I love Five Iron Frenzy! Why do I love Five Iron Frenzy you might ask? Because they're music makes me happy and they're one of the best live bands in the world, and they're really friendly, honest and sincere people. This is especially true of their lead vocalist, Reese Roper, who I interviewed at Tom Fest last summer. The band also features seven other members; guitarists Micah and Scott, bassist Keith, drummer Andrew, trumpeter Nathaniel, trombonist Dennis and a girl named Jeff on saxophone. The facts that three of the band members play horns should probably tip you off to the fact that they're a ska band and that they're from Denver, Colorado. Okay maybe it wouldn't clue you into the fact that they're from Denver, but I needed some way to include that in the introduction. Anyway, on with the interview!
Give me a quick history of the band.
Four of us, Keith the bass player and Scott and Mike the two guitar players and I use to be in another band and we started Five Iron Frenzy as a side project. The other band was really heavy industrial stuff which we really didn't like playing. We liked it when we started, but then we quite liking it.
With the sense of humor you have I can't picture you in an industrial band.
It was really wacky because we we're really into the whole punk and ska scene so it was quite a relief to get away from that and start playing what we really liked. We found our three horn players and our drummer and that was two and a half years ago. Then we played out for a year. Then Alarma Records got us on the New Band Stage at Cornerstone a couple of years ago and after that we had a bunch of record labels looking at us and we went with Five Minute Walk.
So you guys are in the process of recording a new album right now (Our Newest Album Ever)? Are there any new musical directions you'll be taking on this one?
I'd say that Five Iron Frenzy is a cross between pop and punk and ska. I think our last album was more balanced between those three. I think this album is going to be less punk and more ska and pop. So the only thing is less punk.
Tell me about Combat Chuck.
He's this guy who lives in Virginia and we met him at Cornerstone in 1995 and he's really funny. He goes around and he says that he's Combat Chuck and that he's a real life super hero. The lyrics of the song pretty much explain him; he goes around and does stuff like that. He's got a bald head.
I noticed that you guys have a pretty wacky stage show with the costumes and stuff. Is that something you feel is a major part of your show and something you enjoy doing?
I think that we all have really wacky personalities. It depends on who in the band you ask if they like the costumes or not. We use to all wear them all the time because we thought it was funny, but now everybody is sick of it except for me. Sometimes we'll all do it. At Cornerstone we dressed up. There are a lot of really good bands out there that totally miss the whole aspect of good showmanship. You can be a good band and record an awesome album, but if your not interesting to watch I wouldn't want to go see you.
You guys seem to have really cheap merchandise, like $8 shirts. Is it important to you to keep merchandise prices low?
That's cool that you noticed. We play with a lot of secular bands like Less Than Jake and those guys like mark their shirts up from fifty cents to a dollar. They hardly make any money off of their merchandise and its because their trying to stay legitimate and keep their integrity within the whole punk rock and ska scene. It's really a shame when there are secular bands that have more integrity then Christian bands. For us, we're not in this to get rich, but on the other hand were not in this to give everyone a free shirt either. We have to eat but we still keep our prices low so we're not ripping people off.
Have you guys been touring with a lot of secular ska bands?
Not really. We are friends with this ska band from Orange County called Meal Ticket and we're going to go on tour with them. We're going to try to get on a couple of secular ska tours this fall (they ended up rocking the Ska Against Racism tour!).
That's a good ministry opportunity. I've found that a lot times Christian music doesn't always measure up to secular music. But with the Christian ska bands that are out now, they're usually as good or better then the secular ska bands.
I think that it's cool that we as Christians are keeping up with and advancing the art form.
So tell me about Five Minute Walk Records because they seem to conduct their business in a really positive way.
Frank Tate, the owner, is a super smart businessman, but the business side of it is really secondary to him. His focus is really ministry. We've talked to a lot of bands who a year ago we're like, "You have to sign with our label!" and they we're really cool and they we're going to buy us an RV and stuff. We see them now and there so disappointed with their label. I don't have anything negative to say about Five Minute Walk Records, I think they're awesome.
Have you guys been noticing a lot of response to your music from the secular market?
It depends on the part of the country. All over the country there are Christians who buy it, but then in Denver we sell a lot of records in the secular market and also San Francisco and Texas and places like that. It depends on if we get played on the local radio stations. We'll be traveling and will hit some pocket where there is a lot of secular airplay and everybody knows about us and then we'll go somewhere else where nobody knows about us.
How have your tours being going?
Since the album came out we've only had two shows where it's been under a hundred people. Most shows have been between one hundred and five hundred people and some even bigger. At Creation Fest we played for over thirty thousand people but that was because they we're all there to see Jars of Clay.
What do you guys do for fun on the road?
(Reese starts laughing hysterically.) Pick on each other! If you'd asked me this a month ago I'd be full of answers, but now I'm so sick of being on the road, but it still is fun. We never get any days off. We've had like three days off since we started touring as a Five Minute Walk band. We play cards in the van.
Would you guys say that your influenced by eighties metal in anyway?
Oh yah! I think everybody is. When I met Keith, our bass player, in grade eight we we're listening to Stryper and Barren Cross, White Cross and Plaid Cross and all the crosses! Totally! We use to do a Skid Row cover of Youth Gone Wild, but it was so sloppy that we couldn't do it.
I think that's it for my questions. Anything else that you would like to add?
Ska is not a verb! Nothing against the Supertones, but on their first album they go, "There's only three things we want to do. I want to preach the gospel, read the word, and ska, ska, ska!". I'm sure that he didn't really think about the lyric, but suddenly every one in the Christian market is saying, "I'm going to your concert and I'm going to ska!". We also read these reviews of us and they were like, "Get your own Five Iron Frenzy and ska your way out of the sand trap!". It's not a verb! You can skank, you can dance, you can run around, but you can't ska.
All my Christian friends who hadn't heard of ska music until you guys and Supertones always referred to skanking as skaing. It drives me nuts!
I'm glad you understand.
So you guys are mainly influenced by third wave ska.
I'd also say that there are a lot of pop bands and a lot of Epitaph Records style bands like NoFX that influence us also. Weezer too!
I've noticed that in the Christian ska scene that the only band that doesn't do the third wave style or punk influenced style are the Israelites.
It's cool because there are bands like the Insyderz who definitely have a mid-west sound. They sound like Mustard Plug. Supertones have this total rap influence going. Squad 5-O has the old Op Ivy influence.
No horns! I think a lot of people we're totally thrown off by that when they saw them yesterday (at Tom Fest) because they we're expecting horns because they're labeled as a ska band. But they definitely have the metal influence going!
There are all these people I've talked to who are like, "I thought Squad 5-O was supposed to be ska.". I'm like, "They were!" and they're like, "But there we're no horns.".
I guess most people don't realize that the whole thing that kicked off the third wave of ska was Operation Ivy, and they didn't have horns.
Totally! It's not the horns. It's the guitar on the upbeats and I don't think many people get that.
I think that's everything. Oh wait, I have to get you to say hi to my friends Jeff and Zac, from Grand Junction, Colorado, who couldn't make it to Tom Fest this year to see you guys.
Hi Jeff and Zac from Grand Junction!