Artist Of The Week | 5 Seconds Of Summer

What do you do when you’ve achieved dreams you didn’t even realize you had? Start over. That’s exactly what the members of 5 Seconds of Summer did with the creation of their bold new album, Youngblood, out now on Capitol Records, and its hit lead single “Want You Back,” which debuted at #1 on iTunes in over 18 countries and has already amassed over 55 million streams worldwide. 5SOS might not have even had a new album if not for a creative and emotional reawakening – a necessary evolution following the group’s five-plus years of endless touring, recording, and promotion in the wake of immediate global success, all while the group’s members were still only teens.

5 Seconds Of Summer – Luke Hemmings (lead vocals/guitar), Michael Clifford (guitar/vocals), Calum Hood (bass/vocals), and Ashton Irwin (drummer/vocals) – started as high-school teens putting cheeky pop-punk covers on YouTube. It was at this time when the young band’s videos started garnering millions of views to reveal a significant global fan base for 5SOS, even before they’d released anything officially. In 2012, 5SOS built on this success by going on tour as support for the world’s biggest group, One Direction. As the band’s profile continued to rise, so did 5SOS’ musicianship, live show, and collaborative songwriting chemistry – culminated in 5SOS’s self-titled major-label debut album, which sold more than 3.5 million units worldwide, with 1.5 million albums and more than 4.5 million single tracks sold in the U.S. alone. Driven by the hit single “She Looks So Perfect,” 5 Seconds of Summer topped the album charts immediately upon release in 2013 – kick-starting a phenomenon which caused Rolling Stone to hail 5SOS as the “biggest new rock act in the world.”

The band’s sophomore album, 2015’s platinum Sounds Good Feels Good, would set records upon release. After Sounds Good Feels Good entered at #1 in the U.S., 5SOS became the only non-vocal group in history to have its first two full-length studio albums enter the Billboard 200 in the top spot. 5SOS would take Sounds Good Feels Good to No. 1 in 12 countries, with “She’s Kinda Hot,” the album’s first single, topping iTunes charts in 44 countries. The band has sold over 6 million albums and over 3 BILLION streams worldwide and would go on to win an American Music Award, a People’s Choice Award, an iHeartRadio Music Award, five MTV European Music Awards, two ARIA Awards and an MTV Video Music Award to name but a few. It’s a run that’s impressive for a band, not just a crew of scruffy teenagers bursting out of the suburbs of 5SOS’ Sydney, Australia hometown.

However, they learned to be careful what you wish for. “It was an amazing ride, but our lives changed radically,” Hemmings, the 5SOS frontman explains. ‘’It got to the point where we weren’t able to leave our dressing rooms or go out without being mobbed. It was pretty tough but our fans have been there since the start, and have stuck by us through everything. We’d be nowhere without them! Their passion and loyalty is what gives us the opportunity to make the music we do and play all over the world. They really are the essence of why we get to do what we do.’’
Understandably, following the triumphant sold-out hometown show at Sydney’s Hordern Pavillion that climaxed the Sounds Good Feels Good tour in 2016, the 5SOS members decided they needed time off to reset and find the authentic focus for the band’s next phase. As Hemmings notes, ‘’We were trapped together in this never-ending cycle, but had to figure out the next chapter of the band.”

For the first time, the group decamped across the hemisphere to Los Angeles to find a new set of collaborators, influences, and inspirations. “We had to move forward and test our songwriting and progress,” Hemmings says. “It was the greatest thing we could do. And we were hungry for something new and exciting. It felt like starting the band again!”

Out of their comfort zone in L.A., Hemmings, Clifford, Hood, and Irwin lived apart for the first time in over half a decade. On their own, each individually pushed themselves into new interests and musical avenues. The 5SOS members started learning new instruments: Hemmings’ resulting skills on the piano can be heard on the album, organically evolving the band’s original sound with rich melody and variety. Irwin, meanwhile, found himself drawn to the local underground Goth/industrial/darkwave club scene, which he immediately brought into 5SOS’ creative eco-system. “I loved that new wave could be really melancholy, but also up,” Irwin notes. “It had romanticism and anger, but also energy and color. That’s exactly what we wanted for our new music.”

