We Interview 5 Seconds Of Summer’s Michael Clifford

Name: Michael Clifford
Sign: Scorpio
Age: 18
Band: 5 Seconds of Summer (Capitol/Hi Or Hey Records)

Michael Clifford: Hey, how are you?

Thought Catalog: I’m OK. Congratulations on the release of your first album and mega success of “She Looks So Perfect”.

Michael: Thanks man! I appreciate it.

TC: What was that song like in its early stages? Did you and Ashton have any intentions of creating an anthem?

Michael: I’m not sure. When we were writing it, it was really weird. The guy we wrote it with, Jake Sinclair—he came up with the idea of that hook in the chorus. It just kind of happened. We weren’t expecting anything. We were just writing songs, it turned out to be what it was. We rolled with it. It just came out to be a really cool song in the end.

TC: Is the American Apparel underwear line an inside joke or are you talking about emo/scene girls who take pics in men’s AA underwear?

Michael: We were just saying it. We didn’t think about it too much, we just went with it. It’s really cool that it flowed. It was weird that it had the brand in the chorus. It’s cool.

TC: It was natural.

Michael: Yeah.

TC: When you got signed and had to put together an album under a label, adding deadlines—did you still feel creatively free? Was it any different than creating whatever you wanted when you were at home unsigned, since you have your own label?

Michael: We were talking to the head of A&R at Capitol yesterday and he said to us, “We’ve learned to produce content from you guys!” It’s always been run by us, it always will be. It’s nice to have help sometimes, we have a really big team around us. It’s awesome.

TC: It’s always been your guys’s vision.

Michael: Exactly. It’s always been our band, it always will be.

TC: I know a lot of teenagers that would be terrified to share their poetry with the world, in fear of being judged or not sounding a specific way—do you ever filter yourself when writing, to keep some
things for yourself?

Michael: Yes, I do. I think sometimes when you are writing, you try not to go too deep. Sometimes the things you want to write about are not the type of things people want to hear. I think you have to put your soul into your music, and just write about whatever you feel like writing about. I always think expressing your emotions in an honest way is always the best but sometimes it’s hard to put some things in your music. You know? Knowing it will be released to masses of people, you get unsure.

TC: Did you write the song “Rejects” when you were actually feeling like a reject or was it more a “fuck you” moment?

Michael: I remember I wrote the chorus to that song in LA. At the time, we would go out and meet people. It was just like everyone was treating us like shit, we were different to them, I guess? So, that song was like “Fuck you! It’s cool to be different.”

TC: When it is just you four writing music, is there a lot of disagreement in the process, or has it got to the point of “Whatever! I trust you”?

Michael: I’m not sure if it’s arguing in songwriting sessions. We are all on the same wave length and are always going towards the same direction. We are always bouncing around a bunch of different ideas, we know what sounds best. We trust each other and “just go with it.” If you hear a part that kind of sucks, you just change it.

TC: Are any songs a collage of old songs? Do you mix and match old to create new or did you guys start from scratch writing the record?

Michael: We haven’t done that, surprisingly! It’s definitely not a bad idea. I think that way you’d have better songs lying around. That’s a good idea. I’ve done that with songs I’ve written before but I’ve never put them out anywhere.

TC: Coming from playing in front of a Macbook camera at school, and then suddenly being labeled as a “boy band” by the whole world, basically having strangers try to tell you who you are as artists must be a strange transition. It doesn’t really make any sense. When you first formed, did any of you say “Ok, this is a rock band,” “This is a pop band,” “This is a pop punk band”? Were you ever restricted to one genre?

Michael: To be seen like that… It is weird that we are called a boy band, and manufactured. It’s really weird for us, we were just trying to become a band that we looked up to in the best way we knew how. We weren’t thinking about genre too much! We were just playing acoustic covers until we got together and started rehearsing live together. When we first started, it was very raw. Just the instruments and vocals. We were just doing what we could. It’s our first album, we can only grow.

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TC: Do you ever wish more guys would be more open about being 5SOS fans?

Michael: Yeah. I think eventually we are going to evolve into being more accessible to dudes, as our fans grow up—so will our music. I think it’s just a matter of time, we are definitely not going anymore pop than we have now. All bands can start being really cool at some point to guys, we can grow into it. Hopefully we will see more dudes at the shows. Some of our fans are very young. If you come to a 5SOS show and you are really young, stay at the back and wear earplugs! [Laughs]

TC: [Laughs] It seems like everything you guys do turns into a romanticized Vine with like The Fray & Snow Patrol playing in the background. I know a lot of people capture quick clips of you guys hugging, then they write 10-page fan fictions based off them. Do you ever read any of it when you are bored?

Michael: Not really. I’ve had a glance at a few of them that are really popular other than that, not really. It’s really cool that they do that! They write stuff about you that’s not actually like you. I feel like if I read it more, I would really enjoy it. I’d be like “Oh hey? I’m more awesome in this digital book thingy than I am in real life?”

TC: You’ve had like a million hair colors this year, do they change with how you’re feeling or are you just someone who needs change?

Michael: [Laughs] I was just looking for colors that I haven’t had yet, I’m just going through the color wheel and checking out what I haven’t done. Now I’m going to have to start to do patterns. Wait, hold on a second. Sorry, I think someone’s at my door?

TC: It’s cool.

Michael: Sorry, what you were saying?

TC: If you had to choose a #MCM (Man Crush Monday) or #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday) this week on Instagram, who would it be?

Michael: My #MCM would be Leonardo Dicaprio! My #WCW would be Callum.

TC: What are your most frequently used emojis right now?

Michael: I’m obsessed with the guy with it’s teeth out and smiling. I use the eggplant one a lot. Oh, and the crying one… TC mark

Buy 5 Seconds of Summer’s self-titled debut on iTunes.

image – @michaelgclifford

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