5 Seconds of Summer have come a long way in just four years, but the Aussie pop-punk quartet aren’t letting international success blind them to the harsher realities of life.
With lyrics about “the new broken scene” they’re speaking to and for, recent single “She’s Kinda Hot” (co-written by Good Charlotte‘s Joel and Benji Madden) from upcoming album Sounds Good Feels Good (out Oct. 23) shows they’re committed to staying true to themselves even while aiming for radio play.
In anticipation of 5SOS’ Billboard cover story, which comes out Thursday, Sept. 24, here are five ways 5 Seconds of Summer stay grounded.
Remembering Their Background
“Our culture is working-class, like, f—ing violent,” says Ashton Irwin of growing up in Hawkesbury, a suburb of Sydney. “You can’t afford shit. You take public transport. You buy $5 McDonald’s meals. It’s just epic, depressed suburbia.”
“I don’t think we ever verbally said we want to do this to get out of our shitty little town. But it was a thing we all kind of knew, and that’s why we stuck with it,” Michael Clifford adds.
Talking About Hard Issues That Matter
“Look at top 40 radio,” Irwin says. “No one is writing music that highlights what everyone is scared to talk about — which is that everyone is sick and depressed these days. People our age, we all feel like shit about ourselves. We wake up and we look at our phones and there are a thousand opinions on who we are — or what we are. It’s destructive.”
They Remember When They Weren’t So Beloved
When 5SOS started opening for 1D, the sight of a guitar band opening for a boy band didn’t sit well with many Directioners. Clifford recalls the response: “There were shitloads of people being like, ‘F— this band, these guys are all shit-ugly dipshits. What are they doing on tour with One Direction, my perfect babies?’”
Irwin once drew a butterfly on a fan’s wrist where she had been cutting herself. “The fans feel like they know us, because they do,” Irwin tells Billboard. “We’re here together in 2015, and we’re experiencing the same issues.”
Focusing on Their Music
“Most bands want to smoke weed and play video games, and they don’t,” collaborator Joel Madden says of 5SOS. Irwin describes wrangling his bandmates during early practices: “I’d be like, ‘You have to come to rehearsals because we sound like shit!’ ‘Where the f— is Calum?’ ‘Michael, get off the computer!’ ‘Luke, what do you mean your mom wants to pick you up now?!'”
Read the full 5 Seconds of Summer cover story on Thursday, Sept. 24.