Five Iron Frenzy
Five Iron Frenzy
|Also known as||Five Iron, FIF|
|Origin||Denver, Colorado, US|
|Genres||Christian ska, ska punk, alternative rock|
|Years active||1995–2003, 2011–present|
|Labels||Five Minute Walk, Asian Man|
Five Iron Frenzy first gained notoriety spearheading the Christian ska movement during the genre's mainstream revival in the mid-1990s. The band developed a cult following among both Christian and secular audiences for their lively and energetic stage shows, which often featured the band performing in outlandish costumes or raising awareness of various social causes and charities. Five Iron Frenzy had sold almost one million units in total by the time they had initially disbanded in November 2003. Following an eight-year hiatus, the band announced a reunion in 2011, launching an accompanying Kickstarter campaign to help finance a new album which ultimately raised over $200,000, becoming the website's most successful musical project at the time. Their sixth and most recent studio album, Engine of a Million Plots, was released in November 2013.
Musically, Five Iron Frenzy is largely influenced by ska and punk rock, occasionally incorporating such disparate styles as heavy metal and Latin music. Since 2000, the band began downplaying their ska influences in favor of alternative rock and pop punk, embracing a style which singer and lyricist Reese Roper has described as "rock with horns". Lyrically, Five Iron Frenzy is known for both their positive Christian messages rooted in Social Gospel convictions as well as humorous secular songs referencing popular culture. The band's recurring lyrical themes touch upon Christian hypocrisy, struggles with faith, criticism of consumerism and capitalism, the continuing injustices done to Native Americans, manifest destiny, self-deprecating humor, and the joy of finding renewal in their Christian faith.
Five Iron Frenzy began as a side-project of Reese Roper, Keith Hoerig, Micah Ortega, and Scott Kerr's band Exhumator. Exhumator had an industrial thrash metal sound, but its members were not into the style. Their only widely released song was "Spam Jam", on the compilation Green Manna (Fifty280 Records). Beginning in May 1995, the group started adding members, and settled on a ska sound in June with the addition of Brad Dunham. The band, sans Micah, Jeff, and Dennis, played on an impromptu stage set up at a skate ramp at the 1995 Cornerstone festival. The show included Ghoti Hook (before they signed with Tooth & Nail), and the audience included Alex Parker of Flying Tart Records. Although the show was supposed to be closed down by Andrew Mandell of Crashdog and Ballydowse, it was not. The band attributes some of their early success to the fact that they were allowed to play and Five Iron returned the next year sponsored by a record label.
In August, Culp and Leanor Ortega officially joined, completing the initial lineup. The band's original intent was to stay local, and they opened for acts such as the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Less Than Jake, and Skankin' Pickle, playing over sixty shows during their first eight months. Though many of these shows were played in regular venues, a great number were also played in churches and at Christian-sponsored events, including the 1996 Cornerstone Festival on the Alarma Records stage. They entertained several offers from major Christian record labels including Alarma, Tooth & Nail Records, and Brainstorm Artists International before signing to Frank Tate's 5 Minute Walk Records in August.
Origin of the band's nameEdit
An excerpt from an interview between Jesus Freak Hideout and Keith Hoerig appears below:
Jesus freak Hideout: What's the story behind the name "Five Iron Frenzy"?
Keith Hoerig: We got the name Five Iron Frenzy from a roommate of most of ours. He was kind of paranoid, and afraid that if he went outside on this particular night he was going to get jumped by some people. He had a golf club to defend himself and he said something to the effect of it being like "putter mayhem". Scott looked at the golf club he was holding, and noting that it was a five iron said, "No, more like a Five Iron Frenzy." The name stuck.
Reese Roper on the band's success.
Upbeats and Beatdowns and initial tours (1996-1997)Edit
Their first album, Upbeats and Beatdowns was recorded in September and initially released in November 1996. Its national release in April 1997 proved an early success for Five Iron, as the release peaked at 39 on Billboards "Top Contemporary Christian" chart. By the time of the release of their second album, Upbeats had sold 50,000 units. The music video for "A Flowery Song" received a Dove Award nomination in the "short form video" category. That year was largely spent on the road, and the band played 150 shows. Early on, the band was active in promoting social causes. Their song "Where the Zero Meets the Fifteen", which brought attention to the cause of homelessness, received some radio airplay. That October the band embarked on the "Rock Your Socks Off" tour, for which attendees were asked to bring clean socks for donation to local homeless shelters.
