5 Seconds of Summer may be young, but they’re already used to playing huge arenas filled with screaming girls. They opened for One Direction on two different international tours, becoming stars before they even released their self-titled debut. After prepping with a handful of theater dates, the under-21 quartet is now playing European arenas for the first leg of their Rock Out With Your Socks Out Tour. In June, they return to Australia for a few gigs in their home country, and in July they begin two months of North American shows. This is the band’s first time headlining, but none of the members appears to be feeling too much pressure. “It’s still the same four dudes onstage,” lead singer Luke Hemmings tells Rolling Stone while preparing to play a show in Madrid. “There aren’t many negatives I can think of.”
What did you learn most from opening for One Direction?
Touring with those guys was such a good experience for our band, especially the first tour. Coming from not really doing any shows to supporting arenas for those dudes was just incredible, especially progressing like that as a live band. It was incredible being thrown into the deep end. Trying to win over a crowd that’s not yours was also great for our band. We’re definitely grateful for those tours. They made us who we are today and the live band we are.
Was there a point where you finally felt like “Wow, we’re winning over the Directioners!”?
[Laughs] There was definitely a point where more and more people started paying attention to us and got more into our band after seeing us. Especially doing the first tour everywhere and then going on the second one and seeing more fans come out to see us as well as 1D, it was a rewarding to see it pay off. Doing all that touring and all that work, you could see it happen. People are wearing your shirts at the show and singing all of your songs even though it’s not your show. That was a cool moment. It was progressive and not just one moment where it happened.
What do the shows look like?
We played a similar show at the Forum last year. We basically wanted to make a theater show with theater lighting on a larger scale. It’s not too gimmicky. We have a really cool stage with a drum lift that Ashton [Irwin] is on. It’s got a little runway. It’s kind of like a band stage but with heightened quality. It’s an arena-level theater show. That’s the best way to describe it — it’s just a rock band show.
Who were your arena-rock inspirations for this show?
Do you know VH1’s Behind the Music? Been watching a lot of those, like the Guns N’ Roses one, the Poison one, Bon Jovi. Obviously growing up I watched Green Day religiously online as well as Blink-182 and stuff like that. I’ve kind of been looking to those bands and what they do with stages, like how Axl Rose will command a whole stadium and Billie Joe will do the same thing. Just taking things from that and putting it into our own show.
Some elements of your live shows really remind me of Green Day, like when you bring an audience member onstage to play Michael Clifford’s guitar. How much has that band influenced you over the years?
I think as a group, we all have our individual favorite bands, but Green Day is probably the band’s favorite band. I remember that in the early days — and even now — we would sit around the computer and just watch them online. You can see how Billie Joe can just command 80,000 people and they’ll just be hanging on his every word. If we can be anything like them — if we can have that kind of stage craft and stand as proud as them — I’ll be pretty happy. Even if it’s just a little bit.
What was the first live show you ever attended?
It was actually my favorite band at the time. It was Good Charlotte. They came to Australia [when I was 13 or 14]. I went with my dad [laughs]. It was great! They were my favorite band for a long time. I still love that band. They’re pretty much the reason I started playing guitar when I was an angry teenager.
What will surprise fans the most when they see you this summer?
I feel like our fans watch us religiously on YouTube so they know exactly what the show looks and sounds like [laughs]. I think it’s quite interactive, more than any show or any tour we’ve done. The crowd is always doing something all the time, which is what we’re striving to do. I think it’s just a very interactive show, which sounds like a kid show or something . But we’re getting them to do stuff, like chants and claps, which comes from watching Green Day and all those bands and seeing what they do. There are slower songs, a super fast “American Idiot” cover and everything in between.