The australian pop-punk quartet 5 Seconds of Summer have come out of nowhere to score a Number One album, along with one of the year’s best singles – “She Looks So Perfect,” with its irresistible chorus: “I made a mixtape straight out of ’94/I got your ripped skinny jeans lying on the floor.” Tonight they’re onstage at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, opening for One Direction, playing under a MIXTAPE ’94 sign. Most of the girls screaming along weren’t alive in 1994 – although one of the hardest-rocking ladies here is the mom with the Black Flag neck tattoo. Welcome to pop 2014.
Backstage before the show, the band is chatty and laid-back, lounging in Green Day and Nirvana T-shirts. Guitarist Michael Clifford asks, “Would you like an introductory chocolate milk? Or a beer?” He looks like the baby that would result if Sky Ferreira went back in time to mate with the Replacements’ Tommy Stinson.
Drummer Ashton Irwin is the only one who’s 20; the other three – bassist Calum Hood, guitarist Luke Hemmings and Clifford – are still in their teens. They all sing; they all write. 5SOS, as fans call them, seem to find it hilarious that they get accused of being a boy band. “It’s written by us, and it’s real,” Hemmings says. “People say, ‘Is it pop? Is it rock? What is it?'”
“It’s fun when you’re confusing people,” Irwin adds. “I’ll look online and see some 30-year-old dude saying, ‘They’re not rock! Bullet for My Valentine for life!’ But his daughter probably likes our band. And she’ll start her own band.”
The boys met at school in Sydney and played their first gig at a dingy pub. Twelve people showed up. Yet Irwin recalls, “I always wanted to be in a band with a bunch of dudes who loved Green Day and all that. So just going onstage and playing Blink-182 covers really fucking bad – it was the coolest thing ever.”
Asked to describe where they come from, they chime in with words like “barren,” “dry” and “wasteland.” As Irwin says, “It’s not a nurturing place for music. As soon as I met these guys I thought, ‘We’re all gonna get the fuck out of here with this band.'”
Despite all the pandemonium, 5SOS are nowhere near sick of hearing girls scream. Irwin says, “I love how Duran Duran had the female fan base, then it grew until males started to like them too. It’d be cool even if we had a five percent male fan base.” The lads nod in agreement. Hemmings adds, “I’d come to our shows just to pick up girls.”