5 Seconds of Summer's highly anticipated sophomore album Sounds Good Feels Good is right around the corner, and to celebrate 5SOS Week (concluding with the album's Oct. 23 release), we're bringing you the greatest 5 Seconds of Summer content the Internet has to offer. We wanted to begin at the beginning: How does this record differ from last year's self-titled? And what was the writing and recording process like?
We decided to go to the source, and asked production extraordinaire John Feldmann and 5SOS engineers Zakk Cervini and Matt Pauling for their in-depth takes on each track. Click through for a track-by-track rundown of the release. It doesn't get deeper than this!
John Feldman: Even before "Money," we talked about how we wanted to open the album. These boys are so positive. They're always supporting each other. The question became: How are we going to capture that with audio?
They always show up 20 minutes late. They're kids. They just wanted to hang out. I wanted to capture them hanging out. I set up microphones when they got here one day. I wanted to capture them just walking in and talking about whatever. That's what they wanted to capture for the opening of the record: Them, as humans, without script of pretense or an interview, just them walking into the studio. I think it's really who they are.
"Money," we wrote two songs that day. We had two sessions booked, one with songwriter Simon Wilcox and one with Benji and Joel [Madden.] After that week I still thought we were missing that pop-punk high energy, that classic Sum-41, Good Charlotte feel that we wanted. I wrote that guitar riff--it almost sounded more like a Bleachers track. Cut-up, glitchy, guitar part...It was a little more programmed. Ashton [Irwin] came in and was like, "What if we had live drums?" and it became more like Beastie Boys, Sum-41. The band came in and made it their own.
Benji and Joel write almost exclusively about money and girls. They love hip hop, they're handsome, really funny dudes and they walked in with that "Take my money!" refrain. It was Luke [Hemmings] and Michael [Clifford] who really took the reigns wrapping up the lyrics. In essence of time, between album one and album two, "Money" is such an important song. This record has grown up. I think there are going to be some fans who won't want to grow up with the guys. This is still that fun loving pop-punk from the first album. "Money" bridges the the gap between the two.
Zakk Cervini: "Money" is one of my favorite songs on the record. It started off weird—it was a really long day. It was 11 at night when they finally came up with the chorus for that song, and there was no production. There were field drums in the background. I wasn't into it at all! It sounded like a reggae, Jamaican song at first. It was a 3 A.M. afterthought that became the first song on the album.
Originally they were going to intro the song by playing it acoustically with the mic in the room, then it was going to bust into the song. But the sounds of them just entering the studio made it cooler and more fun.
John Feldmann: Benji and Joel were instrumental on this record. They came by one day to see what we had written and Benji said, "What if we did a 12-bar blues thing?" and he started playing that riff. To be totally honest, I was like "What the fuck are you doing? How could this translate?" We started talking about Weezer and [My Chemical Romance's] Black Parade. Some of those songs just come together really quickly. This was one of those songs.
I thought to end with this really huge, cro-magnon "Na Na Na Na," and that's where it became a 5 Seconds of Summer song. Benji had the concept pretty quickly. When we were talking about the "new broken scene," he was talking about this girl that drove him crazy. This girl that put him in the doctor's chair, on meds, the whole thing.
Zakk Cervini: This is also one they wrote in like 30 minutes. I remember Matt [Pauling] and me were in the lounge and Mikey and Ashton [Irwin] were in the control room working on it with Benji and Joel of Good Charlotte and John [Feldmann.] It started off as a joke, and I think Michael was playing the main guitar riff. I remember the first time I heard them singing the verse, I just started laughing so hard. The guitar riff is this weird, quirky thing they had come up with on the spot. We usually write songs on an acoustic guitar, and then we change everything later. That riff, everyone was just like, "It's so weird, but it works."
“[She's Kinda Hot] started off as a joke.”-Zakk Cervini
Matt Pauling: It's one of the only songs on the radio right now that has a big, massive guitar solo, and that was one of the things I thought was really cool about it... and that's it's really fucked up sounding. You just want to bang your head to it. It's really gritty and raw, and it was fun tracking Michael on guitar on that because it really suits his personality. He's the most punk rock dude in the band, and he just doesn't give a fuck and he just wants to have a good time, so that solo really suits him.
