By Brian Ives
A young band filled with four siblings and one drummer all with marquee good looks may have a hard time being taken seriously as a band. Add to that the fact that bassist Riker Lynch has appeared on Glee (as a member of the a cappella group The Warblers) and singer/guitarist Ross Lynch has a role on the Disney Channel show Austin and Ally. The equation doesn’t quite add up to “critical darlings.”
The band has one response to anyone who would question their cred: “Don’t judge us until you see us live,” says Riker. “Music came before everything: we were a band way before [Ross] was ever on a TV show, or I was ever on a TV show, music was always the first thing. Once people see the live show, it’s like, ‘OK, cool.’ I wouldn’t say we have to prove it that much, but I can see why it would come up every once in a while.”
The band — which also features brother Rocky on guitar, sister Rydel on keyboards and Ellington Ratliff on drums — have a strong pop-punk sound, which is understandable, given their early influences. “Fall Out Boy was the biggest influence for me and Rocky, right off the bat,” Riker says. “Rocky showed me a video and I said, ‘That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.'”
“Actually it was a ‘Beat It’ cover by Fall Out Boy,” Rocky recalls. “I was actually the first in our family to pick up the guitar in our family. I remember saying, ‘Dude, this is dope! We gotta do this!'”
In 2007 the Lynch clan moved to L.A., and soon after they started the band with their sister and friend Ratliff (he goes by his last name, which is where they get R5). By 2009 they’d released their debut EP and by 2012, they’d signed to Hollywood Records.
In a hip-hop and EDM saturated marketplace, though, is there room for a traditional band like R5? They’re pretty optimistic: “I actually think there’s a lot of diversity starting to grow in top 40 radio. Like Lorde — she’s very electronic, it’s really different. Then there’s Pharrell, he has a very organic production to his songs. Then there’s Paramore, they’re a rock band with guitars high up in the mix.”
They have reason to be optimistic, even if they haven’t blown up in the states yet, they’re huge overseas, particularly in Japan, a point that they parody in their video for “(I Can’t) Forget About You.”
In another indication that the band are capturing hearts and minds is the fact that they’ve been inked on the skin of many of their fans. Ross says, “The first time that we ever saw our lyrics on a tattoo, I definitely flipped out a bit. It’s pretty frequent now, a lot of people have been getting tattoos of our lyrics. Just the other day, we tweeted [out] our R5 logo on their forearm. Or they’ll get ‘say you’ll stay.’ Riker said in an interview, ‘You love who you love,’ or something like that, and a whole bunch of people got that tattooed. That must mean something really important to them if they’re willing to get it tattooed on their body.”
And, next to that, maybe getting great reviews isn’t so important. Riker: “I think it would be really awesome if rock critics liked us, but I don’t think the critics are necessarily important to please for us. the important thing for us is to have fun with what we’re doing.”
R5’s Heart Made Up On You EP is out July 22, and they kick off a U.S. tour on September 3 in Orlando.