Hailing from a small suburb outside of Sydney, Australia, 5 Seconds of Summer embarked on a journey in the fast lane and attained international success in a few short years. The young band’s YouTube VEVO page started in May 2013 and is currently just shy of 500 million total views. In 2014 their self-titled debut soared to the top of the charts. Now one year later the quartet has released their second full-length, Sounds Good Feels Good.
Though the band established their presence in the music world upon winning “breakout artist” awards from major U.S. media outlets, 19-year-olds Luke Hemmings, Michael Clifford, Calum Hood and 21-year-old Ashton Irwin have stated that they are hungry for more than that, and are armed with a passionate focus on the music––not just the hits.
Music Connection caught up with Irwin as he was battling jetlag and roaming the streets of London where the band was scheduled to do promotion. In our interview he recalls the band’s formative experiences; their relationship with Modest! Management; the talent scouting vision of their record label (Hi or Hey Records); and much more.
Music Connection: We first saw you on the “Where We Are” tour with One Direction, which was huge––the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, packed with 100,000 fans. [Guitarist] Michael [Clifford] has mentioned the feeling of being “flung” into the music scene as opposed to growing into it. Was it hard to catch your breath?
Ashton Irwin: I think it’s the best way to learn how to do anything––just to be thrown in the deep end and really go for it. I think we all took it differently. We’ve been a band for four years now and everything has escalated really quickly. And it’s been amazing; I wouldn’t have it any other way. You learn [fast] and you learn to be good at what you do.
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MC: Were there things that you were ready for or not ready for? Any difficult challenges you had to face?
Irwin: You’re not ready for any of it, and that’s the best part: you’re not ready for playing in a stadium, not ready for playing in an arena, not ready for the attention that you get. You’re not ready for anything. It shows the measure of a band how well they handle themselves … We had to handle it together and learn how to make the most out of the situation and grow into our surroundings and our environment that we’re in.
MC: What are some of the lessons you learned from that early point in your career that you are now applying going forward with your new album and tour?
Irwin: Early on in the tour, you gotta realize that every opportunity is a good opportunity for your band. Make the most of the situations you get because situations don’t come around too often, [especially] for a band just starting out. So yeah, you gotta make the most of things. Advice? I think paying attention to the fact that it’s not supposed to be easy will get you a long way.
MC: For those who aren’t familiar with you guys, you gained worldwide recognition via YouTube, correct?
Irwin: I wouldn’t agree, actually. The most we ever got on our YouTube was probably 400,000 views, and the first time we released an original song was when we first started getting recognition, actually, which was really incredible. And that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing with music, and we’ve only been doing [it] from then on. That was in 2011. We released an original song called “Gotta Get Out,” and that was a song about where we’re from and our home. The fans really gravitated toward that more so than our covers, so from then on we stuck with that.
MC: Louis Tomlinson [from One Direction] tweeted the link to [that] video claiming he was a fan of you guys. Is that when the band reached out to you for touring? How did they approach you?
Irwin: Around the same time, yeah, the tour wasn’t “Where We Are;” it was the first stadium tour, “Take Me Home,” back in 2012. Back then I can’t remember where we were…that was years and years ago now. It was in Adelaide in Australia. That’s about it––we got the opportunity and we said, “Yes!” and then we came over to England and started writing our first ever album. Started out from scratch over here [England] just like we did from home playing acoustic shows around the city. We played one at a place called Marble Arch and 12 people came to that, and it built from there. We started supporting the boys and did our own shows at the same time, and it grew and grew and grew. It was amazing.
MC: How do you continue to hone your skills as a musician? Can you offer any advice to players who are looking to up their game?
Irwin: Playing every night on tour helps you stay on it as a musician, but we’re always picking up our instruments and playing every day.