Zakk Cervini: I think Michael and Ashton really shown through on that song because the drums and the guitars are really unique. It's such a different song than what's out there right now but everyone that hears it, likes it. We were working on the song and John was like, "We should put an elephant in the first verse." I was like "What the fuck are you talking about?" Then I put an elephant [noise] in the verse and it's good. There's like weird Jamaican samples in there. There's a lot of weird production that we've never done before.
John Feldmann: There's a group of writers and producers called Monsters and Strangers that co-wrote that song with Calum [Hood.] ... Calum had the idea. He went into the session with the bass riff and the concept, and they kind of fleshed out the idea. The guys came in with the drum loop. We added drums in my studio, all the vocals, all the gang vocals and we made it feel like more of a 5 Seconds of Summer song. As Benji, Joel and Calum describe the song, it was really Calum's concept and melody. It was his song.
Zakk Cervini: That's another one of my favorite tracks. We only spent about a day on that song. My favorite part of the song is the "Whoa, whoa, oh's" that also act like the bass line. That's all Calum. Calum is an incredible writer--I've worked with a ton of musicians, [and] Calum is probably the best bass player I've ever worked with. That's the track where Calum really shines through because he sings the chorus but also because it's so bass-driven.
It's a song I like to listen to if I'm having a bad day in the morning. The verses just make me look back to when I was broke and my life sucked and stuff. That song just reminds me that it's all going to work out. It's all going to be okay.
Matt Pauling: That song goes really well with "She's Kinda Hot." It's a similar vibe. The first three tracks are just fun and cool. That one definitely has a real personality to it.
John Feldmann: I remember the first time Michael played me this song. He wrote the bulk of that song, and I think it really sums up what the band is about. He wrote it with Mike Green, the producer who did most of All Time Low's records. They requested to work with him. I think that along with "Money," this song is crucial for connecting the dots between album one and album two. It encompasses what we know as pop-punk: It could be a Green Day song from 1994. It really could be! I think it's a crowd favorite, big sing-along live song.
John Feldmann: That song is so goddamn good. [Co-writer] David Hodges wrote most of Evanescence's songs, [and] he wrote that Christina Perri song "A Thousand Years." He's a classic songwriter, an artistic, emotional songwriter.
I heard that song and knew he definitely did it with Michael and Luke. It feels like the Used: early-00s, super emo rock, semi-ballad. The lyrics are great. They remind me of a really great Disney movie, like Maleficent or something. In the best ways, not in a cheesy way.
John Feldmann: That song bridges the pop arena that the band plays to—and a lot of their fans love pop music. That song has the most straightforward pop production on the record. Their fans are living under their headphones with that type of music, and this adds that pop-punk/emo energy in the direction that the guys are heading in.
John Feldmann: That was written when they were still on tour with One Direction. I had most of the song started--the melody and style. I wanted it to be a classic pop-punk song, but with pop production: I wanted it to feel modern with strings, cut-up, glitchy sounds, but still feel authentic. I had the concept of a relationship where two people were so different, it actually worked. Luke came in and rewrote a bunch of stuff in the verses. ... Once the lyric "new broken scene" came along in "She's Kinda Hot" for the album, the visual of the safety pin became the image for the band. The safety pin, the flag, all of that for the album was with Ashton. That idea worked for his idea of revolution. This is another song that bridges the gap between the first record and the second.
Zakk Cervini: I could see this song quickly becoming a fan favorite. That song was written over a year-and-a-half ago. That was one of the first things I worked on when I started working for John. That song was written before the first album even came out. It was written last July. That song turned into what their logo is right now. Calum's coolest bass-playing on the album is in that song.
Matt Pauling: I think it's a really good song for fans to relate to. It's a sad song, but it has a really positive message. It's about knowing that, whatever happens in life, you can put the pieces back together and end up on top.
