Five Iron Frenzy: An extensive oral history of the band straight from the members themselves

Categories: Interviews

The Return of Five Iron Frenzy

AV: Joel Gratcyk, the guy that does our website, it's all his fault. The domain name was about to expire. He didn't want it to. He was a fan, and he thought it would be a shame for it to go away. So he said, "I'll just go ahead and reboot it. I'll buy the domain name." So he did, and he put a countdown to when he was going to release the site again.

People took that as a sign that we were getting together. It blew up into this big thing. At first, we totally weren't getting back together. Then we thought, "Man, it would be stupid not to capitalize on that. If we're planning on getting back together sometime, why don't we do it now?" So we did, and we used that countdown to our advantage to release a new song, and obviously there were awesome results.

SK: I don't remember even how the conversation between Reese and me started, and I don't know if he talked to anybody else prior to our conversation. We just talked about how we missed each other, and that it might be fun to do something in some capacity. I didn't really give a whole lot of thought to it because I thought the chances of the band coming together were pretty remote. I also assumed that Keith would want to be a part of it, and Sonny would as well. I thought maybe I would help in a writing capacity.

At some point discussions turned a little more serious. Reese mentioned that Keith wouldn't want to be involved and asked if I was interested in playing bass. I thought it would be fun to try something different. Those of us who lived in Denver decided to get together and play a few songs, and it went well. Of course there was the countdown that Joel put on the Five Iron website. Fans began speculating if it was a new record or a new tour, et cetera.

We were just going to clear the air and say it was just a website and nothing more. Before we came out with our statement, I think it was Reese who said we should do what we talked about and actually get back together. After the first time we did talk, I wrote the bones of "Dark and Stormy," the song we released last December. There were also song sketches that I had tabled and hadn't touched since. Once we decided to give it a shot, I think Dennis suggested using Kickstarter, as he'd used it with another band.

Legacy

RR: I do not understand why people like Five Iron as much as they do. I listen to their old stuff, and there are times when I think it's very horrible. And when I listen to it, I think, "Oh it's not as I remember." I truly do not understand it. I think if we have a legacy, it's because we were authentic. I think that we were all damaged people, and for most of us, I feel like we believed that Jesus Christ accepted us as damaged as we were, and we wanted to share that with people.

If nothing else, I just hope that we were and are good and nice to people. The reason we make music is because we like it, and that we had something good in us that we wanted to share with people. I believe that Jesus Christ loves me and really does give me peace and really is something to hope for. I care about people and I want them to have that. As Five Iron, even if it's just, "This is funny. This makes us happy. Have some of this." I hope that is our legacy. That we're just as broken or messed up as everybody else.

AV: There were so many different personalities, and everyone had something to bring to the band. Leanor had that close connection with the fans; Dennis being able to be the responsible one; Scott being able to take the responsibility of being the asshole from time to time to get the job done; Micah being caring enough to know that you're hurting and just sit there and talk to you about it.

Of course the clowns that make it a good time. Without all those elements, I don't think Five Iron would have worked. That's obvious because we all tried to start our own bands after Five Iron broke up, and none of them had anywhere near the success that Five Iron did. I think that's kind of what made the band special.

Going back to the mission statement, one of our rules was we will never just go backstage after the show. We made it our mission to meet everyone and talk to everyone and spend time with our fans after the show until the club is so pissed they're just kicking everyone out.

We never wanted to be rock stars sitting in the bus and separating ourselves from our fans. We always wanted to be a band that was talking to our fans and engaging them and shaking everyone's hands. The show's not over when the last song is played. The show's over when you feel like you've talked to everyone and given them their money's worth. I think that's why our fans have stuck with us for so long.

SK: There are eight people in this band, and there are probably eight different opinions about that. I think the band helped people to think and also have fun and take themselves as seriously, including myself.

Five Iron Frenzy On Reese Roper

SK: Oh, Reese. Reese, I butt heads with more than anybody else. I often say I love him like a bother, but we also fight like brothers. He is, like Andy, very passionate, also very optimistic. The way that he can put the things he feels into words is amazing oftentimes. Sometimes, I think, to feel things as deeply as he does, it's like an exposed nerve or something; I don't think I'd want to trade places with it, but I think that, like, everybody reaps the benefit of the poetry inspired by it.

