Five Iron Frenzy (also known as Five Iron or FIF) was a Christian ska band formed in Denver, Colorado in 1995 and disbanded in 2003.
The band's music was most heavily influenced by ska and punk rock, but their influences also include heavy metal. The band was signed to 5 Minute Walk in 1996, and stayed with the label for nine of its releases. Two other albums were self-released, and another was released through Asian Man Records.
The band never received any significant music industry awards, and received relatively little attention in mainstream media. Their biggest national exposure came when their song, "Oh, Canada" (which referenced William Shatner), appeared on the TV series Boston Legal (in which Shatner stars) in October 2005, almost two years after their last show. Over the course of their career they sold close to one million units in total.
They were known for their positive lyrics and energetic live shows. They often performed their concerts while wearing full costumes (mostly vocalist Reese Roper); on one tour the entire band wore Star Trek uniforms. The band was known for their themed tours, sometimes using them to raise awareness for social causes. On more than one tour they told fans to bring sock puppets on stage and help sing along. The socks, and fresh-bought socks alike, were then donated to a local homeless shelter. Their fan base was diverse, ranging from the socially and religiously outcast to the parents of teenage fans. The band played shows at both churches and secular venues throughout their career. The band's name began as an inside joke, and the band was generally known for their humour, displayed throughout their albums and on stage.
Recurring lyrical themes included the continuing injustices done to Native Americans, the evils of consumerism, Christian hypocrisy, the shortcomings of the band, and the joy of finding renewal in their Christian faith.
Five Iron Frenzy started as a side-project of Reese Roper, Keith Hoerig, Micah Ortega, and Scott Kerr's band Exhumator. Exhumator had an industrial thrash metal sound, but its members weren't into the style. Their only widely released song was "Spam Jam", on the compilation Green Manna (Fifty280 Records). Beginning in May, 1995, the group began adding members, and they settled on a ska sound in June with the addition of Brad Dunham. The band, sans Micah, Jeff, and Dennis, played on an impromptu stage set up at a skate ramp at the 1995 Cornerstone festival. The show included Ghoti Hook (before they signed with Tooth & Nail), and the audience included Alex Parker of Flying Tart Records. Although the show was supposed to be closed down by Andrew Mandell of Crashdog and Ballydowse, it wasn't; The band attributes some of their early success to the fact that they were allowed to play and Five Iron returned the next year sponsored by a record label.
In August Culp and Leanor Ortega officially joined, completing the initial lineup. The bands original intent was to stay local, and they opened for acts such as the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Less Than Jake, and Skankin' Pickle, playing over sixty shows during their first eight months. Though many of these shows were played in regular venues, a great number were also played in churches and at Christian-sponsored events, including the 1996 Cornerstone Festival on the Alarma Records stage. They entertained several offers from major Christian record labels including Alarma, Tooth & Nail Records, and Brainstorm Artists International before signing to Frank Tate's 5 Minute Walk Records in August.
"My original goal for Five Iron was just to be a good local band... I don't think any of us saw this coming."
?Reese Roper on the the band's success.
Their first album, Upbeats and Beatdowns was recorded in September and initially released in November 1996. Its national release in April, 1997 proved an early success for Five Iron, as the release peaked at 39 on Billboards "Top Contemporary Christian" chart. By the time of the release of their second album, Upbeats had sold 50,000 units. The music video for "A Flowery Song" received a Dove Award nomination in the "short form video" category. That year was largely spent on the road, and the band played 150 shows. Early on, the band was active in promoting social causes. Their song "Where the Zero Meets the Fifteen", which brought attention to the cause of homelessness, received some radio airplay. That October the band embarked on the "Rock Your Socks Off" tour, for which attendees were asked to bring clean socks for donation to local homeless shelters.