John Feldmann: This is the way I wish all songwriting sessions would go. I know this guy J-Kash: he comes from a very different world. He wrote "Sugar" for Maroon 5, he wrote "Wiggle" for Jason Derulo, he's in the Becky G, Dr. Luke, Fifth Harmony camp. ... He's such a good writer, and I brought him in just to see what the fuck would happen. He came in at 10:00 at night. I got a click going because I wanted to do a mid-tempo song, and Ashton started playing a keyboard. It was Ashton's idea to put an organ effect on the synthesizer.
The song started with that keyboard line. Ashton really drove the production. I had [Led Zeppelin's] John Bonham's kit that I had rented for the record. He played the drums second. We had the beat and synth, which is very different from how we write. J-Kash started singing the hook, "I don't want to waste it / Don't wanna waste it," in the chorus -- this droning chant. It reminds me of "Invisible Sun" by the Police. It's a very weird song, but there's part of me that thinks it could work with the way radio is going these days. It reminds me of the Weeknd -- a rhymic, almost mid-tempo feel. This is not a pop-punk song.
Matt Pauling: This is one of my favorites because Ashton just killed it on the drums. It has this crazy Police groove to it. ... This song is special to Luke. There aren't crazy guitar parts but he's a shredder. He's one of the best guitar players I've ever worked with.
Zakk Cervini: The band came to L.A. in February to officially start writing and recording the album, and that was the first song officially written for the album. When they came in, the sound of the second album wasn't defined yet. It was a very different-sounding album. We just wanted to try some different stuff so we were listening to a lot of the 1975 and stuff like that, and the band came in and Ashton sat down at the keyboard and wrote the hook. Luke went in and laid down the chorus and it just clicked. It's a really simple song, but it's a different song for 5 Seconds of Summer. Luke is a really chilled, relaxed guy, and that song is similar [to him].
John Feldmann: That song was interesting, because we did it with Simon Wilcox, who co-wrote Nick Jonas' "Jealous." She's this Canadian songwriter... I've never met anyone like her. She writes all lyrics with pen to paper. She doesn't allow her cell phone around her. She doesn't like any WiFi signals to be around her to affect her energy when she's working. She's a real artist, a real true songwriter. If someone comes into the room, like a photographer, that interrupts the creative flow, she'll give me a look and I know I gotta kick that person out.
"Vapor" started with keyboards--we wanted to do this moody, ambient song. I had the root notes written, and I was playing them on bass, and Ashton had that idea for the drum loop in the song. It's very "Tomorrow Never Knows" by the Beatles, that loop that happens in the verse. Simon and Michael came up with "I want to breathe you in like a vapor," which is so beautiful and dark.
Zakk Cervini: This song is a sister song to "Waste the Night." The production is similar and they were written a couple days apart. They both have a lot of keyboards in them, which was Ashton's doing.
Matt Pauling: Michael has told me this is one of his favorites on the record. He may seem like a fun-loving goofball, but he has a really passionate, dark side to him that comes out on a few songs. I think we all have that dark side--for Michael, I think that really came out for him.
John Feldmann: Ashton drove the ship on how to make this a rock song. The label thought it had potential to be a single. I brought the Monsters and Strangers [producers] over, and it became that song.
The day we tracked that song, I've got a neighbor that is not stoked whenever 200 girls line up outside whenever 5 Seconds of Summer are at my house. He's a really combative guy. He's a not nice man, he screams at the little 14-year-old girls outside. All my other neighbors are great. This one dude is just a nightmare. The day we do "Castaway," he decides to call the cops and tell them that I'm filming child porn at my house. He says, "My neighbor is filming child porn, he's got all the girls lined up outside his house to audition for the movies he makes."
The cops are knocking on my door when we're trying to record the song like, "What are you doing in there, man? We gotta come in. What are these girls doing out there?" The cops come in after we just tracked drums, so Ashton's got his shirt off, he's dripping with sweat. This 19-year-old kid, walking around my front yard. He's got his hair in a ponytail like "What's up guys?" It was so chaotic, moreso than normal.
