By: Andrew Lovgren
In late 2002, over 3,600 fans packed the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, CO, to cap off Five Iron Frenzy’s (FIF) farewell tour. Now, almost 10 years later, the eight-member group is back on the scene, thanks in large part to a successful Kickstarter campaign.
In order to put out a new album, the Christian band put out a request to fans for $30,000 to help create a self-produced album. In a short time, backers had contributed all of the required funds. By the end of the fundraiser two months later, over $200,000 was raised to bring back FIF.
“We created some items for sale, some material items as well as some fun hang out times,” said Leanor Ortega Till, sax player for FIF. “In the first hour we raised the asking amount. It was very surreal. None of us could have imaged that.”
The ska/punk rock band comes back to a music scene far different from when they left. Just as they were disbanding, MySpace was arriving on the scene. Now, social media has made a large role in the group’s revival.
“We were so blown away and blessed by the amount we raised on Kickstarter,” Till said. “Having so many Facebook connections to fans has been life changing. Many of the FIF Facebook sites are fan run and have become a place to share everyday life, prayers and very real needs. Most of the men and women on there consider the Facebook pages and the community it is as a church.”
While the market has changed, the message will stay the same. In the past, the fun-loving group melded their immature humor with a message of faith. Despite a new audience and new culture, that’s not about to change.
“We are writing songs we feel are entertaining, powerful, musically relevant and interesting,” Till said, “as well as lyrically honest and open hearted. Lyrically, the songs may use stronger wording than before, but the hearts’ are the same. Musically, the production end will be very different because we have a new producer (Jeremy Griffith) who tends to add more background ambiance and interesting texture to the songs.”
While the feel may be different, FIF still plans to stay true to the ska genre, employing a trumpet and trombone player in addition to Till’s sax. Aided by traditional rock instrumentation, the group’s feel is wholly unique in today’s music scene.
“I doubt ska will come back, but I am seeing way more bands with horn sections these days,” Till said. “Many current bands are using horns and that makes me happy. I think a horn section in a band adds a very interesting and fun element. Our style is similar to the last couple of albums we put out, rock with horns and some elements of ska, as well as some throwback beats.”
Fans who were entering high school or leaving for college when FIF disbanded now have their own cubicles, college degrees and/or families. Students today have a new set of challenges to face. Even so, Till believes the band will stay true to their roots.
“We are not a band that adjusts to the needs of the fans. Very early on we realized that if we try to guess what a certain fan base would like we would never be authentic to ourselves,” Till said. “If our songs have been culturally relevant or beneficial, it was because our lives were similar to the lives of so many others.”
Five full albums, two live albums, an EP and an odd compilation entitled “Cheeses… (of Nazareth)” later, the band released its first new material at the beginning of fundraising. While wholly fresh, the lyrics and familiar up-beat horn section bring listeners back nearly a decade.
“Our lyrics are an honest, Christ-centered and hopefully a Biblically relevant reply to what we see around us in the culture,” Till said. “I do think we aim to be a voice for the voiceless, and I hope that never changes. As to our humor, it’s more to amuse ourselves than fans.”
Several shows have been announced with more to come, along with a much-anticipated announcement of their first new release as a self-proclaimed “un-dead” band. With more on the way, FIF will soon find out whether a new group of music-lovers will find their combination of wit and faith as interesting and inspiring as the last.
“Thanks to everyone for sticking with us,” Till said. “We are so excited to have this opportunity again and we don’t take it lightly at all. Personally, my hope is that FIF would always be an arrow to Jesus.”
Follow Cardboard on Twitter: @CardboardMag.