Five Iron Frenzy: An extensive oral history of the band straight from the members themselves
Five Iron Frenzy On Nathanael "Brad" Dunham
SK: I think that Brad is one of the reasons that the fans feel so connected to the band. He's always been very personable. He takes the time to talk to people. He's been mostly responsible for talking to the people backing the Kickstarter project and keeping that communication open. It's funny because he's kind of a mellow guy. Sort of quiet. Then he gets on stage, and goes nuts. I think a lot of our stage presence is thanks to him.
RR: We had a mail order for merchandise. People had to print out an order form, and you sent in a check, and he would fill all the orders and mail stuff. This time, he's doing a lot of the stuff with Kickstarter. He makes sure all the stuff for Kickstarter is getting fulfilled. He's very compassionate about the people that have helped us out. The people who pledged a certain amount to be there while we were recording. He worked it so that at the same time that not only did they get to sit around, which I think would be kind of lame, he had someone do background vocals on four or five different songs, so those people are all over the album.
LT: Brad is the baby of the band. In my mind, it's Brad and me. Later Sonny came. But in the beginning it was Brad and me. I kind of felt like we were picked on a little in the beginning. Like I said, we weren't the best of musicians. When we recorded in New Mexico, it was told to us that we had better figure it out, or they were going to hire people to play our parts. After that, we really bonded practicing again and again and again.
I think Brad has become one of the closest friends that I've kept. His wife and I are very close, and he has kids the same age as my kids. Trumpet and sax? We have to practice a lot together. So I can go to his house and practice and our kids can hang out. Our families get along great. You'll see that a lot with our band -- our families love each other a lot. The kids all know each other. We hang out a lot, we do meals together with practice. Very family-oriented now. I think that's probably why we got together, too. We had a couple of band barbecues with the kids too and just saw this chemistry.
AV: Brad is my best friend. He's like my brother from another mother. He's got great stage presence. He's very laid back, which is funny because I'm totally not. My wife told me, "It's funny that you gravitate towards the people that you let into your life." I don't let a lot of people into my personal life. I don't make friends very well. But the people I tend to make friends with are usually people that are the exact opposite of my personality. That's Brad. He's just cool, calm, collected all the time. Always happy, always in a good mood. Very rarely is he in a bad mood or angry. You wouldn't think the trumpet player would have one of the best stage presences, but he really rocks it hard on stage. He definitely adds energy to the show.
Five Iron Frenzy On Sonnie Johnston
SK: Sonnie is awesome. He's also really good for comic relief. He lightens the mood whenever he's there. I appreciate his guitar playing a lot. He's a good player, and he has a good feel for the songs. I feel like it's good to bounce ideas off of him, and I appreciate his feedback when the songs are in the writing process.
LT: He was playing in Jeffries Fan Club, a ska band, and he'd become a Christian. I think someone in the Insyderz suggested him. We had an official audition to replace Scott. Sonnie was one of the people that auditioned. He really played the songs well. He understood ska. He had a vibe. He had some touring under his belt and understood that.
He was quiet in the beginning, but he has one of those senses of humor...If you've seen Ace Ventura, that's Sonnie's sense of humor right there. He's super funny; he's super chill. His wife is really sweet. I think it was hard for him to move out here without knowing anybody. He eventually moved back to southern California and married his girlfriend. But it was nice to have him live here at least for a while. But he's always felt like part of the team.
Right now it's the hardest to include him because we are practicing so much here in Denver. Dennis and Reese and Sonnie don't live here. So every week we practice, and they're not here. It's a big loss, and we miss their parts here when we're practicing.
RR: Sonnie is one of the funniest guys I know. He came on after Scott left. He writes good songs. He might just be too busy now because he hasn't written anything for the new album. When Scott left, he ended up writing a couple of our better songs like, "You Can't Handle This." He's just a funny, happy, super positive guy. When we were breaking up, he and I were the only two that were talking about still wanting to do it. Out of all the people in the band, I was most excited about still being in a band with him because he's so good natured; he's such a good guy.
AV: Sonnie has old man humor. He makes a lot of puns and stuff like that. After Scott left the band, I didn't want Sonnie in the band. There was another guy we had auditioned that I had wanted. But it couldn't have been a better choice because Sonnie and I got really close on the road. We'd hang out a lot because he's hilarious. He's an instigator. He's the guy that's like, "I'm going to get my friend to do something really funny, so that I don't get in trouble for doing it." Our joke was he would tell me something, and I would be like a zombie and go, "I will do it. It will be done."
One time on the Electric Youth tour, we were sitting on the bus and everyone else was asleep, and all of the vents to the bunks on the bus were fed from this one vent in the front of the bus. He and I were sitting in the front of the bus -- I don't know what I had eaten but I had rancid gas. He was like, "Dude, go fart in the vent." So I did and one by one people just started to filter out. I told the bus driver, "Did somebody poop in the toilet?" I don't know if you know, you're not supposed to poop in the toilet. "Why does it stink so bad back there?" Sonnie and I were chuckling because we knew what had happened.