John Feldmann: That was recorded a long time ago. I guess I was fighting with my wife that day. It was probably about nothing. I can't even remember the fight--I wrote a song about a fight I can't remember. I was so pissed and I said out loud, "Look at me in the eye. Is anyone there?" Ultimately the song turned into being a kid, that feeling of, where do you fit in? And you're overlooked by teachers and parents and not really being seen.
Every night I sing "Across the Universe" to my kids. I started with that melody and flipped it halfway through to make it our own. I did that chromatic thing in the verse. Michael really owned that one. Going into the bridge, Michael said "What if we went into this huge, Radiohead, 32-bar bridge and we just jam?" A single note droning through, like a Nirvana thing, and this crescendo chorus. He turned the song into this big, rock opus. That's the best part of the song: When the bridge opens up and Michael starts screaming, "Is anyone there at all?" Michael really took a stand on this record.
Zakk Cervini: I think this is Ashton's favorite [song] that the band has ever written. It was written over a year ago. I remember the band came to L.A. two Septembers ago. We set them up to jam so they could try to write and record a song live. They spent the day writing the song and we did a bunch of takes of it. A lot of those parts got used. There's a lot of guitars, especially in the bridge, that was Michael playing live, [and] them all playing together.
Outside of the live room there's a playground and swing set. Ashton had an idea to put the microphone inside of the slide of the playground set, so as he played the drums the microphone outside would pick it up, and that's the drum sound of this song.
John Feldmann: That was probably the last song we wrote. Benji came in--he's had a lot of adversity in his life, with his parents splitting up and the alcoholic father and the co-dependent mother. He came up with the idea of writing a song about a broken home.
Other than Ashton, the three guys have parents who are still together. Ashton has never met his father. Ashton really connected into the theme. "We're saying something with this song, it's going to connect with the audience, at least 50% of our audience come from broken homes. We're actually taking a stand." The other guys are loyal and family-driven and sweet, so they were like, "What are our parents going to think about us singing about a broken home when we don't come from broken homes? How authentic is it?" It was a two-month debate.
This is a song, maybe more than any other on this album, that is going to help kids. Michael and I wrote the bridge together, facing each other, McCartney-Lennon style. I get goosebumps whenever Luke comes in on the second chorus.
“Ashton has never met his father. Ashton really connected into the theme.”-John Feldmann
Zakk Cervini: This is my favorite song that they've ever done. The first chorus is all Calum singing, and in the second chorus when Luke sings up an octave that just gives me the chills. I've cried multiple times listening to this song.
Something like 50 percent of marriages end in divorce these days. This song is just such a powerful thing for kids to listen to if their parents are going through something. If you're going through something, it shows that other people are going through it to and you're not alone. I also think that guitar riff is definitely something kids are going to want to learn.
Matt Pauling: We took a trip to London and we recorded strings with the London Symphony Orchestra on a few songs on the record, and this is one where they just started playing the strings and everyone got chills. It was an incredible moment for everybody.
John Feldmann: "Fly Away" was another song that was just me and the guys. It had just rained in Los Angeles--it only rains ten days a year, so it was such a special day. Calum had come in and he already had the lyrics and the melody. He changed the key of the chorus and it clicked.
We had this Third Eye Blind, pop-punk chorus that really worked. We ended up writing a song about a perfect day: It just rained so it felt like London, we were in California so we were talking about the ocean. Luke came up with the lyrics "open ocean," and I fought him with that. What the fuck does that even mean? You're in the middle of the ocean on a boat? Where does that connect with this goddamn song? He forced it through and in hindsight, I'm glad he did.
Luke wrote the bridge. If you even wonder where Luke comes from as a musician, just listen to the bridge in "Fly Away" and that is him. It's a Foo Fighters, driving, guitar-driven rock tune.
Zakk Cervini: Its purpose is to break up the record a bit. It gets very serious and heavy in this half of the record. They're still a fun-loving band. Luke and Calum came over and they were just like, "Let's rock the fuck out and make a fucking rock song."
