If you ever considered yourself a “scene kid” or at least part of the emo scene in the mid to early 2000s, you’re probably familiar with the name Family Force 5. The crunk rock fivesome from Atlanta became best known for their rock hits “Cray Button” and “BZRK,” keeping fans entertained with quirky on-and-off-stage antics in their heyday.
Like many of the bands from that era, Family Force 5 had largely faded into the emo oblivion. But thanks to brother bandmates Jacob and Josh Olds, the former fivesome has found a new life – this time in duo form, under the new moniker FF5.
“It is the same guys, but it is completely different,” Josh says of the group’s new name and rebirth. “We’re not unhappy with what we accomplished [as Family Force 5]. It’s kinda like a fresh start – like, ‘Let’s wipe the slate clean, but we don’t wanna push fans away.”
With Jacob moving from behind the drums to center stage — taking over the frontman duties that were once his older brother Solomon’s — the group was already forced to make a major transition. Solomon’s gravelly vocals helped Family Force 5 lean into rock ‘n’ roll, while Jacob’s cleaner, smoother sound sways FF5 more towards funky pop – part of what resulted in the change in the first place.
When Solomon decided to leave the group to focus on his family about four and a half years ago, Jacob, Josh and their non-sibling bandmates had some re-evaluating to do. Everyone aside from Josh and Jacob was looking to continue in the rock realm, so the group naturally disbanded, allowing the brothers to take things to the dancier, poppier place they desired.
“The energy is way more melodic than it ever was with my brother,” Jacob explains. “It’s a little more smooth, but it has this Prince-esque vibe that is a little bit more sexy. That energy comes through.”
Jacob isn’t exaggerating when he says the energy comes through, evidenced on FF5’s new EP El Compadre, officially out on Curb Records Friday (March 2) and premiering on Billboard today (March 1). The guys first introduced the project with the airy open-road anthem “Fire on the Highway” in January, which Jacob says was very heavily influenced by the ‘80s and synth-pop, as was most of the EP.
“[“Fire On The Highway”] totally reminds me of something you would hear in a John Hughes movie, growing up with these teenagers trying to figure out who they are,” he says. “It very much was taken there, like, ‘What could we write that could possibly be the soundtrack to kids’ life right now?’”
The rest of the seven-song set sees the Olds brothers combining heavy drums with electro-pop sounds on tracks like the funky “Sweatband” and almost dreamy “Stardust.” Lyrically, FF5 haven’t steered too far from the eccentric ways of Family Force 5, especially true on the hilariously hyped-up “Tiger Night,” a metaphorical track about a wild night out that’s “so ferocious.”
The same can be said about their bold aesthetic both on the yellow-drenched El Compadre cover, and in their wacky personal styles, as unconventionality has always been part of group’s brand. And when it comes to the live show element of FF5, Jacob and Josh promise just as much craziness as fans witnessed in the Family Force 5 days.
“I think that’s our mantra whether it was Family Force 5 or FF5 — ‘What’s going to keep this person’s attention?’” Jacob says. “It’s gonna be us running across the stage or dancing or jumping on trampolines. Live show and FF5 go hand in hand.”
Jacob and Josh are particularly amped to put out FF5’s new music because, while they loved being part of the pop-punk scene in the 2000s, the way music has evolved into an almost genre-less era – and subsequently, listeners are more open-minded – is inspiring.
“It’s very empowering for artists like us,” Jacob says. “It’s a really cool and encouraging time in music.”
As for the EP title El Compadre, it’s not as random as you might think. El Compadre is Josh and Jacob’s favorite Mexican joint in Los Angeles, and in fact, it has played a major role in their band’s career.
“As funny as it sounds, a Mexican restaurant has been a milestone in our lives,” Josh says with a laugh. “We had our first meeting when we signed our first deal with Maverick at El Compadre. We had a meeting when we got dropped from Maverick at El Compadre. We had a meeting when we signed to Capitol at El Compadre. We kinda started there, and we keep going back when cool stuff keeps happening.”
And perhaps most importantly, as Jacob adds, “They have the best salsa ever.”
The guys will be making a trip to LA the week after their EP’s release and will be stopping by El Compadre for another fortuitous meal (“Maybe we can just talk to the owner and see if we can buy stock in the restaurant,” Josh jokes). What kind of career moment their latest visit will entail is eagerly anticipated, but at least at that point the guys will know they have a fun ‘80s-pop EP – and plenty of yummy Mexican food – to celebrate.
“What could be better than a John Hughes movie and a bowl of salsa?” Jacob says. “It’s the simple things in life!”
Check out El Compadre below.