Music Interviews

Interview: Five O’Clock Heroes

Five O’Clock Heroes are a rock ‘n’ roll quartet from New York. A two parts British, two parts American outfit, they’ve gained a fair amount of attention recently after releasing a handful of punchy, hook filled singles, that have drawn comparisons to Elvis Costello, The Jam and The Police – so much so that they’ve often been labelled as the ‘new Strokes,’ a tag which although not wholly inaccurate, they refute heavily.
“The people that are saying that were probably born in 1980 and don’t listen to Elvis Costello – it’s a lazy comparison,” retorts Northampton born front man Antony Ellis, looking a little perturbed.

Indeed, this is a band that have borne out a specific sound for themselves – choppy guitars, frenzied vocals, big choruses – something which they’ve perfected after two years of being in a band together.

The Heroes’ origins can be traced back the UK six years ago. Ellis, as a teenager, decided that England was too cynical a place and ventured to the Big Apple in search of fame and fortune. He explains this decision:

“I had a brother who was signed to a record label there, and I went over to play music with him originally, and I was playing with him for a year or so, and then I was in New York City and I wanted to form my own thing so we just basically formed together – we just met as friends, and that was it.”

From this came the inception of the Five O’Clock Heroes as we know them today: “We formed a couple of years ago – basically New York was vibrant with bands starting, you know? That’s how we began, we were all friends before we were in a band, we’d all played in different bands. We were just in a scene.”

“The people that are saying that were probably born in 1980 and don’t listen to Elvis Costello – it’s a lazy comparison”
– Five O’Clock Heroes aren’t the new Strokes…

This was not without a minor line up alteration, which saw their original stick man make way for current, London based drummer Patrick Fowler.

“Our original drummer Mike couldn’t do stuff in the UK continuously – there was a bit of an issue where the tour was starting in 24 hours, and we needed a drummer. Someone knew someone else who worked in a pub, and Pat came in with 12 hours to learn like 10 songs – he did it in about six, and ever since he’s been with us!” Ellis recalls.

Their current incarnation has been touring solidly throughout the last year and a half, particularly in the UK, trying to make a name for themselves. What can people expect from the Five O’Clock Heroes though? Ellis is keen to guide us through the figures that have inspired him, people who have no doubt contributed to the band’s sound:

“I’ll tell you exactly who my influences are – Elvis Costello, Dexys Midnight Runners, 10cc…”

Steely Dan,” interjects Patrick.

“A little bit of Steely Dan, let’s not go too far!” exclaims Ellis. “Lionel Ritchie…” he continues, pausing for thought. “Those first three, definitely, and Elvis Costello mostly. And The Police, a lot,” he affirms.

“Who else?” Ellis queries, putting the question to the floor. “The Clash and The Kinks?” suggests guitarist Elliot Thompson.

“Yeah, everybody says The Clash, of course – The Clash and The Who. But I look at The Clash and The Who from more a live perspective. They presented themselves so strongly live, that I think we definitely try and have that impact – I don’t know if we get anywhere as near as close, but we definitely try and create that,” Ellis rather confidently remarks.

The band’s rise has been slow to date, however, with people only recently starting to take any real notice of them. Ellis remains upbeat and confident, assuring me that while progress may be sluggish, it is certainly tangible.

“It’s pretty good, we’ve got quite a lot of press. It’s been very gradual, but it’s been pretty good. We get kind of surprised sometimes places where we go – Leeds is pretty good, Sheffield’s good, Nottingham is quite surprising.”

“We toured with Brendan Benson, The Bravery and The Paddingtons – that was 40 shows in 43 days”
– Ellis isn’t one to rely on word of mouth hype…

He recalls with certain fondness their UK tour earlier this year, where they played shows almost every night for over a month, no doubt developing a small fan base for themselves:

“We toured with Brendan Benson, The Bravery and The Paddingtons – that was 40 shows in 43 days, and there were some pretty good ones! The Bravery ones were obviously the biggest because there was a lot of hype around them then. I think we learnt a lot during that touring period, it was pretty intense and we were all pretty dishevelled at the end of it because we’d been kind of doing everything on our own!”

And he’s equally positive about their progress back home: “New York, in the last six weeks, has definitely picked up because of playing with bands like The Bravery. I think we have a very loyal following in New York City – it’s become very strong, and the last shows we’ve done have been really, really good.”

A debut LP, currently titled Bend To The Breaks, is due out some time this autumn, on both sides of the Atlantic.

“We have recorded the album, and singles are coming off it right now. We want to see if we can get a deal in the US first before – we want to kind of release on both sides at the same time.”

So when can we expect to see it on the shelves? “Hopefully October, September/October – not for definite, we’ve got a couple more singles before then. A song called White Girls is coming out on Stolen Transmission, a little indie label out in New York City – a girl called Sarah Lewitinn, who is the editor of Spin Magazine, she’s putting out that single – in New York and here. So we’ll see what happens, after that we’ll be able to tell you more about it!”

And what does the future hold for the Heroes?

“Tour, and try and get a good single out there that people really like and charts well,” says Ellis rather modestly. With such humble expectations, it’s safe to say the only direction for this band is upwards. The new Strokes perhaps? Just make sure you whisper it.

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More on Five O'Clock Heroes
Five O’Clock Heroes @ Metro, London
Five O’Clock Heroes – Bend To The Breaks
Five O’Clock Heroes @ Mean Fiddler, London
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Interview: Five O’Clock Heroes