Matt Pauling: They wrote that song amongst many ping-pong tournaments. If you ever see Luke and Calum play ping-pong it's very, very intense. They could very well be professionals one day.
John Feldmann: We had a songwriting trip to Nashville. We had a day to write and they played their stadium show the next day. We wrote with this British guy Roy Stride, who wrote a bunch of One Direction stuff and he wrote "Good Girls" on 5SOS' first record. The guys loved him, so the label put him in the room at Ocean Way studio in Nashville. We wrote a song called "Counting Days" and "Best Days of Our Lives" and we wrote another song that was kind of [like] A Day to Remember with these real syncopated riffs. We were just writing, writing, writing. I remember the next day we wrote three more songs, but the band kept thinking they were too predictable, too pop, too common.
The band went to go soundcheck for the show, so I grabbed a guitar and started thinking about my life: I never got into team sports, my dad was in a wheelchair, I never fit in anywhere. I was always overlooked. My parents wrote me off at twelve. They thought I was never going to do anything, that I was in a punk band and would become some drug addict homeless kid. I was thinking about these walls my parents had. My dad is watching football but he can't even play football, he's in a wheelchair, and I'm thinking "Where do I fit in?" I was invisible to them. I was invisible to school. I got kicked out of high school. That's where the verses came together.
Calum came in and owned that song. He's not really the guy who will step in and take over situations like Michael and Ashton will. Luke and Calum are really kind of kindred spirits. Calum came in and said, "This is my song." I remember Michael tried to step in, but Calum slayed the chorus.
“I was invisible to [my parents.] I was invisible to school. I got kicked out of high school. That's where the verses came together.”-John Feldmann
Zakk Cervini: I was in Nashville with John and the band, and Matt was in L.A. The band was on tour with One Direction. I remember when we were in the studio, we drove to the show with the band, they played a giant show to like 60,000 people and then we went to the studio like nothing had happened. It was the first time I'd ever seen them perform and I just didn't understand. They were able to switch gears so quickly! We go to the studio at 10:00 and we were up writing that song until like 3:00 in the morning.
I remember when they came up with the word "invisible." I remember Ashton tweeted that night something like "It's great to write a song that you know is amazing," and he was obviously talking about that song. When we took it to L.A., we recorded a typewriter on it, in the verses.
Matt Pauling: That song is about living an ordinary life where you don't matter and how they don't want to do that. This was the first song we heard live with the London Symphony Orchestra. I'm a movie score buff, I love strings, and seeing the strings recorded was pretty moving.
John Feldmann: I love Glen Hansard, and that movie Once is one of my favorite movies ever. We hadn't written a song in 6/8... I remember one time an A&R guy came to my house and I played him a song in 6/8 and he said, "What, do you want to waltz?" I realized that made an Irish drinking song--6/8 doesn't work in pop music. I wrote "Airplanes" anyway.
To me, it was about being an artist living in the city. When I'm having a restful moment and I see that airplane, all of us can see it. The electrician, the plumber, whatever, we all see that airplane. That's the thing that connects us all: Looking up. Those are the things that connect us—not the moon or the stars or the sun, it's the airplanes, the cars. That's my connection to the world that I live in. I sent 5SOS this song without thinking it was a 5SOS song. Because Calum already had "Invisible" on lock, Michael wanted his. This was going to be a Michael song. Michael really made the song his own. It's a really hard song to sing, and it took forever for him to find his place. I don't know what kind of song it is--it's in 6/8, but it's not emo, and it's not an Irish drinking song.
“They all have unique voices: Michael has the edgiest, punk voice. Luke has that smooth tone, Calum has a really unique voice, and Ashton's just an amazing singer.”-Zakk Cervini
Ashton played the entire song in one take. He came into the studio at midnight. I think he had just met his girlfriend...he was super worked-up. He put his hair in a ponytail, ripped his shirt off and I was like, "Fuck my neighbors are going to hate me but alright." He was so inspired! It was on a little shitty kit, not the Zeppelin kit. When you listen to the song, it's completely unedited. One fucking take. That song for me just solidified what this band is, for me, as excellent musicians. Ashton is one of the three best drummers I've ever recorded.
