Five Iron Frenzy and stories worth telling
November 29, 2011 § 5 Comments
I’m not a music buff at all. I have bought maybe a dozen CDs in my entire life, not because I download music illegally, but because I just listen to whatever falls into my lap via friends, roommates, coworkers, etc. There are a lot of things I care passionately about in life, music is just not one of them. Which is why Five Iron Frenzy is an anomaly. To say that Five Iron Frenzy is my favorite band is an understatement. On my iTunes, the only songs not by Five Iron that are in my top 50 most played are from my writing playlist, which plays for hours every day as I write. When my wife asked me what my second favorite band is, I couldn’t think of one. I finally decided that it was Brave Saint Saturn, a Five Iron Frenzy side project. You get the picture. My world darkened a little eight years ago when Five Iron Frenzy played their last show, though I’ve continued to listen to their music just as enthusiastically as if the albums were hot off the presses.
That enthusiasm is why I practically lost my mind with excitement when a week ago it was announced on their website that the band is getting back together. Apparently, I wasn’t the only person who felt this way. The band has decided to produce this album independently, raising their money on kickstarter, and less than an hour after the announcement, they had surpassed their $30,000 goal. Now, one week later, they’ve raised four and a half times that.
Five Iron was more than a band to me. I don’t know how to explain this, but they were more like an encouraging (and goofy) older brother. When I was a geeky sixth grader short on friends, some days the only thing that got me through my days was their song, “Suckerpunch,” about nerdiness and self-worth. Alongside “Suckerpunch” were songs about stereotyping, the music industry, unconditional love, failure, and hypocrisy, interspersed with rock operas on pants, and songs about dinosaurs and combs. A decade later, Suckerpunch isn’t a song I listen to regularly, but Five Iron hasn’t stopped inspiring me and giving me food for thought with songs about growing up, American consumerism, and just about everything in between. In reading over this, I make Five Iron sound really heavy, but you’ll have to go take a listen (free) to understand how optimistic the music really is.
As much as I love the horn section and ridiculous songs about Canada, that’s not what’s kept me coming back for all these years. Their music is so much more than a few predictable chords thrown together with lyrics about pining and heartache. I don’t have anything against love songs, but the music industry seems to think that love songs are 99% of what we think and care about. (As an interesting tangent, Sara Bareilles wrote the hit “Love Song,” which goes “I’m not going to a write you a love song cause you asked for it” because she felt the same way. She wrote it about the pressure from her label to write a certain kind of song).
How does this all relate to writing? It’s a great reminder that it’s not all about knowing perfect grammar, typing 500 words per minute, or growing a huge fan base. Whether it’s about gender roles, relationships, or what success looks like, every story and song says something, whether the author wants it to or not. I think this is especially important to remember in writing for a young adult audience whose views of the world are still malleable. Art has the power to change lives; what messages are our stories (or songs or whatever else) sending?
In honor of their back-togetherness, Five Iron has released a free single that you can download here, or check out their myspace page if you’d like to listen to more of their music.