Five Iron Frenzy On Scott Kerr
RR: Scott co-wrote the whole album we're working on. Dennis wrote two songs, I wrote one and Andy wrote two. Mine got cut, both of Andy's got cut, I don't know if any of Dennis's will make it. Scott is this borderline genius guy who drives around to work, and then he's a webmaster for a couple companies, and he's the kind of dude that, while he's driving around, can figure out an entire song in his head and go home and write it.
He wrote the whole album. He pretty much decided that when we were getting back together, he needed an outlet and wrote sixteen songs. He's a smart dude.
I think he was also that guy the first time around. I don't think we were ever legitimate until Scott got there. We were trying to figure out how to make songs good. Scott, who had only been playing guitar for like a year and a half, joined our band and turned it around. If you were to pin any success on Five Iron, it's because of Scott. I think Scott is a great songwriter.
SK: It's not how it's planned, but I ended up writing most of the music. I guess I feel like I have strong opinions about the musical direction of the band and the musical statements that we make. I feel the writing is the most important part for me; it's the most fun for me. Recording would be a close second, followed by the performance.
Before I felt like my roles was to write the music and also to ensure that we were playing tightly. I've kind of mellowed in that regard, and I think everyone wants to play well. I guess it's very music centered. This time around I'm overwhelmed and humbled by the whole thing.
LT: When I first met him, he was more quiet. He had a wife and she's awesome, Stephanie. He's just a nice guy, but he's an amazingly serious guy too. He's a great songwriter. He can have fun, but he tends to be more serious, and he tends to be more focused. Our album now would not be done if it weren't for Scott. He has a great, amazing work ethic. It's hard to make him bust out laughing, but you feel really accomplished when you do.
AV: Scott is the workhorse of the band, I think. I say that because he's been working tirelessly on this new record. This is going to sound insulting, but I think he will admit to this; he's also kind of the band dick, but not in a bad way. He's the one that will say the thing that is harsh but needs to be said. He's gotten a lot better at that. In the past, he was very abrasive. Now he has a way of bringing it up without sounding like he thinks you're an idiot. On a personal level, Scott, for being that guy, he's very funny, and he and I have a similar sense of humor: very dark, twisted and dirty. He's a lot of fun to be on the road with.
Five Iron Frenzy On Keith Hoerig
AV: Keith is also like Dennis. My wife and I would always joke and call him "Party Planner Keith" because he was always putting together events. Like movie marathons. Not just, "Come to my house and we'll watch the Back to the Future trilogy or something like that." He would go so far as to have games, trivia, prizes -- you know what I mean? Nothing big, but he would really make it fun.
And he sort of brought that to the band. He would book tours sometimes. He was a good mediator because he was even-keeled all the time, almost to an annoying point, sometimes. You would want him to take a stance one way or another, or you just wanted him to lose his temper, but he never did. He was always even-keeled, and I think we needed that in the band to sort of curb some of the near disasters that could have happened with flare ups and tempers and things like that.
LT: I love Keith. Keith is the duct tape of the world because he can solve every problem. He's just a really good guy, through and through. He has a great heart, a great sense of humor, remembers fans. He was our PR/HR guy. He loves fans, remembers people, remembers their faces, is good at the details of things.
I don't think we have ever gotten to where we did with our success without a person like Keith. Keith is the Burt, and Reese was the Ernie. You have to have a dreamer and visionary, and you have to have a doer, or it doesn't work. You can't get anything done without a dreamer and a believer, but you also can't get anything done without the detail guy. They're a very important tag team.
Keith is the reason that Five Iron made it as long as it did. I think right now there is all this turmoil in Five Iron just because Keith isn't there. Keith is super organized. He would make tour books for us. It was before anybody had GPS or Mapquest or anything. He would map everything out -- distances and times, like what time we had to be there and the people meeting us. He was that guy.
RR: One of the things he would do is talk to the record label on our behalf and relay information. When I quit Five Iron and when I did that one Roper album, I remember swearing and screaming at the record label. So angry. And it dawned on me why Keith was so awesome. He was just this even-keeled, good person. He's not very emotional. So the record company could be like, "We messed up, so you have to drive for 24 straight hours. You're okay with that, right?" And Keith would be like, "Okay, I'll tell them."
And he would tell us and act as a buffer. Me being that guy who is talking to the record company, I would be like, "What?! Who can do this? We have to play a show! How can you drive for 24 straight hours and play a show?" I would just make enemies. Keith would be that buffer, and he really held the band together. We don't have that now, which I really lack.