In November 1997 the band released their second album, Our Newest Album Ever!. Following the success of their first album, the band felt that their success had been based at least partially on the thrid wave of ska in general. According to Scott Kerr "The unfortunate reality is that good songs and good live performances have far less to do with our so-called success than our being a part of the 'flavor-of-the-month'." Five Iron Frenzy sought to distance themselves from the ska scene while maintaining their artistic integrity. Dennis Culp portrayed their goal, stating that "The Police used a lot of ska, but they really weren't referred to as a ska band... they went far beyond ska." For Five Iron, the method of achieving that goal was the creative process. On the first three releases Roper wrote most of the lyrics and Kerr supplied the musical portion. After Kerr left, the band began to explore a wider variety of musical influences, incorporating diverse influences such as Latin and swing music. Roper continued to write the lyrics, a task that he took seriously. He explained to 7ball in 1997 that "It's not like we try to sit down and write wacky songs. I take songwriting pretty seriously... I've been given this podium. I have a responsibility to tell the truth about things."
"We don't belong just in the Christian market, preaching to the choir. I think we definitely have a call to reach the lost, to people that don't know about Christ..."
?Andrew Verdecchio on the band's purpose.
Their most significant tour in 1998 was the Ska Against Racism tour, which raised awareness of and money for anti-racism causes. Five Iron was the only openly Christian band on the tour, yet in typical style refrained from using their set as a platform to preach to the crowds. Later that year, they embarked on the national SkaMania tour with The Insyderz and The OC Supertones. Five Iron found this tour was markedly different for the band in terms of interacting with both the audience and their tourmates due to the fact that both of the other participating bands were Christian bands. In 1998, songwriter and lead guitarist Scott Kerr left the band on friendly terms and started his own project, Yellow Second. Kerr's final appearance and the introduction of replacement Sonnie Johnston (of Jeffries Fan Club) occurred at the album release party for the band's first EP, Quantity is Job 1, on November 3, 1998 at the Aztlan Theater in Denver.
They reached the peak of their popularity around 2000, with the release of All The Hype That Money Can Buy. With the release of Hype, the band continued to diversify their sound, incorporating calypso, salsa, and reggae. Musically Hype turned out to be their most eclectic album. The band toured internationally throughout 2000. Mid summer the band toured in South Africa, and in December they played in Europe. By the time of the release of their next album, the band had sold over a cumulative half-million albums worldwide.
Culp's musical direction became prominent, although the composition duties were spread somewhat amongst band members. Production and engineering for every album was led by Masaki "Saki" Liu at his One Way Studio. With the release of Five Iron Frenzy 2: Electric Boogaloo, FIF's sound leaned more towards horn-tinged hard rock than ska, although all of the original horns were still intact. According to Keith Horeg: "It's a rock record with horns, in the vein of Chicago and the Rolling Stones, who have horns all over their records." 2001 marked a turning point for the band as their record contract with Five Minute Walk ran out, leading to rumors that the band would break up. For a time they considered signing with a major label, but they decided to finish their career with 5 Minute Walk.
In late 2001 the band embarked on the "Electric Youth" tour with Relient K, John Reuben, and Ace Troubleshooter. On this tour again the audience was asked to bring socks for donation to local homeless shelters, and to make them into sock puppets for audience participation. On this tour the audience numbered about 1,200 per night, creating what was referred to as the "worlds largest sock puppet choir." Socks were also judged afterward in a "Sock Puppet Pageant" of sorts, with prizes given in various categories. The tour's name is a tribute to Debbie Gibson, who wrote an album by the same name.
"We decided to do this rather than just quit suddenly, because we wanted to say thank you to our fans and say goodbye as well."
?Keith Hoerig on the bands final year.
In early 2003 Five Iron announced their impending breakup via their web site. They dedicated their final year to their fans, playing at many major Christian music festivals and releasing Cheeses...(of Nazareth), a collection of joke songs and B-sides, and their final studio album, The End Is Near. After clarifying that instead of "breaking up" they were "quitting," they embarked on a national tour entitled the "Winners Never Quit Tour" with Bleach, Holland, and Cameron Jaymes. They played their final show on November 22, 2003 at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, Colorado. This show had an attendance of over 3,600 people and was widely released in 2004 as the double disk set The End Is Here, alongside The End Is Near.
