In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream
Like looking out the window to find planet Earth hanging there in the yellowed sky, like a million dollar paycheck in a world without banks, like a television that bites, the music of 5ive is genetically engineered to stimulate confusion and bliss in equal measures. Earthlings, in their desperate search for gravity, might label 5ive's music as "Stoner Acid Trance". But in space, where robots weep and galaxies implode on a whim, they call it a soundtrack for interstellar love scenes.
After many brain fever nights searching among the circuitry of the Matrix, I locate the geometrically skewed duo of 5ive, and they agree to a clandestine organic interface under the shroud of darkness.
A Crazy Man’s Utopia
Much like the infamous 'House of Long Shadows', the Pounding Room of 5ive may look like Purgatory's forgotten linen closet on the outside, but within it is vast and ornate, casting a warm aura of forbidden knowledge and nary a tinge of regret. Lit like an opulent opium den, hulking rawk machinery throbs throughout the space, it's angry red lights punctuating the murk. 5ive's mad tinkering of exotic squeal boxes have resulted in a pile of malformed circuitry that suggests ancient futurism, their black umbilical cords like watchful serpents, their gentle hum belying the raw power now sleeping lightly within. The walls are covered in crude pencil scratchings that appear to be Sanskrit. Nothing is as it seems. The 2 of 5ive notice my fly-to-the-web trepidation upon entering.
"the lights fuck everyone up", drummer Charlie Harrold ( not his real name) confirms.
"Yeh," laughs guitarist Ben Carr ( an anagram), we have people flowing through here all the time, but they don't stay for long. They say, 'I gotta go, I think I'm going to go blind, I need some light', but I think it's just perfect. I could stay in here all night. I bet you could, too." An invitation, a challenge, a warning.
On the dark side of the gloom, an array of plush couches in varying states of disintergration. It is explained that one of them belonged to infamous Satanist Anton Levay, and that he had made love to Jayne Mansfield on it amidst chanting and candles. But they will not disclose which couch possesses the essence of powerful sex majick, and we end up simply crouching on the corrupted, carpeted floor like conspirators around a campfire. Ben reaches behind him and plucks a guitar string. The sound filters through a squat tentacled Moog keyboard and shoots out with a corrosive squawk, tearing around the walls of the room as if trying to escape. "This is what we listen to instead of the radio", Charlie offers.
I've got to know what I'm dealing with here. Ben drives a sparkling white van. Only two kinds of people use these vehicles - Columbian drug lords and kidnappers. I ask 5ive about their criminal records. Significantly, Ben stares off into space, waiting for the next qustion. But Charlie’s toothy grin gleams with gunrack-for-Christmas mischief, and in an instant, it's obvious. Charlie is a motherfucker. The good kind, the kind that drags you out of a burning building, hoses you off, cracks open a beer, and lights a cigarette without the slightest bit of irony. "I've been arrested many times. You know, for having fun." The lights flicker again. The chuckling of knowing ghosts. And this terrible true tale begins to unfold.
Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space
"We don't play weddings, we make art." Ben boldly states, and it's true. The music of 5ive resembles the bursting of Gas Giants and the laughter of insects, hardly the fodder of easy classification. "If I was talking to 'Joe Asshole' on the street", he says, "I'd tell him we play Stoner Rock. But it's bigger than that. It's vast. It's infinite."
Certainly, concepts like heat, madness, and the silent marching of wolf spiders all figure into the 5ive sound, but what of more terrestrial pleasures? Charlie lunges. "Dude, do you want to hear this?" That's what I'm hear for, Jack. "I am the fucking king of classic rock, man. Straight up. Records upon records upon records. After a show, we go home and play some Brainbombs first." I don't know from no 'Brainbombs', but Ben quickly straightens me out. "They reek of their own..." he's too excited to finish the thought. "They're serial killers, they're tough as nails. You gotta get jacked into the Brainbombs. I don't know if they're Swedish, but they're Swedish to me." Well, alright. Charlie continues. "Definitely some Stones, and as the night rolls on and the buzz kicks in, the Who 'Live at Leeds' always comes on. Metal. Pink Floyd..." "Ummagumma", Ben interjects, "will fry your brain." I knew it. At the heart of any band that gets tagged 'Space Rock' is a Pink Floyd fetish. Personally, I have a few problems with the prog rock kings. Like the way they dress, for one. "But they were a completely different band before 'Dark Side of the Moon'", Ben explains. "'Saucerful of Secrets', 'Ummagumma', they were tough, brutal records. And that's at the core of the 5ive sound. That's our roots."
"But our sound is always changing and evolving," Charlie adds. "A piece of artwork is never really finished."
I can't help but to notice 5ive's penchant for finishing each other's sentences. It's obvious that they're close. Maybe too close, like evil conjoined twins. Both are quick to agree.
"I wouldn't do this with anybody else", Ben says. "This is the first band for both of us."
"We’ve played with other people in the past, but nothing worth mentioning", says Charlie. "We have a pretty open studio, and people jam with us all the time, but 5ive will always be just the two of us."
Another free floating blast of space junk bursts from the speakers as Ben offers some advice. "If someone wanted to form a band, I'd tell them to find your friends, people that share similar interests and musical backgrounds. It makes the whole process so much cooler."
Charlie adds some 5ive history. "We've been together two years. We started playing acoustically, but stringed instruments weren't enough, and I picked up the drums. It just progressed from there."
"And every time we learn something new about ourselves, it gets added to the mix", says Ben.
