I see the other guys in the band – it is just incredible strength that I see. It makes me really proud of them and myself. LH: I think it would be very silly to be upset about the things being sacrificed because we are still here and banging on the door or a fifth album. So, there have definitely been sacrifices, but it has been worth it for something that we love so much and something that brings so much joy to lots of people. It has definitely been a weird ride. I am a bit of a weird guy now, if that would have happened anyway? I don’t know! CH: To a certain extent it is always going to be pretty similar as the journeys that we went on were almost parallel, I think everyone has a slightly different perspective but anything that you are pursuing is going to take a certain amount of sacrifice. But also, the lineage of sacrifice didn’t start with us. Our parents had to sacrifice us. You know, seeing their kids growing up in an intimate setting; we left home when we were 16 or 17 and now we are 26 and 27!
Who is older, who is 27? AI: I am 27, I am the oldest in the band!
27 is still very young, for some reason I thought you were older! AI: How old did you think we were?
No! I just remember you from how many years ago when I was younger, but I forget that you started so young! AI: A lot of people are like, ‘I liked you when I was younger!’ And it is like, ‘I was the same age as you’!
I feel like we have touched on this a little bit, but I watched an interview with you guys recently and what struck me most was how much you prefer the more peaceful and calming aspects of life. When all of this hype and hysteria is going on around you, what do you do to bring yourself back in? Do you have any rituals that you do, aside from yoga?
AI: Wait, you don’t want to talk about yoga for 30 minutes?
I have had enough, no more yoga! No, if it is yoga, tell me – I’d love to know! AI: Well, I think that compliments are very dangerous and toxic! To take them on and becomes those beautiful reflections of yourself is to become too obsessed with self. So, I think being aware of our interaction with the band and what could be considered psychologically toxic, we are open about and we talk about it. We are aware of how to stay grounded in things that are true.
That is some very deep stuff, guys! Does anyone else do any yoga? CH: It is something that I need to take out of Ashton’s book, getting into yoga!
You need to get a yoga mat, I think! You should start doing it by your pool together! AI: Oh yeah, more pool time! CH: That’s a good idea!