On their forthcoming Interscope Records debut, 5 Seconds of Summer turn a lifetime of musical passion into their most thrillingly ambitious work to date. Hailing from the outskirts of Sydney, the band got their start forging a sound that brought pure punk energy to pop music. Within just a few years they became a global phenomenon, then defied all expectation by adding an industrial-inspired edge to their third album Youngblood. Now, with their fourth full-length, 5SOS push into even bolder sonic terrain, realizing their vision with more impact and intensity than ever before.
The follow-up to Youngblood—a 2018 release that made them the only band in Billboard 200 history to see its first three studio albums debut at No. 1—5SOS’s latest album came to life in collaboration with producer Andrew Watt (Post Malone, Camila Cabello). “Andrew is basically the fifth member of our band,” says Hemmings. “He loves rock & roll to the core, and he’s a great innovator in terms of bringing that into pop.” In a departure from their previous work, much of the album stemmed from 5SOS spending hours holed up in Watt’s studio (a former home of Charlie Chaplin’s), working songs out live in a windowless space Clifford describes as “really dark and extremely sweaty.” As a result, the album bears a gritty vitality, even as it shines with 5SOS’s immaculate melodies and crystal-clear harmonizing.
Sparked from a demo co-created by Charlie Puth, OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, Louis Bell (Post Malone, Camila Cabello, Halsey) and Ali Tamposi (Beyonce, Camila Cabello, Demi Lovato), lead single “Easier” brings that dynamic to a graceful collision of atmospheric guitar tones, radiant vocal work, and darkly propulsive beats—an element shaped by the band’s recent experimentations in electronic music. “Andrew gave me the freedom and space to play with all these different sounds with the synth and keys, which ended up being a huge anchor for the album,” says Hood, who names noise-rock bands like HEALTH among his inspirations. “I feel like I learned a lot about juxtaposing shades of light and dark, and it created a new contrast within our music.”
In another milestone, the upcoming album also marks a new era of creative authority for 5SOS, with the band applying their nuanced artistry to the visual side of their output. To that end, 5SOS created the video for “Easier” with esteemed filmmaker Grant Singer (an auteur known for such iconic work as Lorde’s “Green Light” and The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face”), giving way to an undeniably stunning visual. “For the longest time, we’d tried to intertwine how everything sounds and looks in a way that’s really unified,” says Hemmings. “We got close on the last album, but with this record it’s taken it to a whole new level that we’re really proud of.”
In all of their endeavors, 5SOS reveal the potent chemistry and genuine musicianship they first discovered as kids back in the suburbs of Western Sydney. All near-lifelong musicians, the band first bonded over a mutual love for music with a rebellious bent, such as Australian metalcore acts like Parkway Drive. “In metal, there’s this spirit of wanting to get out of wherever you came from and do something bigger with your life,” says Clifford. “We took that spirit, and somehow managed to turn it into pop music.” Along with playing local pubs and working on original material, 5SOS quickly earned a powerful online presence, gaining a worldwide following before they’d ever put out an official release. Soon after signing to Capitol Records they delivered their 2014 self-titled debut, followed by their sophomore album Sounds Good Feels Good (a 2015 release that saw them crowned “biggest new rock act in the world” by Rolling Stone).
After wrapping up the Sounds Live Feels Live World Tour in October 2016, 5SOS retreated to their now-homebase of Los Angeles to recharge their creative energies. In that process, the band reconnected with Andrew Watt (whom they’d met one tequila-soaked night in a Hollywood bar) and came up with two tracks that would define the next chapter of 5SOS: “Youngblood” and “Lie to Me.” In creating those songs, the band drew a great deal of inspiration from post-punk acts like Echo & the Bunnymen and Killing Joke. “There’s a sincerity and darkness to their songs that I wanted to bring into our music but in a more modern context,” says Irwin. Not only an artistic breakthrough for the band, Youngblood again proved 5SOS’s massive appeal as its title track went #1 at Top 40 radio for five consecutive weeks, hit the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, and then later went double-platinum.
In the making of the new album, 5SOS focused on further expanding their sound. “We’re fascinated with incorporating this very industrial-type musicality into what we’re doing as a band,” says Irwin. “A lot of it comes from being in L.A. and going to goth clubs and getting exposed to music I’d never heard in Australia, and then studying genres like new wave and darkwave. As a drummer I’m drawn to those rhythms that are so hard and primitive, and it’s been exciting to bring that into the melodic structure of pop.” At the same time, the band’s also assumed a greater complexity in their lyrics. “Even if we’re writing about something beautiful, we always try to put some sort of dark twist on it so that the song has our own unique stamp,” says Hemmings. Along with adding more emotional weight to each track, that approach lends a whole new durability to their music. “We’ve got so many songs from when we were younger that don’t really make sense for us to play anymore,” says Hood. “But these new songs feel like something we could keep playing for the next 10 years, or even beyond that… It feels like our first album—like we finally found what we’d been trying to achieve since the beginning of this band.”
For the band, that newfound longevity traces right back to one of their most closely held ambitions: building a lifelong and ever-deepening connection to the 5SOS fanbase. “We all grew up latching onto these bands that meant so much to us, and it fuels my soul to see our fans finding themselves in our music in a way that gives them joy,” says Irwin. “We want to just keep on growing and evolving, and crafting our songs so that they really stand the test of time. That’s what we’ve been pursuing since we were kids, and at this point it’s all we really know how to do.”