Within the School of Rock, the members of Family Force 5 are the cool teachers handing out endless hall passes, granting permission for everyone to just have fun. And in a musical climate where most are either taking themselves too seriously or pressured into a sonic formula, the Atlanta-based “crunk rock” group is making waves by simply inviting everyone to the party they’ve started.
“Not to sound arrogant, but there really aren’t a lot of bands out there that sound like Family Force 5,” says Chap Stique, otherwise known as guitarist Derek Mount. “It’s been something people have really embraced because they’re sick of hearing the same thing, and they’re ready for a party.”
“For some reason, when people listen to our music, they lose their inhibitions and always wanna have fun,” adds Soul Glow Activatur, aka vocalist Solomon Olds. “If a music store had a ‘party’ section and a ‘firecracker’ section, I think we’d be placed right between those. That’s what I feel like our music is. It’s very fun and very energy-oriented.”
However, the band’s members, rounded out by Crouton (drummer Jacob Olds), Fatty (bassist Joshua Olds) and Nadaddy (multiinstrumentalist Nathan Currin), weren’t always surrounded by sonic party favors. Solomon, Jacob and Joshua Olds got their start in the mid-’90s as The Brothers before eventually forming The Phamily with their current bandmates. Copyright issues forced them to switch to their current moniker.
Under the name Family Force 5, the band melded multiple sounds into one all-inclusive mix. Various members cite influences ranging from hiphop to heavy metal with an appreciation for everything in between, resulting in the aforementioned crunk rock.
It wasn’t long before both Maverick and Gotee Records jumped on board with the fun, allowing Family Force 5 to release Business Up Front, Party in the Back to both general and Christian markets. The results have been nothing short of impressive, with strong album sales, a spot on the “Vans Warped Tour,” and recognition for winning Yahoo! Music’s “Who’s Next?” competition.
Yet for all the people falling in love with FF5, the band is not without its detractors. Surprisingly, most of those come from inside the church, not outside of it. “We have problems with people who are into Churchianity,” says Soul Glow Activatur. “They see us dancing and going crazy on stage and using the lingo we’re using, and for some reason we’re persecuted for being different.
“It’s the type of people who still play records backwards and stuff, listening for hidden messages,” continues Soul Glow Activatur. “We have a few of those kooky people who come to us while we’re trying to hang with the kids and shake their hands. They’ll come up and say, ‘What’s this lyric supposed to mean? All you guys [did] was just jump around a lot. I didn’t hear the name of Jesus.’ We usually rebut with the fact that we’re leading kids to Jesus Christ. ‘How many kids are you leading to Christ everyday?’ Not that it needs to be some kind of match or anything, but you can kinda get to the point where you just want to say, ‘What are you doing for Christ?’”
“I have been completely shocked at how progressive and excited the church has been as a whole,” adds Chap Stique. “We’ve met some incredible youth groups, ministers and club owners and promoters who are really excited about what we’re doing. I also think any persecution we face from a religious perspective has been from the church rather than the outside. Part of our message is to say, ‘Rather than runaway from what is bad, let’s start running toward what is good.’ ”
Yet neither growing acclaim nor opposition keep the band from its primary focus. “What we’re really trying to do is just be open to everybody and show Christ-like love instead of trying to condemn anybody or anything,” explains Solomon. “We played the Warped Tour. We play churches. We’ll play pretty much anywhere that anybody will have us. The message of Christ needs to hit everybody. Jesus didn’t just preach to the church. He went to everybody. He talked to everybody. We want to make sure we’re saying our stuff to everybody.”
Bringing the permission slips to everyone means utilizing much more than music. Family Force 5 has big plans for the new year, including a DVD release of their “Really Real” webisodes (which the band describes as “our Spinal Tap”), a possible new album and multiple tours, the first of which is tentatively titled the “Heart Support Tour.”
It’s the latter that offers the best glimpse into the frenetic party world of Family Force 5. “I think with Family Force 5, you come to a show, but it’s actually more of an experience,” explains Solomon. “You come away saying that you went through something life-changing. It’s not just five or six guys up there playing some good rock & roll music. You come away sweaty saying, ‘Wow, did I really do that at that show?’”
“I think one of the craziest moments for me on this tour was playing Creepy Crawl,” laughs Mount, while recounting the event. “It’s this hilariously nasty, awesome club in St. Louis. It was the first night of the tour, and there was a point when all of us were standing on the drum riser with Crouton, and the entire crowd was on the stage going nuts. There were people laying on the ground, body surfing, moshing, dancing, break dancing, two-stepping… Everything was happening at once. It was the most diverse crowd of absolute insanity you’ve ever seen.”
Then again, it’s just another day in the life of Family Force 5. And if they have it their way, you’ll accept their invitation to join the fun.