In late October, 5 Seconds of Summer brought out their second studio album, Sounds Good, Feels Good, and with it the construction of the New Broken Scene. The band-made concept attempts to establish a neutral ground for fans to discuss mental health without fear of judgement. But, the question is, can a band really save your life?
Words: Alice Marshall, Subeditor: Matt Hooper
It was with a small ball of curiosity in the band that had me making the tube journey to New Inn Yard, Shoreditch, to see the wall of 5 Seconds of Summer’s graffiti. The bright piece of pinks, oranges, greens and yellows, not dissimilar from the album artwork itself, was a real sight to see, especially on an oh-so typical, dreary London day. But it wasn’t just the vibrant colours of the piece that managed to draw me in amongst the greys and browns of our built up capital. No, it was also that small tug of belonging; of feeling like I was in on a secret that was far bigger than it seemed on the surface.
The amount of happy faces I saw, brimming with sheer adoration and excitement for not-so-accidentally stumbling across the piece of wall art only added to that almost palpable atmosphere of inclusion. There are pieces just like the one in London dotted all around the world — from San Francisco to Amsterdam — all coordinating with a different song on the album. With that, it’s impossible not to feel the warm embrace of the four piece, Australian pop-rock band. That is, Luke Hemmings, Michael Clifford, Calum Hood and Ashton Irwin.
I saw a vast spectrum of responses to finding the graffiti, quickly followed up with an obligatory selfie — that was by no means quick or spontaneous. It’s easy to come to the conclusion, then, that being apart of the 5SOS fandom goes far beyond having a mutual love of their music.
Like with many fandoms, the word ‘family’ doesn’t seem entirely out of place. A girl was all too happy to take a few snaps of me, giggling over our connection of the band. And it’s important to note this was a girl I hadn’t met before. A girl that I should have felt worlds apart from because of the, probably more than two years, age gap. But, in that small snapshot of time, I didn’t. We’d come to this location in a nook of Shoreditch for the same reason and, with that, the idea of camaraderie within fandoms came alive.
5sos graffiti in Amsterdam👌🏻👍🏻 guess what wrote 😎😝😁-Eva pic.twitter.com/6E2vxSteyt
— Awkward Intentions (@the_awins) October 17, 2015
— TopChart En Español (@TopChartOficial) October 10, 2015
And it turns out that 5 Seconds of Summer are just as aware of the power and impact of their fandom as those within it. What’s more, it’s something the four boys care deeply about when it comes to writing music that is relatable. Not only to their own life experiences, but also to their demographic’s. They recognise the struggles of adolescence and that sometimes the issues the younger generation deal with are brushed off and rationalised by the mention of hormones and teenage melodrama.
“We really wanted to write an album which talks about things that young people are actually dealing with,” drummer of the band, Ashton Irwin, said in an interview with Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. “And it’s important for us to mean something to the fans and be more than just a band to them […] Young people deal with millions and millions of opinions on what they should look like, what they should do, say, go because of social media and stuff like that. People are more depressed and anxious than ever and if we can be— That’s why we called it Sounds Good, Feels Good; we want to be a positive influence in people’s lives.”
It’s understandable then why people choose to use music — and bands more specifically — as a form of escapism. Music offers a reassuring hand on your shoulder that says, “I understand, I get it.” It has the potential to guide people through particularly dark periods. 5SOS in particular have opened up a frank conversation about what people go through. And there’s an air of relatability because they are not so far removed from that stage in their lives themselves, ranging from 19 to 21.
Their desired themes are then very evident in the tracks on the album. Amongst the typical songs covering all things ‘love and relationships’, there are tracks with less of the trivial mentions that we are used to in pop music. Instead, 5SOS adopt some more sincere messages and insights into the mind and troubles of a teenager. Broken Home comments on the effects of divorce, alluding to a loss of happiness and belief in successful, healthy relationships working. Isolation is also a key theme across the album’s track listing. Invisible deals with having an identity crisis and pinpointing where exactly you fit in to the world, whilst Airplanes talks about suffering in silence and the difficulty in asking for help when you need it.
However, their music alone — and perhaps this isn’t their aim here — isn’t going to help teenagers in getting real help with dealing with serious mental health issues. Their songs have their faults, with Vapour and Safety Pin more or less romanticising codependency in what is actually a very dysfunctional relationship.
It is here, then, that we have to take a step back and look at 5 Seconds of Summer in a wider context. They are young boys themselves. Young boys who make the same mistakes we do and suffer through similar phases in their lives. And it is clear that that is the charm of them and the pull on why their music is so important to so many young people. But it’s important to remember that they are by no means professionals, and therefore there are obvious holes in some of their lyrics.
Still, the four boys establish a conversation that might otherwise be perceived as a ‘taboo’ subject. It allows teenage girls and boys alike to find common ground with one another and perhaps make it so the topic of mental illness in teenagers is less likely to be shunned in the future.
I asked sixteen-year-old Elsie Fry her thoughts on the graffiti and its role in the 5SOS fandom, whether she thought the band had successfully implemented a serious conversation on mental health in teenagers and, ultimately, whether bands can save your life?
Sounds Good, Feels Good is out now!