A few moments with Hong Kong-bound 5 Seconds of Summer

Australian rock band who got their break supporting One Direction look to move away from their boy band/pop punk stereotyping with their new album

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 March, 2016, 6:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 March, 2016, 6:00am

Hong Kong-bound Australian band 5 Seconds of Summer might be the world’s biggest new rock group – if only the grown-ups would take them seriously.

“It’s kind of a weird thought, isn’t it?” says singer-bassist Calum Hood. “Back at the start, before we’d released any music and we were just doing, like, a radio show a day, it was easy to keep on top of everything. Now we’re doing so much that it’s impossible. I kind of just let it happen.”

5 Seconds of Summer, known to its faithful as 5SOS, formed near Sydney in 2011 and almost instantly ascended to pin-up status after opening several tours for the mega-popular British boy band One Direction. (The two acts share a management firm.)

The band will call through Hong Kong for a live show at AsiaWorld-Expo on March 10.

Professional songwriters familiar with the territory have helped along the way. Joel and Benji Madden, who in the early 2000s fronted the pop-punk band Good Charlotte, penned Amnesia, a hit ballad from 5SOS’s self-titled 2014 debut. They also co-wrote four tracks on their latest album, Sounds Good Feels Good, released towards the end of last year.

“It’s a wild ride,” Joel says. “I’ve told them to enjoy it.”

That’s been easy. But now comes the inevitable inflection point: the band – also comprising singer-guitarists Luke Hemmings and Michael Clifford, and drummer Ashton Irwin – were trying to take more control of their future with Sounds Good Feels Good. Louder and a bit darker than the band’s debut, it’s a play for life after teen idol-dom.

“These guys wanted to make a statement with this record,” says John Feldmann, a veteran of the pop-punk scene who produced Sounds Good Feels Good. “It’s a rock record with guitars and drums and an actual orchestra. We kept everything as real as possible – playing everything, not drawing the sounds on a screen.”

For a generation of fans raised on Auto-Tune, that may be a minor distinction. But 5SOS has expanded its subject matter this time, with songs about depression and rejection to go with the party tunes and the odes to pretty girls. Even the title of the album’s lead single, She’s Kinda Hot, hints at the flicker of ambivalence that’s crept into the group’s music.

In a warm review, Rolling Stone, that proud bible of real rock, said the album shows that “these boys have more guts than some bands twice their age.”

Hood attributes the development to the period they spent living together in a house in Los Angeles while writing the songs. “It didn’t feel forced” like the band’s first go-around, he says, back when they were racing to capitalise on the buzz produced by their link to One Direction.

“There was time for us to just hang out as teenagers, which is essentially what we are,” says the singer. “And that kind of gave us the freedom to delve into subjects that require a bit more thought.”

The challenge, of course, will be keeping in touch with that complexity on the road, which is where 5SOS will be for the next year, triggering shrieks with every toss of their perfectly imperfect hair.

Los Angeles Times

5 Seconds of Summer, Mar 10, 8pm, AsiaWorld-Expo, Hong Kong International Airport, Lantau, HK$488-HK$1,588 HK Ticketing. Inquiries: 2629 6240