|Five Iron Frenzy
A telephone interview by Shari Lloyd
I'm not a morning person. Any hour before 9:00 AM, I don't want to know it exists! Ska for the morning ride to work suits me just fine. It's peppy music, which gets me going without taxing the brain too much. One morning, through some quirk of fate, I must have actually been awake. Much to my surprise, instead of mindless ska lyrics, I was hearing some intelligent, interesting, and sometimes humorous lyrics. These lyrics convinced me that I had to talk to Five Iron Frenzy. I made a few phone calls and was able to track down Scott Kerr at Masaki's California studio where the band was putting the finishing touches on their new album, Our Newest Album Ever!
Shari - I like the name Five Iron Frenzy! Can you tell me the story behind it?
Scott - About two and a half years ago, we were looking for a band name. We had a couple of roommates that were going downtown one evening. One guy thought there was a group of people looking to beat him up, so he brought a golf club with him for protection. As he was leaving, he was telling us about a time he and his brother were miniature golfing, and his brother started going crazy with the putter. It was like putter mayhem. I happened to notice he was carrying a five iron and "five iron frenzy" just sort of came off my lips. We decided it sounded cool for a band name.
Shari - You started as a speed industrial band, Exhumater, and later became Five Iron Frenzy.
Scott - Well, some of us were in a different band, but Five Iron Frenzy has always been a ska band. Five Iron Frenzy actually started as kind of a side project, but we soon decided to go for something a lot more happy sounding. We enjoyed doing ska so much and we were tired of being dark all the time, so we decided to ditch the other thing.
Shari - Who were your ska influences?
Scott - Ska influences? We have a lot of influences that are incorporated in the music. As far as ska bands go, the Pietasters is definitely an influence. I'd also say Skavoovie & the Epitones, and Slapstick. As far as other bands that have influenced us, I'd say NOFX and Weezer. I also like just basic old-time jazz and swing.
Shari - You've been referred to as a third-wave ska band. Do you agree with that, and can you explain for our readers what that is?
Scott - Obviously, there have been three waves of ska. It started out in Jamaica. I'm not going to give you a whole history lesson here, but it started in the late fifties. The first wave is actually the forefather of reggae. It's changed a lot since then. The second-wave ska bands were the Specials, English Beat, and Madness. Now the third wave is a lot more diverse. I think it's even important to differentiate between third-wave ska and ska-core. Some people refer to it as the same thing. There's a difference, but I guess it's not really all that important, as long as you understand that some bands that are still considered third wave ska bands have more of a traditional sound. Others have maybe more of a two-tone sound. Ska-core usually combines ska with punk rock, or pop, or other styles of music, and that's what we do.
Shari - Ska lyrics are characteristically goofy and fun. Do you think that's a correct description in general.
Scott - Well, as far as mainstream lyrics go, I'd say they're typically about beer and girls. You find some bands, especially the more punk-ska bands, that will get more political with their lyrics. I guess it really depends upon the band. If I had to pick something that was typical, I'd have to say beer (laughs) is the thing most ska bands like to sing about.
Shari - They seem goofy and fun. There doesn't seem to be a lot of depth to them, but yours seem to be the exception. Even compared to the Supertones's lyrics, yours seem to have a lot more serious overtones. Why do you feel that is? Is that intentional?
Scott - I wish you had Reese here to answer that since he writes most of the lyrics. The music's my department. I've heard him answer this question several times so I can try and speak for him. He feels an obligation to tell the truth, and he also feels an obligation, not always necessarily, to say something meaningful. We have a few songs that are goofy because we have a sense of humor as well, but he just usually draws inspiration from something that he's reading at the time.
Shari - You have a song "Zero Meets Fifteen." Could you tell us a little bit about that song?
Scott - That's about when
Reece was at an intersection, at Colfax and
Shari - What can you tell us about the new album?
Scott - Personally, I think it's miles over the first album. It's called Our Newest Album Ever!. It's going to be released November 11th. I think it shows a lot of growth in all of us as musicians. I'm happy with all of the songs, whereas on the first record, there's a lot of older material that we released that doesn't show the level of maturity that the newer songs do. It's a little less punk influenced, although I don't think that it's lost any of its energy or aggression. The songs still hit hard and they're energetic, but I've been kind of tiring of the real super-fast punk stuff over the last few months. The fact that I'm tired of it has kind of worked its way into my writing.
