If you grew up listening to the likes of Blink-182 and Good Charlotte, chances are you may be hearing echoes of your pre-teenage years on the radio right now. Pop punk is making a comeback and there’s no one better as the face of this movement than 5 Seconds of Summer. The Australian four-piece have been having the time of their lives, working with their heroes, being the only band to have their first two No. 1 albums on Billboard while traveling the world for the latest headlining tour “Sounds Live Feels Live”, which kicked off in Asia last month. Right before their debut show in Bangkok on March 8, we got to catch up with Luke Hemmings, Michael Clifford, Calum Hood and Ashton Irwin and discuss fame, the East, creepy dolls and the genre that starts it all.
Why did you call yourselves 5 Seconds of Summer?
Ashton: Michael actually came up with the band name.
Michael: It’s a really really good story. No, it’s not a good story at all. We came up with the name 5 Seconds of Summer when were just starting out, we were just doing covers on YouTube and stuff and we just needed a band name because we wanted to be in a band. We had a list of bad names and this one is the least bad.
Luke: 5 Seconds of Summer was the best one on the list.
How come it wasn’t “4”?
Michael: ‘Cos four just sounds weird, doesn’t it? “4 Seconds of Summer”? It just sounds weird. Five just feels natural.
Ashton: Technically, we’re people and not seconds so…
Luke: The man has a point.
Why punk music?
Calum: I think for us we all had different influences when we first started but punk and pop punk of the early 2000’s are the thing that brought us together. I think we had such a special connection just because we formed the band and bonded over this genre of music.
Ashton: Also the people that we’ve worked with consistently throughout our career are from the punk background. Like John Feldmann, who was in Goldfinger, and Good Charlotte, who we wrote with. So the majority of people that have supported us mostly are actually punk musicians.
Luke: We get along with them really well.
Michael: I think it’s to do with the essence of punk music as well. Punk is derived from wanting to get out of your hometown and not settling for anything that’s less than what’s great, you know? That was the thing that we looked up to in punk as well because we came from a small town and we had bigger plans that no one else understands.
(Yes, Michael did just quote a 5 Seconds of Summer song.)
What was the first feeling when you knew that you’ve had your big break?
Ashton: We’re not really concerned with that side of things – if we’re famous or not. We pay attention to our fanbase, to the people who actually like our band. We pay attention to the future and the music we’ve been making. I think the growing popularity allows you to create more music and I think that’s really cool. There’s a better way to describe popularity when we’re in a band, and it’s that it allows you to do more things.
You have a lot of young fans who look up to you. Do you feel like it’s your job to be their role models?
Luke: I think when you start a band you don’t think “okay, I’m gonna be a role model”. I think it kind of comes with what we’re doing and the job – if you can call it a job – I don’t know, you don’t ask for it. Once you’re it in, you’re kind of in it. And then you have to be a role model. You actually have to realise that people do look up to you and they do listen to what you say. I think it’s important that you do realise that early on.
Michael: I think we’ve always been real people. We’ve always just been ourselves since the beginning. That’s the main reason why kids look up to us.
One of 5 Seconds of Summer’s more popular songs is “She Looks So Perfect”. What do you look for in a “perfect” girl?
Ashton: That song’s an interesting song. We wrote “She Looks So Perfect” a couple of years back now and it’s a romanticising of a loved one or someone you’re dating and how they’re wearing your clothes. It’s a romantic thing. The question was asked a lot, who do we think look so perfect? That kind of cheapens the song for us, actually.
Michael: I think with the video and the song as well, it’s about beauty is in the eye of the beholder, you know what I mean? I think that’s the message we want to put out: it doesn’t matter what you do or who you are or what you look like.
Luke: “Perfect” is what’s perfect to you. It kind of feels weird to say this is perfect to us. I don’t know, it’s kind of rude, to be honest.
Ashton: Yeah, people are in love with people with different shapes and sizes.
You’ve become successful at a very young age. How do you adjust yourselves to success and fame?