Zakk Cervini: We like to record differently. Especially with this album, each guy has such a distinct personality. Ashton is the most creative drummer that I know. They're all amazing singers, that's known. They all have unique voices: Michael has the edgiest, punk voice. Luke has that smooth tone, Calum has a really unique voice, and Ashton's just an amazing singer. With this album, we just left a lot of the rawness of them playing. We didn't want to edit to be quote-unquote perfect.
Matt Pauling: "Airplanes" is Michael's favorite song. I recorded it with him at like 4 in the morning and I just remember he played this solo and made me play it for him, blasting out of the speakers like 20 times in a row.
John Feldmann: I wrote with a story in mind. I was thinking about my daughter as a teenager--what that first beach party bonfire will be like for her. I put myself in her shoes, going out in the world, and it's a big fucking world out there. How do we get back to that place? In my mind, how do I get back to that place, to being a kid? My parents disconnected, they cut me off, but I knew I was going to be alright because I had my group of friends. I was imagining that moment for my daughter, and that's where the song started. I made it very pop, and the guys stripped it back. Ashton wanted to do some cadence snare, a marching feel to make it as organic as they could.
Matt Pauling: This is a different one for the band, direction-wise. It almost sounds like a Mumford & Sons track. It's very acoustic and raw. This one is just really cool. I like it.
Zakk Cervini: I'm not a huge Mumford & Sons fan at all, but it's cool, all of them stomping at the same time on the chorus. It's about wishing you could go back to a certain time. It's a very vivid song. There's a lot of imagery.
John Feldmann: "Outer Space" was written in San Simeon, a tiny town in the middle of the coast. I go there a lot just to clear my head. I wanted to take the guys up there. There's no [cell] service. There's only one hotel, a little cheap Best Western or something. We went up there for a day. We went out and plugged into this little pre-amp and recorded the whole song in two takes on the beach, at midnight. It was actually in a parking lot. I gave Luke a mic, I had my laptop on the hood of my car, and he nailed the whole thing twice. Ashton sang the really high Queen vocal once in the bridge. We just recorded there.
The next day, we wrote "Carry On" together, looking at the ocean. This idea just came across like, "Everything is going to be alright." When you're kids and you're standing up to the machine that is the record company that's investing millions of dollars into your band, and you've got a management company that's got the biggest band in the world that they also represent and you're standing up to them too, after five months of standing up for yourself for what you think is the right record, standing up against people who are much older and much more successful than you are, you get burned out. We were doing 120-hour weeks for months on end. At the end, it was like "Eh, it's a good day. Carry on!" It's not like we're digging ditches. We had this flip in mentality: It's not like they're working at Starbucks or Nando's. "Wow, as hard as this is, we're doing what we love."
We looked at the ocean, we looked at these mountains, and we wrote this whole song with stacked, Allman Brothers, Cat Stevens harmonies. Simon Wilcox came in and we finished the whole song. I had Luke sing that song at 10:00 in the morning, and he was so sick he couldn't sing high, so that's why the key is as low as it is. We wrote and recorded the song outside looking at the ocean. It was all very real.
Zakk Cervini: They wrote that song on a beach, and it went through so many changes. We worked on that song for like a week straight. There was a reggae version of it and a rock version of it and a pop version of it. At the end of the day it just ended up being vocals and organ--all of them singing at the same time.
Matt Pauling: Before they had written any songs, John came to Zakk and me and said "This album needs to be more adventurous. There's going to be interludes and all this stuff." "Outer Space" used to be like seven minutes long on its own. It became this crazy, almost Pink Floyd [song], which is some of my favorite stuff: Bands that went to the moon and back when they were writing their songs. For 5 Seconds of Summer to do something so adventurous, I think it's going to open some doors for other bands to also do something new, instead of just doing straight pop-structure stuff.
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