5 Seconds of Summer are having a summer they’ll remember for a heck of a lot longer than their band name suggests.
The Australian rockers — who launched their career while still teenagers, transitioning from high-school band to touring stadiums alongside One Direction — released their third studio album Youngblood on June 22. It marked a new sound for the group, a harder rock edge from their previous pop-punk, boy band-esque tunes.
The LP also made history, with 5 Seconds of Summer becoming the first group to have three consecutive Billboard 200 No. 1 albums with their first three full-length releases. What’s more: the triple crown came with a bit of an extra gleam when Youngblood beat out Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s surprise LP Everything is Love for the top spot.
That achievement alone would make for a memorable season, but the boys are just getting started. Ahead of their upcoming world tour, EW called up 5SOS to get the lowdown on why the three-year gap between albums was essential for their future as a band, what songs they’re most proud of, and how they’ve changed since launching their careers as teenagers.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Youngblood not only made you the first band to have three albums hit the charts at number one, but you came in above Beyoncé and Jay-Z. What was your reaction to that?
LUKE HEMMINGS (lead vocals/guitar): When we put the album out, we didn’t know they were going to drop it. I’ve listened to the Carters’ album; it’s brilliant. On the one hand, music is not about competition, but we wanted to mark our place, and we had an opportunity and our fans were really behind us and helped us get there.
ASHTON IRWIN (drummer/vocals): We were on a plane that was grounded in Chicago when we found out, so it was very anticlimactic.
HEMMINGS: Everyone was very confused and upset on the plane, and we were celebrating and they had no idea why we were so happy. We were blown away.
CALUM HOOD (bass/vocals): It’s never really been about the numbers with this band. Something even more special to us is [to] create a new chapter and a new culture for our fans to really immerse themselves in and feel passionate about. That really was the main focus for this album. It was important for us to delve in and create something that could be played for decades. It’s just a perk that we got the number one, but that comes down to our fans’ resilience and their dedication. I’m forever grateful.
For the first time since your debut album, you guys lived apart from each other, leading semi-normal lives in Los Angeles. How did that change your process and affect the sound of the album?
HOOD: It impacted it on a large scale because for the first time we were each experiencing things individually. When we were living together, we basically did everything together. So, we’d be experiencing the same things. The concepts or the melodies or any part of the writing process usually didn’t differ too much between us. It was hard not to be very parallel towards each other.
MICHAEL CLIFFORD (guitar/vocals): We were touring the whole of 2016; we did 100 shows in that year. It was a really intense year of touring for us. [And] we’d just been touring for almost five years straight with no time to ourselves. So we took two or three months to go and live somewhat normal lives.
HOOD: By us living individually in separate houses around L.A., we really had the time to build our own personal lives and bring in stories which we wouldn’t have experienced if we lived in the same house.
HEMMINGS: We still see each other every day, so we’d meet up in a coffee shop and talk about what we’re going to do with this album and how we’re going to make it the greatest ever.
CLIFFORD: It was the first album we’ve made being adults. The new sound we have comes from us being different people. Music has changed; the way that we write songs has changed
You really raised your profile by going on tour with One Direction back in 2012. How much did seeing the success those guys have had going in different directions and stepping away from the “boy band” routine impact your decisions to strive for a different sound here?
HEMMINGS: It’s two different things. Because if I was in a band where I wasn’t getting everything I needed creatively from what I was doing, than I would maybe not want to do it. That’s not the case in 5 Seconds of Summer.
HOOD: I wouldn’t say we were influenced by it. We definitely respect it. We respected their decisions to part ways creatively for a little bit. It’s a hard decision to make.
HEMMINGS: They all made different styles of music, and they needed to do that, but in 5SOS, we made the exact album we wanted to make. Maybe there will be a point where we’ll do separate things, but 5 Seconds of Summer will always be a home for this band.
You had three years between albums and in that time moved from teenagers to twenty-somethings. Why was that break and growing older important for you and your creative process?
HEMMINGS: The songs you write when you’re 16 inevitably are going to be different than the songs you write when you’re in your twenties. Even if you’re not in a new place every day and not in the music industry, your tastes in music and fashion and everything are going to change drastically between 16 and 21.
IRWIN: It impacted why I need to make music. It used to be just for fun. It used to be a lighthearted feeling where I really loved writing songs and it was a way of expressing myself and being heard, but as I got older it connected to more of a desperation like I have to make music. Otherwise, I feel like I’m not being fulfilled. It almost feels like I have symptoms of loss when we don’t get to make music. It was really enlightening for me to discover that I am meant to be making music, and I love making music, and that’s what I’ll always do as long as I can.
HEMMINGS: We kind of wore the same thing for the first two albums. We got to actually have time to figure out what do we even like? and what individual characteristics do we bring to the band? We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t take that break in between albums. Or maybe we would, but definitely not with a good album.
What song on the album are you most proud of and why?
HEMMINGS: “Lie to Me” is a great song. We had most of the album done and we were missing everything except for “Want You Back,” “Lie to Me”, and “Youngblood.” We hadn’t written those yet. “Lie to Me” came together quickly right at the end. it’s one of the most important songs on the album because the next day we got the inspiration to write “Youngblood” and a couple of weeks later that led to “Want You Back.” I love that song.
HOOD: The song, or in this case, songs I’m most proud of are “Youngblood” and “Lie to Me.” As a songwriter, you look for songs that come to fruition organically and fluidly. Songs that keep inspiring you to push yourself. These are the two for me.
IRWIN: It’s the first time ever that I’ve been most proud of one of our singles. “Youngblood” is an amazing, dynamic song. Lyrically, it’s very truthful to me. I couldn’t be happier that that’s the leading single.
CLIFFORD: For me, it’s a song called “Ghost of You.” It’s the last song on the album. That one is a really special song to me because I recently lost a very precious little dog. That song connected with me before that happened. After that happened, it’s become the song where I always think about her. If I was a person who was a fan of our music and I had that song, it would be able to help me through some things.
You guys are about to kick off a world tour. What can fans expect from it?
HEMMINGS: Obviously, it’s focused more on the third album, because that’s what people want to hear. It’s the slickest show that we’ve ever had. All the endings and beginnings tie together very well. The lighting show is amazing.
IRWIN: When we approached this new show, it was about respectfully tying in the old music and respecting the past fans we’ve had and respecting the new music we’ve made and understanding that we have all types of people coming to our show. It’s a dynamic and challenging show for us musically because we’re all playing multiple instruments. We’re just trying to up the game.
CLIFFORD: We’re experimenting with new things. Now that we’re a little older, we’re a little more confident in our musicianship and our showmanship. It’s fun to experiment. We know what our fans love, and we always want to make sure they have the best experience possible. We think we’ve done a really dynamic, interesting, and creative show.
Are you excited to get back on the road or nervous about getting back into that whirlwind schedule?
HEMMINGS: It’s hard because it’s nice to miss a home base. It’s nice to miss somewhere. I miss my dog that’s for sure. But we get to play shows for people that want to hear our music, so that’s incredible. If you’re sick of being on a tour bus, then you just gotta remember that.
IRWIN: I’m excited to get back to that schedule. I feel more confident than I was. I know how to deal with touring in general; it’s a constant mental battle. You need to stay healthy. I think about things like the merchandise we’re going to release. I play a big part in creating that, so I’m really excited to see how people like it.
CLIFFORD: Traveling is pretty hard. But it pays off as soon as you get to those places and you see you have fans who are there to support you and who love music just as much as you do. It’s tough traveling and it’s tough being away from any sort of routine. You are living a strange life that almost isn’t human, but you just ease into it. The support from our fans is always what gets us through it.