AV: I think Reese's strong suit, from a musical standpoint, is his lyrics. He's a very good wordsmith. He has a really cool way of making a statement. He's not always very concise about it, but he has a way of putting words together that are provocative and have a way of explaining his thought, so that people can understand what it is he's saying without being dictatorial. Spoon-feeding a moral is a way of saying what he wants to say with his words. He has a great connection with the crowd. He's goofy. People really look up to him.

RR: I don't know if I ruined everything or not. I'm a very passionate person, and I feel everything deeply. If I feel something is unjust, I have to write a song about it, or I have to talk about it. If I feel that something is true, I have to make it known. I don't know if that's a contribution. I don't know if that has held Five Iron back or not.

Five Iron Frenzy On Micah Ortega

AV: Micah is a very caring individual. He's a big guy, and I think he sometimes puts on a front that he's kind of rough around the edges or tough, but he is very much somebody that cares for people. For being such a big, hairy, tough guy, he's really a softie. I remember one time in the band when my dad, at home, was really sick, and we were on tour. I couldn't take it anymore, and we had been on tour forever, and there was tension in the band at that time.

I lost my shit and randomly started screaming in the van like, "Fuck this shit! I want to go home! My dad is dying! I shouldn't be here!" Everyone went into the hotel, and Micah came back into the van and sat next to me and put his arm around me, and we sat there and cried for twenty minutes. That's something that sticks out to me, as far as Micah is concerned.

LT: Micah is a thinker. He has a very interesting brain that is different from most peoples'. He almost over thinks things. It makes him an amazing technical musician but he also has a lot of feeling. So he's a good balance between a thinker and a feeler. I will tell you one thing. Anytime we vote, me and Reese are the only ones who vote with our hearts -- how it feels. Everybody else is so logical, and me and Reese would always get outvoted on things, and our band is a democracy. Micah is one of those people that even if he votes one way, he can understand why another way would be good. He's very diplomatic and loving. He's a very devoted person.

SK: Micah brings some other expertise to the band in terms of live sound and even recording. He became interested in that before the rest of us did. We always defer to him and rely on his expertise with those sorts of things. He also writes great riffs as well. Anything he has to say is usually well-reasoned and thought out. He's got some wisdom.

RR: Micah is funny because he's super even-keeled, no emotion. But when he gets upset about something, it's really cool. In the last incarnation of Five Iron, his role in the band was being in charge of the bus because he was into cars. Now that he's a grown-up, we don't have the bus anymore, he does so much. He printed up cheat sheets for me. He's done it for four shows to put on the monitors, so I don't forget where I'm at in the song. Plus he works for a sound company now, and he's in charge of putting together a rider to make sure we have the right equipment.

Five Iron Frenzy On Dennis Culp

AV: I want to say this without sounding condescending or insulting at all but he's always kind of been like the dad. Not in a comfy, cozy kind of way. But in sort of on the level of maturity. He's the guy that does the books, and he's almost always the guy that's not goofing off. That's what he brought to the band for sure -- structure.

"Okay guys, it's going to cost us this much money to do this, and this, and this, and this is how much money we have, and we want to make money." He was the guy that could put it together and make it work. He was an integral part of the band and one of the best musicians I've ever gotten a chance to work with. He's a great bass player -- a lot of people don't know that -- and he's a great trombone player.

RR: Dennis is the only one of us who has actually had musical training other than my three guitar lessons. He minored in music at DU. I think a lot of times he would be, "This song is too long. Change this." He was the guy that, when he came on, said, "Here's how to form this horn part. Here's how to write horns." I don't think we ever would have become what we were if not for Dennis.

On the other hand, he's been our business manager, so he writes the paychecks. He pays for the gas and for the equipment and stuff. When we started, he was assistant manager at the Westin. He was the only dude who could get a credit card. We couldn't have started without him because I don't know how we would have paid for gas or whatever we did. Now that we've started back up, he's still doing that.

SK: There was a noticeable improvement in the band, especially in the horn section, more experience than the rest of us did. He actually had formal education in music. So I kind of feel we improved a lot once he joined. He helped all of us learn to communicate in musical terms and made the horn lines a lot more interesting. He also brought a business sense to the band. He helped us keep our head above water, financially. He was one of the responsible ones.

