Luke Hemmings, frontman of Aussie emo-gone-pop sensations 5 Seconds of Summer, is embarrassed by all of the songs he produced when he first started writing music. However, he has a happier recollection of one of his initial collaborations with 5SOS bassist Calum Hood. “We were really good friends at school,” he recalls. “Michael [Clifford, 5SOS guitarist] never went to school that much, and I didn’t have that many friends, so I’d be waiting for Calum to get to school and get off his bus.”
One day, Hood didn’t show up. “I went to my first class, and I was like, ‘Alright, fuck this — I’m gonna go to Calum’s house.’ When I got there, he had our song ‘Out of My Limits’ half written, and I remember finishing the second verse with him. That was a cool moment.”
Four years after Hemmings, Hood and Clifford began posting acoustic covers of songs by Mike Posner, Chris Brown and Blink-182 on YouTube and added drummer Ashton Irwin to their line-up, they no longer have to skip school to write songs together. Instead, the Australian quartet posted up in a Los Angeles home for a few months, hunkering down to write a follow-up to their self-titled 2014 debut, which hit Number One in the U.S., Australia and 11 other countries worldwide. “I think it was an awakening of a higher sense of making music,” Irwin says. “We hadn’t done it that way before as a band. It was kind of old school. You don’t get a chance to do that much anymore.”
Hood describes the upcoming album — Sounds Good Feel Good, due on October 23rd — as a more “mature” statement. The band was signed before any of the members turned 18, and growing pains and budding fame have inspired a natural progression in 5SOS’s songwriting. “The first thing we realized as a band when we started writing songs at 15, 16,” recalls Irwin, “is that you can write a song, but to write a real song that’s from your heart, and that really connects with you emotionally and spiritually, that takes time.”
“I remember writing the stupidest song I’ve written. It had, like, three chords, and it was about the moon and a girl.” —Michael Clifford
The first song Michael Clifford ever wrote was full of wishful thinking. “I remember writing the stupidest song I’ve written,” he cringes. “It had, like, three chords, and it was about the moon. Something about the moon and a girl. She was a nonexistent girl because I was 12. I wanted to write a song about a girl so that people would be like, ‘Wow! Girls like you?’ And I’d be like ‘Yeah, totally,’ when in reality that’s just not true.”
But that was then. At 19, he and his 5SOS bandmates have become bona fide heartthrobs, playing songs about girls who don’t love them every night to arenas filled with girls whose lives at the moment revolve around their love for them. Though they are a pop-punk band at heart, they’re a boy band in aesthetic, creating Top 40 hits (“She Looks So Perfect,” “She’s Kinda Hot”) and peddling merch at tween mall haunt Claire’s in between products for Austin Mahone and their former tourmates One Direction.