Shari - I remember you from r.m.c. (newgroup rec.music.christian) telling us there was this terrific band in Denver we just had to check out. At that time, did you ever think you'd become one of the best known Christian ska bands?
Scott - Well, no. I guess I sort of had that idea. I don't want to sound pretentious or anything, but I think we're a good band. On the other hand, I had no idea we'd succeed financially as well as we have. We're able to do this as a living now, and I never had any idea that so many people would be enjoying our music.
Shari - Do you have any advice for new bands just starting off?
Scott - A good frame of mind! My goal was not to be signed. I'm speaking for myself, and I think in a lot of ways, I reflect the ideas of the other people in Five Iron. I'd say keep your eyes on the reason you're doing it, whether it be to make good music, or to be extremely evangelical, or whatever your primary focus is. Keep that in mind. We always thought it'd be cool to put out a record on a record label, but that was not our goal. It wasn't our focus. It was just writing good songs and doing what we do. The record labels came to us.
Shari - How did you come to sign with 5 Minute Walk? As I recall, after Cornerstone '96, there were a lot of labels interested in signing you guys. In fact, we heard you were signed with one, and all of a sudden you were signed with another label.
Scott - Yeah! One of the first labels to approach us was Frontline, Alarma Records. That was actually before Cornerstone. They sent us a contract, and we were in negotiations with them but we didn't sign with them. They printed ads in 7-ball magazine with their list of bands, and we're among them. Whoa! That was kind of interesting, because we hadn't signed anything with those guys.
This kind of ties back into the advice you asked me to give. A lot of bands get stuck with a really bad deal because they get offered a record contract, and they're excited and they just sign. We were cautious and had a lawyer review the contract. We had revisions, and we also wanted to look at other labels and see what they had to offer to help us meet our goals. We heard nothing but good things about 5 Minute Walk. We met Frank Tate and seemed to hit it off well, and that's what we feltGod would have us do, and we're really happy with it. There's no other Christian label that we would want to be a part of.
Shari - After Cornerstone festival this year, a lot of people wrote us. People frequently mentioned your show as one they thought was really special, that a lot of ministry occurred there. What happened? Is that show typical of your shows?
Scott - Our attitude towards the whole ministry side of the band is that God can and will use us. We don't feel an obligation to preach or not to preach. What happened at that show wasn't so much preaching, but at the end we stayed around and sang praise songs. That's happened a few times. Actually, it's happened several times, but it doesn't happen every time. We just have to go by what we think God is leading us to do. The problem is that when we don't do something like that, people actually complain which is pretty lame. We don't want to do anything that is of ourselves. We want to do everything as God leads us.
Shari - At the last label-wide retreat, there was a commitment made to play the regular club scene more. How is that plan progressing?
Scott - That's going pretty well, especially our shows in Denver are getting back to playing more clubs. Our goal is to hopefully attract a big-name booking agency, if this new record does well enough. That's still just a goal, though; it hasn't been realized yet.
Shari - Now that you're almost done recording, what are your plans?
Scott - To go home! For a few days at least. We're not going to be home very long before we start touring. We want to relax a little bit, and we've got a show back in Denver before we start the tour.
Shari - How much touring are you doing?
Scott - Quite a bit! We've already done three national tours and lots of short things here and there. We're getting ready to do our fourth in October and November. We're out of town more often than we're home right now.
Shari - What's the best part about touring?
Scott - Just the experiences you get. Getting to visit a lot of places that other people don't have the opportunity to go to. Meeting people from all across the country. I think it expands your view. That's the main thing, plus it's fun to play shows a lot. (laughs) Improving as a band.
Shari - I read you toured in an '81 Ford Superwagon. Are you still doing that?
Scott - It's a big, 15-passenger van. Actually, on the end of our last tour, the van kind of croaked, but I think we're in the process of reviving it.
Shari - Anything else you'd like our readers to know that I didn't ask?
Scott - Ska is not a verb.
Copyright© 1997 The Phantom Tollbooth