LT: When he first joined the band, oh boy, I was not happy because he worked at a fancy hotel downtown and had a briefcase. My idea of him was that he was a preppy, and my idea of him was that he was going to change our punk rock edge. What I did not realize was that he is the most musically trained and talented out of all of us. And we needed him if we were going to survive because he rewrote all of the crappy horn lines that had already been written, for one. For two, he really is fun and funny. It's just that I didn't know him and I assumed a lot of things I shouldn't have assumed in the beginning. Spiritually, too, he's very wise. He does all of our money, and I appreciate that skill set, too. I think I was young and naive and threatened by someone like him.

Five Iron Frenzy On Andrew Verdecchio

LT: Andy, of anyone in the band, would be my big brother. Andy is Italian. He's got a temper. But he definitely comes with a lot of love. He always starts with love. If I ever need protecting, I don't even have to worry. He's one of the craziest people I've ever met. He worked with his dad laying brick, and he would turn on the TV and lay in the middle of the band house, where ten people would be hanging out, and just fall asleep in his work clothes. He's crazy! In a wonderful way. I love him. I love his joy. I love his excitement. I see it in his son now. He has a great zest for life.

SK: Andy provides no small amount of comic relief. Sometimes in the form of nudity. Andy is passionate, and he's also really driven to improve. I know he takes his instrument very seriously and practices a lot. That is important to me. The drummer is maybe the most important person in the band. I feel like if the drummer sucks, the band sucks. He has really grown over the years, not just as a drummer, but his greatest improvement is that he has become more malleable. He always has good ideas but he always listens. He wants to play for the song, not just play a complicated beat for the sake of showing off. He's very good in that regard.

RR: He is a very emotional dude. If he's happy, he makes everyone else in the band happy. If he's angry, or bummed out, he's a stereotypical Italian, and he has a terrible temper. Everybody's tense, or everybody's mad. I think that we never found a managerial role for Andy, but in terms of intensity, like if he's excited about something, it drives our band, and if he is bummed out about something, it kills it. Part of the reason we reformed is that Andy is very excited about it. If he's excited about something, it's very contagious.

AV: My role in the band was to keep things interesting. I am the antithesis of Keith and Dennis, I think. On a social level, I love practical jokes; I love getting to the hotel room before whoever is sharing the room with you. Getting there first and waiting at the door with my dick hanging out and, "Hey, what's up?" Stuff like that. And, of course, I have always had a temper, and I've always been a very passionate person. I'm very staunch in my views of the world and how I think things should be. I'm sure it's very skewed because I'm talking about myself.

Five Iron Frenzy On Leanor "Jeff the Girl" Ortega Till

RR: The first time we were together, there were some major jobs that had to be divided up. We pushed the job on to her of answering fan mail, and she made it her own thing. I just think the reason Five Iron can get back together and be a band and have cult status is that Leanor wrote personalized letters to everyone that wrote us.

She answered every piece of mail that came in. I think she really cares about everybody that writes letters. She's friends with hundreds and thousands of people that come to our shows. For me, I'm like, "I know five people from being in Five Iron that I'm still good friends with." I mean I have a hundred acquaintances, but she has thousands. If we have this huge cult following, that's Leanor. She did it.

SK: Similar to Brad, she has a connection with the audience that not everybody in the band has. Just very warm and would always take the time to write back and fan when we received mail. Being a woman in the band, she has a different perspective that I think is valuable for us to consider.

AV: Leanor has a really close connection with the fans. She would handwrite and return every fan mail. If Five Iron got fan mail? She would handle it, and she would write every single fan back. She had such a close connection to the fans. She's always been kind of like a little sister to me, a little bit. I've always been protective of her.

This is going to sound hokey but she brings a little bit of innocence. In fact when the joking would get really coarse, one of the things we would say is, "Jeff is in the van. Leanor is in the van. Tone it down a little bit." It sounds so condescending, but she's always had sort of an innocence about her. She's not as devil-may-care as some of us.


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4 comments
qbaldry
qbaldry

I love that FIF is getting back together, but I'm kind of nervous about a non-believer writing most of the new stuff. I'm sorry if this makes me sound like a pious jerk. I'm really a good guy when you get to know me. BTW, Mike Sares' book, Pure Scum, is really good.

Urb4nizer
Urb4nizer

@fiveironfrenzy @westword_music Nice interview. After reading it I'm curious about the myers briggs personalities of the band!!

skatastic
skatastic

@fiveironfrenzy @westword_music see also: The Rise and Fall of Five Iron Frenzy

BraveStStuart
BraveStStuart

@fiveironfrenzy @westword_music Sweet. I totally needed to procrastinate further.

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