Luke: It’s a hard question. I think you learn as you go. We’re still learning at the moment as to how you deal with that. We’ve talked to the Madden brothers from Good Charlotte; they had a similar journey to us throughout their career. I think talking to people like that is really important. Having someone that’s been through it such as the Maddens or whoever it may be tell you about their experiences, about what they did and what they did wrong really helps.
What’s next for 5 Second of Summer?
Calum: We’re touring for the next nine months and in between the touring we’re going to be writing for our next album, which we don’t know when we’ll release. Hopefully, tomorrow.
Luke: Yeah, the album’s out tomorrow!
Calum: The main thing about this year is we kind of just want to improve our musicianship skills and stagecraft. That’s kind of a goal we want to achieve this year so we’re going to be focusing on a lot on the live performance.
What are some of the most impressive moments while on tour?
Ashton: The whole thing about coming to Asia one day with our band, which is what we’re doing right now, is the most impressive thing. That we’re actually have fans here right now is the most impressive thing. It also means we’ll get to come back one day. That’s something we really look forward to. It’s a very unique place to tour, unlike anywhere we’ve been in our entire career.
Luke: The fans are really passionate, too. Like Ashton said, we’re going to come back, hopefully, until they don’t want to see us anymore. It’s really cool that you can see that they know every word to every song even though English is, for a lot of people in Asia, their second language. But they know every word to every song and that’s awesome.
What do you think of Thailand so far?
Luke: I’m impressed that Thai fans have waited so long for us to get here. We’ve seen them for a long time ago ever since we did covers back in the day. We used to see stuff online like, “come to Thailand!” and stuff like that. I think it’s really cool. There was a lot of fans at the airport. That was really awesome. Everyone’s just lovely, to be honest, from our hotel staff to our fans.
Calum: I think Asian culture is really respectful. We’re stoked to be here!
According to the Internet, the four of you brush your teeth together before getting on stage. How accurate is that? Tell us about your personal or band rituals before kicking off a show.
Ashton: Yeah, we always brush our teeth before we go on stage. It’s important to go on stage with a minty fresh smile.
Michael: We’re all looking forward to that day when our smiles send off a radiant beam.
Michael: That hasn’t happened yet, though.
Ashton: Rituals? We just all get together and bond as a band for about an hour before we go on stage with no interruptions, with no people coming in the dressing room and telling us things. We just hang out. I’d have a beer. I don’t know what the local beer here is – what is it again? Sing?
Ashton: Yeah, I’d have a couple Singhas and then go on stage! That’s the best way to do it, you know? We’re ready to have a good time!
What songs are the most fun to play live?
Ashton: I love “She’s Kinda Hot” live. That one’s a good one. What else have we got?
Luke: Yeah, “Castaway” is fun. There’s a song in our first album called “End Up Here”. Every time we play it the crowd just goes wild.
Ashton: Michael also notoriously makes up songs about the cities we’re in.
Michael: There’s going to be a good one tonight.
Ashton: It’s the best part of the set.
What’s the craziest thing that your fans have made for you?
Ashton: The voodoo dolls always freak me out.
Luke: We have a song called “Voodoo Doll”. When fans make voodoo dolls of us it’s very cute and awesome but it’s also kind of scary.
Michael: They make these awesome drawings as well. I saw this coffee painting on Twitter the other day. It was our faces painted in spot coffee. Stuff like that is always amazing!
What do you think is the key to your success?
Luke: For us it’s always about knowing that we have something special. When people say they want us to change or do something else, we have to make a stand and do things how we want. That’s what it’s been like. Even now, with album covers and every other bit of the record, they’re all thought out but not by a bunch of people that think they know 5 Seconds of Summer. It’s by the people that are in 5 Seconds of Summer. I think that’s very important.
Michael: I think you’ve got to have a lot of luck and a lot of dedication. You’ve got to work hard.
Lastly, would you like to say anything to the fans?
Ashton: Hey Thai fans! Thank you for having us in your beautiful country. Thank you for having us here in Bangkok. We’re having a good time and we’ll always come back to you now. Thank you for coming to see the show. We hope to see more of you next time. Lots of love from us, “4” Seconds of Summer!