Those flavors evocatively enrich songs from the 5SOS new album – evoking the adventurous sounds, grooves, and emotions of artists spanning The Police, INXS and The Church to Gorillaz and The Presets. Those influences are clear in the trippy synths and sexy reggae-influenced beats in new songs like “Valentine” (produced by Mike Elizondo and co-written with Justin Tranter, a key creative force for hits by Imagine Dragons, Fall Out Boy, Linkin Park, Justin Bieber, and Gwen Stefani). “This album is about finding the balance between where our audience is, and where we are, so we can grow together,” says Clifford. As such, Youngblood reflects 5SOS’ growth and discovery during their creative and personal odyssey in Los Angeles.
In L.A., the band members partied too hard, got healthy, fell in love, and fell out of love – essentially pushing themselves into uncharted waters in life, creativity, and music, to figure out definitively where they’d begun and where they’d ended up. “When we started as songwriters, we were the same age as our fans – only sixteen, seventeen years old,” adds bassist Hood. “They’re going through life right along with us.”

That’s clear from surprisingly sexy tracks like “Lie to Me” and the hard-hitting “Youngblood,” co-written with L.A. based hitmaking duo Andrew Watt and Ali Tamposi – the team behind Camila Cabello’s smash “Havana.” From that experience, Watt has no doubt 5SOS has delivered the goods on Youngblood. “These guys are a real fucking band,” explains Watt. “They actually play their instruments – real, live rock ‘n roll drums, bass, and guitar – in a time where that just doesn’t exist anymore. They all shine so bright: it was so refreshing to get in a room with these four strong personalities and find new ways to make room for each of their voices within these songs. I think this record shows them as the incredible musicians and songwriters the world might not have realized they were.”
“Want You Back,” meanwhile, written with another L.A. based hitmaker J Kash (Maroon 5, Charlie Puth) along with Asia Whitacre (Hailee Steinfeld, Zedd) and close friend of the band Andrew Goldstein (Linkin Park, Simple Plan, MKTO, Hoodie Allan), showcases 5SOS’s bold new approaches, both lyrically and musically. Hemmings’ passionate yearning for lost love finds him breaking into a Michael Jackson-style falsetto on “Want You Back’s unforgettable chorus; the soaring production and upfront bass line, meanwhile, finds 5SOS exploring grooves and emotions like never before. “That was the craziest year in my life, and that came out in the songs,”

Hemmings explains. “They weren’t about having crushes anymore: now, they were about what it’s like to actually be crushed, to feel desire, and to actually put yourself out there for someone.”
“As you evolve, you become someone you’re unfamiliar with,” adds Irwin. “We wanted to address this unique moment in our, and our fans’, lives.” “For this album, we wanted to express something more soulful and universal,” adds Hemmings. “We wanted songs that we’ll want to play forever, but that were easier to feel.”
The decision to make a band album that oozed timeless soul yet made sense in today’s pop world led 5SOS to seek out new collaborators to bring this vision to life. “We were ready to learn from the masters of the craft,” Irwin notes. To that end, 5SOS sought out Noah Passovoy – the producer/engineer who’s been a longtime partner in helping Maroon 5 craft utterly modern pop masterpieces, who oversaw much of Youngblood’s studio creation. “We loved what Noah did with Maroon 5 on Overexposed, where they found this amazing balance between sounding like a real band, but with contemporary pop production,” Hemmings says. “They can rock out love, but every song they play is still a perfect pop gem that everyone can sing along with. That was a key inspiration to our new stuff.”
5SOS sought out additional key partners who were able to help expand musical parameters on Youngblood like never before while retaining the hooks and trademark DNA that’s always been a massive part of the band’s appeal. They include the hit Swedish producing-writing team Carl and Rami, who the band wrote and recorded the bulk of the record with, (Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears, Madonna) and the previously mentioned acclaimed producer/instrumentalist Mike Elizondo (Dr. Dre, Eminem, Fiona Apple, Mastodon). “Mike’s studio in L.A. is where Guns ‘N Roses recorded Appetite for Destruction,” Irwin says. “All the great Death Row Records hip-hop classics were made there, too. It was incredible working in that environment, and at the same time, it pushed us as songwriters and musicians. As Mike Elizondo told us before every session, ‘If you don’t play it, it’s not going to exist on the record.’”
“Growing up is what we had to do on Youngblood,” Hemmings concludes. “Seven years as a band may seem like a long time, but we were teenagers when we started. We had to look at each other and say, ‘Are we going to stop now, or do this forever? Because if we continue, then we have to go farther than we ever have before.’ We were hungrier than even on our first album. We had to be ready not to make just another 5 Seconds of Summer record: we had to be prepared to make this one.”
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