Our Newest Album Ever! and Quantity is Job 1 (1997-2000)Edit
In November 1997 the band released their second album, Our Newest Album Ever!. Following the success of their first album, the band felt that their success had been based at least partially on the third wave of ska in general. According to Scott Kerr "The unfortunate reality is that good songs and good live performances have far less to do with our so-called success than our being a part of the 'flavor-of-the-month'." Five Iron Frenzy sought to distance themselves from the ska scene while maintaining their artistic integrity. Dennis Culp portrayed their goal, stating that "The Police used a lot of ska, but they really weren't referred to as a ska band... they went far beyond ska." For Five Iron, the method of achieving that goal was the creative process. On the first three releases Roper wrote most of the lyrics and Kerr supplied the musical portion. After Kerr left, the band began to explore a wider variety of musical influences, incorporating diverse influences such as Latin and swing music. Roper continued to write the lyrics, a task that he took seriously. He explained to 7ball in 1997 that "It's not like we try to sit down and write wacky songs. I take songwriting pretty seriously... I've been given this podium. I have a responsibility to tell the truth about things."
Andrew Verdecchio on the band's purpose.
Their most significant tour in 1998 was the Ska Against Racism tour, which raised awareness of and money for anti-racism causes. Five Iron was the only openly Christian band on the tour, yet in typical style refrained from using their set as a platform to preach to the crowds. Later that year, they embarked on the national SkaMania tour with The Insyderz and The OC Supertones. Five Iron found this tour was markedly different for the band in terms of interacting with both the audience and their tourmates because both of the other participating bands were Christian bands. In 1998, songwriter and lead guitarist Scott Kerr left the band on friendly terms and started his own project, Yellow Second.
All the Hype Money Can Buy and Electric Boogaloo (2000-2003)Edit
They reached the peak of their popularity around 2000, with the release of All The Hype That Money Can Buy. With the release of Hype, the band continued to diversify their sound, incorporating calypso, salsa, and reggae. Musically Hype turned out to be their most eclectic album. The band toured internationally throughout 2000. Mid summer the band toured in South Africa, and in December they played in Europe. By the time of the release of their next album, the band had sold over a cumulative half-million albums worldwide.
Culp's musical direction became prominent, although the composition duties were spread somewhat amongst band members. Production and engineering for every album was led by Masaki "Saki" Liu at his One Way Studio. With the release of Five Iron Frenzy 2: Electric Boogaloo, FIF's sound leaned more towards horn-tinged hard rock than ska, although all of the original horns were still intact. According to Keith Hoerig: "It's a rock record with horns, in the vein of Chicago and the Rolling Stones, who have horns all over their records." 2001 marked a turning point for the band as their record contract with Five Minute Walk ran out, leading to rumors that the band would break up. For a time they considered signing with a major label, but they decided to finish their career with 5 Minute Walk.
In late 2001 the band embarked on the "Electric Youth" tour with Relient K, John Reuben, and Ace Troubleshooter. On this tour again the audience was asked to bring socks for donation to local homeless shelters, and to make them into sock puppets for audience participation. On this tour the audience numbered about 1,200 per night, creating what was referred to as the "world's largest sock puppet choir." Socks were also judged afterward in a "Sock Puppet Pageant" of sorts, with prizes given in various categories. The tour's name is a tribute to Debbie Gibson, who wrote an album by the same name.
Keith Hoerig on the band's final year.
The End is Here and breakup (2003)Edit
In early 2003 Five Iron announced their impending breakup via their website. They dedicated their final year to their fans, playing at many major Christian music festivals and releasing Cheeses...(of Nazareth), a collection of joke songs and B-sides, and their final studio album, The End Is Near. After clarifying that instead of "breaking up" they were "quitting," they embarked on a national tour entitled the "Winners Never Quit Tour" with Bleach, Holland, and Cameron Jaymes. They played their final show on November 22, 2003 at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, Colorado. The night before the show Denver received a heavy snow, many fans wondered if the show would be canceled. This show had an attendance of over 3,600 people and was widely released in 2004 as the double disk set The End Is Here, alongside The End Is Near.
|“||If we do get back together, I think you should make us all eat a handful of mayonnaise.||”|
|— Reese Roper on the possibility of a Five Iron Frenzy reunion.|
Persistent rumors about a reunion, were always denied by the band as the former members moved on to other projects. Reese Roper was involved in a short lived project called Guerilla Rodeo, (that also included fellow FIF member Sonnie Johnston), Ace Troubleshooter's John Warne and Josh Abbot, and the OC Supertones' Ethan Luck. The band recorded a three-song EP before the members moved on to other projects. Roper then signed under his own name as Roper and released the album Brace Yourself for the Mediocre on 5 Minute Walk Records. Roper also presided over the band Brave Saint Saturn, a studio side-project featuring several other FIF members telling the story of stranded astronauts. The project started in 1995 as a Five Iron side project and has released three albums. Their long-awaited third album, Anti-Meridian, was released September 15, 2008. Reese Roper played an acoustic set at Soulfest 2008. In 2005, Five Iron Frenzy received national exposure when their song, "Oh, Canada" (which referenced William Shatner), appeared on the TV series Boston Legal.
