5 Seconds of Summer—the glossy, confectionery pop-punk act that’s been catapulted towards world domination with an assist by One Direction and the hordes of teen girls who love them—has landed its first Rolling Stone cover story. Here they are—naked and covered in their own lyrics and song titles—and strangely, the fans are not happy.
In the genuinely fascinating profile by Patrick Doyle, 5SOS is shown openly idolizing bands like Good Charlotte, Nickelback, and Creed. They talk about fucking groupies and—more offensive to their young fans—having girlfriends. Arzaylea, the girlfriend of band member Luke Hemmings, is asked what she does as a job and she responds “I’m an Internet influencer” without any sense of humor. (Same.)
Read the story as a neutral (albeit skeptical) party and it comes off as a balanced and insightful look into the highly controlled world of megapopdom, told from the perspective of a group that does not want to be perceived as a boy band, but undoubtedly is:
“Seventy-five percent of our lives is proving we’re a real band,” says [drummer Ashton] Irwin. “We’re getting good at it now. We don’t want to just be, like, for girls. We want to be for everyone. That’s the great mission that we have. I’m already seeing a few male fans start to pop up, and that’s cool. If the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and all those guys can do it, we can do it, too.”
Never mind the fact that they are only famous because of, like, girls. Or that “real bands” will never “be for everyone.” Instead, let’s focus on their time-tested commercial appeal. Of their early days (just a couple short years ago), Doyle writes:
Like the Fab Four, each 5SOS member would have a simple persona. Luke was the quiet one. “The idea was to make the fans feel a little bit of mystery around him,” says [their first manager, Adam] Wilkinson. “Michael from Day One wanted to be a rock star. So we tried to accentuate that. Calum was always supposed to be the creative one. Ashton was the serious one.” Wilkinson would hassle the boys to tweet to their fans: “I’d be checking their Twitter – ‘Well, guys, Ashton’s done this, why the fuck haven’t you done it?’ ‘Oh, sorry, forgot. At school, got busy.’”
Despite their highly manufactured personas, 5SOS is—in origin, at least—a self-made band, with three of the four members (Luke Hemmings, Calum Hood, and Michael Clifford) first coming together at a Christian high school in Sydney, Australia. But that only barely makes them less of a boy band than the groups who more honestly wear the label. 5SOS is represented by Modest Management (the same management company that handles One Direction), they opened for One Direction on tour, and One Direction owns 50% of 5SOS LLP. They got their start singing Bieber covers on YouTube. They play their own instruments, but their songs are all syrup-y, radio friendly pop songs. (No worse, mind you, than the pop-punk I listened to in middle school.) Their fan base is, like, girls. Young girls at that.
But it’s this kind of peek behind the curtain that young fans—who’d rather project their own notions of what the band is like than be faced with the reality—tend to hate and, sure enough, the comments of the Rolling Stone article are filled with their ire.
“...Professionally there should have been a filter to moderate just how much ‘truth’ was printed,” one commenter says. “Do we need to know ? Keep it about the music and leave the personal stuff out.”
They’re probably talking about anecdotes like this one:
One Direction announced that 5SOS would open for them on their arena tour; after fewer than two dozen shows, 5SOS were playing the O2 Arena. When they landed in Miami for a tour stop, 200 girls were waiting for them outside the airport.
Hemmings says they took full advantage of the attention. They were wildest on their early tours, when they’d go to bars to mingle with fans after shows. “When you put four young dudes on a tour bus, playing theaters, then arenas, you’re going to have sex with a lot of girls, I guess,” says Hemmings. “We had a good time.” Multiple girls in one night? “I feel like I shouldn’t say,” he says with a smirk. “You could say the possibility of that is high.” Multiple girls at the same time? “The possibility is high,” he says again. He cracks a devilish grin. “The possibilities are endless.”
“One word, FAKE!,” screams another commenter. “This interview is fake.”
What’s funny is that Doyle’s profile is probably the most honest profile ever written about them. It’s a piece of writing that even those of us who aren’t fans of 5SOS can appreciate, both because it reaffirms our fears about the bands that we thought were cool and fully authentic when we were in 5SOS’s age market and it gives us this depressing story about Nickelback’s frontman, the always fun to mock Chad Kroeger:
5SOS are also big Creed and Nickelback fans. “I think Australians are just naturally addicted to cock rock,” says Hood. “Because I fuckin’ love it.” The band even did a co-writing session with Chad Kroeger recently, but it didn’t work out. “It was just a fucking Nickelback song,” says Irwin.
The band loves talking about Kroeger. “He ordered 12 chicken strips and a Caesar salad,” says Irwin. “It was so funny, man.” Hood drops his voice an octave to imitate Kroeger: “He was like, ‘Fuck. I’m so unhealthy. I order this every day.’”
“At the end of the day, he was like, ‘Shit, I feel stressed,’” says Irwin. “He’s like, ‘You guys ever look up shit on the Internet?’ We’re like, ‘What type of shit?’ He’s like, ‘Girl stuff, like, hot girls dancing.’ So he goes on YouTube and writes ‘hot chicks dancing’ in the search. And we sat there watching hot chicks dancing. It was such a creepy dad-on-the-Internet move.”
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Image via Martin Schoeller/Rolling Stone.