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Interview with Five Iron Frenzy's Keith Hoerig
May, 2000
By Josh Marihugh
Photos by Clarke Woodfin 

Back in May, 2000 I sat down with Keith Hoerig, the bass player of Five Iron Frenzy, for a fairly lengthy discussion. Here, is what Keith had to say.

Tollbooth: I read somewhere that when Five Iron was first starting out, you guys crashed the Cornerstone Festival. What can you tell me about that?

Hoerig: We tried, every day, to get on at the Impromptu stage, where they draw x number of bands per day out of a hat to play. but we hadn't gotten chosen. So finally, we just set up by the skate ramp. I've been going to Cornerstone for -- I think this is my ninth year -- and when I first started going, this was kind of a common thing. I think now Cornerstone frowns on that kind of thing, and I wouldn't recommend anyone doing anything they wouldn't like because we love Cornerstone. But, yeah, our first appearance at Cornerstone was just us setting up on the grass with all of our own equipment, running off of one power outlet out by the skate ramp. After we were done we let some other bands use our equipment and play and then Andrew Mandell from Ballydowse did an impromptu communion service.

Tollbooth: I've been listening to the new album [All the Hype that Money Can Buy] rather extensively. What's your favorite song on the album?

Hoerig: I actually like a lot of songs on the new record, but if I had to pick a couple, I'd have to say that I like "451" a lot, just because I think it's a really good song musically, and I like the lyrics too. I also like the song "World Without End" because I love the aggressiveness of it and I like the lyrics on that song too. And I like "The Phantom Mullet" a lot because it's a serious song and not at all serious.

Tollbooth: One of my favorite Five Iron Frenzy songs is "Where is Micah?" Have you ever actually left Micah anywhere?

Hoerig: I don't think we've ever actually left Micah anywhere. There was once we almost left Brad on the side of the road. We had to pull over to the side to change a tire or something, and we thought everyone was back in, and it turned out Brad wasn't.

Tollbooth: My brother told me that there's a serious message in the song "Blue Comb '76" from Our Newest Album Ever. I really don't hear one. Is there really supposed to be one there?

Hoerig: Yes there is, actually. It's a song that's supposed to be, on the surface, very light and funny. And you're right, it is subtle. But there's that subtext there of grief, about his parents' divorce. That's one of the last memories Reese [Roper, lead singer] has of his parents together before they got divorced.

Tollbooth: On that note, I know you guys have a lot of light and silly material, and yet you really do convey a serious message. Some people may say you're too subtle, though. What would you say to them?

Hoerig: If we're too subtle for someone, I would hope they could enjoy us simply to have a good time with the music. And if they can't do that, that's cool, because there's other bands out there for them.

Tollbooth: I keep hearing the saying, "Ska is dead." If ska really is dead, where does Five Iron go from here?

Hoerig: I've been reading a book by Joe Jackson, who had some big hits in the 70s and 80s. He's currently busy writing progressive symphonies, basically modern classical music. One of the things he said in his autobiography was that music doesn't die. Musical styles don't die. Ska may not be the big musical trend anymore, largely because people get sick of it being crammed down their throats. In a few months, "new metal" may be "dead," because again, I think musical styles don't really die. I think there will always be a demand for songs that are written and performed well.

Tollbooth: There for several months, Christian labels were putting out all these ska bands, and it seemed that very few of them were very good. It just seemed to help propagate the myth that Christian music is inferior to its mainstream counterparts.

Hoerig: To clarify a bit, we should mention that Five Iron Frenzy has never been a "ska band." We are comfortable with the label "ska-core," which is really a different thing. Traditional ska is something we have a great respect for; without the pioneers of ska in the 1960s, we wouldn't be doing what we're doing now. But we don't play true ska.

But you're right about the market. It happens in the Christian market, and it happens in the non-Christian market. People don't look for bands that they can respect musically; they're looking for the hot, popular sound, the current trend. And the hot, popular sound will sell for a while, but then it'll go away, and the bands that will remain are the ones that were actually good bands.

Well-written music isn't a fad, and it doesn't matter what style it's in. I don't listen only to ska. That's part of what propagates all of this, are kids that decide only to listen to one kind of music -- "I only listen to ska" or "I only listen to punk." Hopefully, they reach a point where they start to grow and listen to other kinds of music, but while they're in that phase, it provides an audience for really mediocre bands, rather than people saying "I'm going to find music that I respect, both in the songwriting and the players."

Tollbooth: So what are the band's musical influences?

Hoerig: Well, we're pretty diverse musically, but there are a few bands that all of us listen to and appreciate, stuff like Skank'n Pickle, the Specials, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Less Than Jake, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, NOFX, MxPx. There's a ton of bands really. Weezer, definitely.

Tollbooth: What else do you listen to?

Hoerig: I grew up listening to the Altar Boys, Believer, Nobody Special, Scaterd Few, bands like that, and the early Christian punk bands. A lot of that great stuff that's just now being re-released. And a lot of heavy metal, things like Iron Maiden.

Currently I've been listening to a lot of Joe Jackson stuff, Jimmy Eat World. Danny Elfman soundtracks -- I love the soundtrack for A Nightmare Before Christmas. And I've been getting into the Beatles a lot. I'd never really listened to them except on the radio before.

Tollbooth: What else are you up to?

Hoerig: Members of the band do have some other things going on. Reese and Dennis [Culp, trombone] and I recorded an album, coming out on Five Minute Walk, under the name Brave Saint Saturn. It's not a Five Iron record, it's a pop record, with a message of finding hope, even in the midst of depression and despair. Dennis is working on a project that I don't know the name of, based on the fourteen or fifteen Psalms known as "Songs of Ascent." I think that one's just going to be sold on the Internet.

We've got a lot of non-musical things going on too. There's been two marriages recently, and one of our members got engaged. A couple of members are in school, things like that. We took a couple of months off from touring, and it's been nice because we've gotten to do things like Brave Saint Saturn that had been put on hold because of Five Iron.

Tollbooth: If I wanted to recommend Five Iron as a band for someone to listen to, which album should I have them start with?

Hoerig: I'd probably say the live album Proof That the Youth Are Revolting, because there's songs from our whole career on there. It gives people a good cross-section of what we're about.

Tollbooth: I think that about covers all the questions I had...any final comments?

Hoerig: Not really. Thanks for the interview.

 Copyright © 1996 - 2001 The Phantom Tollbooth