On September 16, 2009 it was announced through Facebook that the DVD titled 'The Rise and Fall of Five Iron Frenzy' would be released in winter of 2010. A website was launched as well. According to the Asian Man Records website, the DVD was released to pre-orders March 19, 2010 and became available in stores in April 2010. The DVD contained a 3-hour documentary filmed and edited mainly by Reese Roper, composed of interviews with the band members and live performance and tour travel footage.
Reunion and Engine of a Million Plots (2011 – present)Edit
During the fall of 2011, the band's website went live with a countdown to November 22, which was the eighth anniversary for the band's final show at the Fillmore in Denver. Since the production and release of their documentary many members of Five Iron Frenzy had already been discussing a reunion. Roper and Ortega Till began hinting at an announcement. On November 22, 2011, the band announced they were writing new material and working on a new record, and gave away a free song titled "It Was A Dark And Stormy Night" with the file name "Hope Still Flies". In order to fund the new record the band started a Kickstarter hoping to raise $30,000 in 30 days. That goal was reached within the first hour of launching and the band ultimately raised over $200,000.
Keith Hoerig was the only member of the band to decline taking part in the reunion and his position as bass player was filled by Scott Kerr, returning to the band for the first time since he left in 1998. The next two years were spent working on the new album and playing select live dates. The band played their first reunion show on April 28, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. Their new album Engine of a Million Plots was released on November 26, 2013 on CD, vinyl and digital formats.
Changes in religious commitmentEdit
In The Rise and Fall of Five Iron Frenzy, Scott Kerr explained that he chose to leave the band in 1998 due to his renunciation of Christianity. The documentary ends with Andrew Verdecchio implying a similar rejection of belief in God. Kerr, after rejoining the band, explained on the Five Iron Frenzy site that he remains irreligious. Verdecchio described himself as an atheist in an interview in 2012. Other members of the band remain involved in Christian churches to various degrees; in a 2016 interview, Leanor Ortega-Till listed the rest of the current lineup's denominational make up as including Calvinist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Church of Christ and Assemblies of God.
During an Interview on Broken FM, Leanor Ortega Till described a two-year period of her own severe doubts which caused her to try to avoid fans.
- "Rock Your Socks Off" w/The Altered and The Echoing Green - Fall 1997
- "El Doc Tour" w/The Echoing Green, The Electrics, and The W's - March 1998
- "Ska Against Racism" w/The Toasters, Less Than Jake, Blue Meanies, Mustard Plug, MU330, Kemuri, and Mike Park - Spring 1998
- "Ham Jam" w/The W's, Relient K, Philmore and Soul-Junk - Summer 2000
- "Electric Youth" w/Relient K, John Reuben and Ace Troubleshooter - Fall 2001
- "Winners Never Quit" w/Bleach, Holland, and Cameron Jaymes - Fall 2003
List of side projectsEdit
- Yellow Second - included Kerr and Verdecchio; their third album, Altitude, was released on Floodgate Records in 2004; broke up in late 2005.
- Roper - Reese Roper also played in a band called Roper that put out one full-length album entitled Brace Yourself For the Mediocre. This album came out in Oct 2004 .
- Brave Saint Saturn - Brave Saint Saturn (stylized as braveSaintSaturn, brave saint saturn or BS2) is a Christian rock band formed in Denver, Colorado in 1995. The band is a side-project of former members of Five Iron Frenzy started by Reese Roper. The band calls their music style "astro-rock," although Roper has stated that this "doesn't mean anything." The trilogy of albums are meant to artfully represent early life, adversity, and death.
- Hearts of Palm - Leanor Ortega Till currently plays saxophone for Denver-based nine-piece pop ensemble Hearts of Palm, formerly known as Nathan and Stephen. Their sound can be described as eclectic and anthematic indie-pop.
- The Hollyfelds - Bassist Keith is currently playing with his wife Eryn in the country / folk band The Hollyfelds .
- The Fast Feeling - electronic rock band featuring Leanor on vocals, with Scott, Andrew, and Matt Langston of Eleventyseven.
- Reese Roper – lead vocals (1995–2003, 2011–present)
- Micah Ortega – guitars, vocals (1995–2003, 2011–present)
- Andrew Verdecchio – drums, vocals (1995–2003, 2011–present)
- Nathanael "Brad" Dunham – trumpet (1995–2003, 2011–present)
- Dennis Culp – trombone, vocals (1995–2003, 2011–present)
- Leanor "Jeff the Girl" Ortega Till – saxophone, vocals (1995–2003, 2011–present)
- Sonnie Johnston – lead guitars (1998–2003, 2011–present)
- Scott Kerr - guitars, bass, vocals (1995–1998, 2011–present)
- Keith Hoerig – bass (1995–2003)
- Seth Hecox – guitar (2013)
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