If we do get back together, I think you should make us all eat a handful of mayonnaise.
?Reese Roper on the possibility of a Five Iron Frenzy reunion.
Persistent rumors about a reunion, like those of the untimely demise of Brad, have haunted the band since their breakup. The band has always denied them, and many members have moved on to other projects. Reese Roper was involved in a short lived project called Guerilla Rodeo. Rodeo had a pop-punk sound and consisted of members of Five Iron Frenzy (Reese Roper and Sonnie Johnston), Ace Troubleshooter (John Warne and Josh Abbot) and the OC Supertones (Ethan Luck). The band recorded a three-song EP before the members moved on to other projects. Roper then signed under his own name - Roper - and released the album Brace Yourself for the Mediocre on 5 Minute Walk Records. Roper also presided over the band Brave Saint Saturn - a studio side-project telling the story of stranded astronauts. The project started in 1995 as a Five Iron side project and has released three albums. Their long awaited third album, Anti-Meridian, was released 15 September 2008.
Although there was a rumor that an act billed as "Reese Roper and his 5 Iron Friends" was scheduled to play at SoulFest 2007 in Gilford, NH, this rumor was later dispelled by Leanor (the saxophonist) in a blog on her myspace page., but Reese Roper did however play an acoustic set at SoulFest 2008 as well as some hosting of the 'Inside Out' stage..
On July 22, 2008 after many years of dormancy the Five Iron Frenzy website was relaunched with new content. The site is now fan run and hosts photos and content from the band's past as well interviews with formers members and news on their current projects. In August 2008, BraveSaintSaturn, the side project of Five Iron Frenzy members Reese, Keith, Dennis and Andrew which ran along Five Iron Frenzy for many years, also relaunched their official website to support their third album. Of interest to Five Iron Frenzy fans is Reese Roper's appearance on the site's message board and willingness to answer fan question about the happenings of Five Iron Frenzy's members over the past years.
On Sept. 16, 2009 it was announced through Facebook that a FIF DVD will be coming in Winter of 2009. A website was launched as well, with more details to be forthcoming.
Yellow Second - included Kerr and Verdecchio; their third album, Altitude, was released on Floodgate Records in 2004; broke up in late 2005.
Dennis Bayne - trombone player Culp released one album, Ascents, under only his first and middle names. The album contains an acoustic guitar and vocal interpretation of certain Psalms (120-131) from the Bible.
Dance Mexican Dance / His Love Fellowship - saxophonist Leanor Jeff the Girl Ortega-Till was briefly involved in an electronica project alongside husband Stephen Till, who was the rhythm guitarist for Roper. Dance Mexican Dance was renamed His Love Fellowship before becoming dormant.
Hearts of Palm - Leanor Ortega Till currently plays saxophone for Denver-based nine-piece pop ensemble Hearts of Palm, formerly known as Nathan and Stephen. Their sound can be described as eclectic and anthematic indie-pop.
The Hollyfelds - Bassist Keith is currently playing with his wife Eryn in the country / folk band The Hollyfelds (www.TheHollyfelds.com).
Soul Daddy - Guitarist Micah is currently playing with ?Alan the Fisherman? (R. Alan Brooks II) in Soul Daddy (formerly known as Aquilibrium).
Origin of the band's name
An excerpt from an interview between Jesus Freak Hideout and Keith Hoerig appear below:
Jesus freak Hideout: What's the story behind the name "Five Iron Frenzy"? Keith Hoerig: We got the name Five Iron Frenzy from a roommate of most of ours. He was kind of paranoid, and afraid that if he went outside on this particular night he was going to get jumped by some people. He had a golf club to defend himself and he said something to the effect of it being like "putter mayhem". Scott looked at the golf club he was holding, and noting that it was a five iron said, "No, more like a Five Iron Frenzy." The name stuck.