The sleek 21st century 5ive live experience is a low lit, high decibel, blissed out orgy of exotic sound, half strategy, half improvised atmospherics. But what of last century's model, the birthing of 5ive into screaming life? A sly smile forms on Ben's face. "We don't remember our first gig, any of it. I think I was on my knees at one point. A friend of ours said it was almost too rock'n'roll. I know it was too loud, but I don't remember the rest of the night at all. I'm glad we rose out of the murk of obscurity, but I'm also glad that no one remembers what we were before what we are now, because there's no need to. We keep changing all the time, and I don't always know where we’re going, because it's bigger than us. 5ve music has a life of it's own."
You Are Mistaken If You Thought It Was Dr. Jeckyl Under This Mask
Like supersonic crank dealers, 5ive have specific rules of engagement, and little room for compromise. Ben testifies. "People need two things, unfortunately, from bands, which I have no interest in providing. They need lyrics. They need to associate the songs through lyrics and titles. The other thing they need is pictured of the band, to relate the people with the music. Well, I'm not interested in that jazz. I mean, I'm all for pictures. Just not necessarily of us."
"Yeh", Charlie agrees, "we don't need our pictures on the records, or any bullshit promo shots. We're not here to dictate visuals. It's open to interpretation."
The analytical reader will be quick to point out the fatal flaw in 5ive's shroud of secrecy. Unless they plan on unveiling a new look incorporating wrestling masks or corpsepaint, when attending a 5ive show you will, in fact, be staring at our heroes for 45 minutes. "We like to play in the dark", Ben offers. For the record, and to satiate the curious, Charlie looks like trouble. Ben doesn't, but Pontius Pilate had short hair too.
The duo have recently released a 3 song ep to prepare the unsuspecting populous for their upcoming album. Keeping in step with their brazen attempts at commercial suicide, the cd and it's songs remain nameless. Should the band really expect fervent Mega City 5 rockers to shout "Track 2!" above the din at O'Brien's? "Oh, we've got titles", Ben dismisses, "We just don't use them." Charlie adds, "we name them so that we know what we're playing, but we didn't bother putting them on the record. I forget why."
"Because", Ben explains, " we have 8 or 10 songs, but they're only recognizable up to a point. Then they reach a crossroads, and who knows where we'll go with it? So they won't ever be the same anyway."
I begin to wonder if a straight answer is even possible at this late hour. Throwing caution to the wind, I decide to ask the one question they informed me was off limits - the band's name. 5ive consists of Charlie's drums and Ben's guitar. Even if you count the enchanted moog that serves as 5ive fuzzy electric pulse, the band is still two members shy of their namesake. What kind of madness is that? "Damn it." Ben spits. "That cannot be disclosed." Charlie's lips are looser. "A few years ago, I was experimenting with these bizarre art forms..."
"Stop right there!" Ben demands. "You're going to blow his mind. Just make up your own story, man. It'd probably be closer to the truth anyway."
A Planet Where Death Shows Movies
Ben picks up his guitar again. Suddenly, bizarre noises begin spinning around the room. He plays the familiar opening riffs to Black Sabbath's "Electric Funeral", but like a Supernaut gone haywire, it quickly fragments into a different beast entirely. Building new rockets with old parts.
"We have no interest in making money playing music", he continues. Sure it'd be nice if we did, but we're artists."
"Boston's such a punk rock town anyway", Charlie says. "Every band in town plays Misfits covers."
"we don't play any covers", Ben adds. "We can't, really. And even if we did, they'd come out so fucked up, we'd have to tell you what they were."
So far, in the two years that 5ive have occupied this puny planet, the live immersion has been conducted about a dozen times. I ask them what the parameters of audience reaction have been to their unique sound.
"People have thrown bottles at us", Ben states.
"Recently, we played a rock show at the Linwood, then got in the van and drove to Providence to play Deep Heaven, a psychedelic space show, all in the same night. That was our first real 'rock'n'roll' experience."
"It was awesome", Charlie remembers. "At Deep Heaven, we just set up and started jamming. People sat on the floor with their heads right in front of the drums. Even the people that were in the back drinking came up front to rock out."
"we definitely like having people up front when we play", Ben says. "I don't really care what they do, as long as they don't touch my gear. People get stoned and they come up and start grabbing at my fucking pedals. Then it's not so cool. But we can hang with lots of different kinds of bands. One of our favorites is Warhorse. Nobody goes to see them, either. (laughs)"
That, of course, is all about to change. Tortuga recordings will be releasing 5ive's full -length album. Just as soon as they stop recording it. Tales of marathon, all-night, drug fueled madness in the studio are circulating around town like a computer virus. Charlie does nothing to dispel the myth. "We just recorded a song with Mike from Warhorse", he tells me. "It's 63 minutes long."
Meanwhile, the band continues to carve out new sonic landscapes while maintaining the standard lifestyle of esoteric excess. "The 5ive lifestyle?" Charlie ponders. "Drink all day, hang out all night."
"Stay out until 3:30 in the morning, get up for work at 5", adds Ben. "Every weekend of my life is a rock'n'roll weekend."
I'm starting to feel as though days have past since I entered the snaky lair of 5ive. I've got to break the Voodoo trance, lest my mind wander into some terminal freak-out alley that I cannot escape from. The rest of the questions I had prepared are spilling out of my mind like rose petals raining on a dead man's hands, and I think I'm going to go blind. I can easily imagine hapless truth seekers trapped here forever in 5ive's cruel labyrinth, crawling on their knees through the deep pile carpeting, searching feverishly for drugs that don't even exist, lost in the wooshing swirl of possessed feedback. Before fleeing, I ask for any last words. Ben doesn't hesitate.
"Our music takes you somewhere else. Even if you don't want to go there."
The spaceship leaves in 5ive minutes.