Sean Conlon, 5ive: "I don't know if my knees will hold up on 'If you're getting down'."
Cambridge News - 27th June 2013

They’ve reunited thanks to a huge, ITV2-related fanfare and are gearing up for a summer of gigs, starting with The Big Pop Party at Newmarket Nights. But are they glad to be back? Ella Walker gets down for a funny, candid chat with Sean and Ritchie from 5ive.

The lads from 5ive (and they are proper ‘lad’ lads) – Scott Robinson, Ritchie Neville, Abz Love, Sean Conlon and J Brown – shot to fame in 1997 with brilliant, pop-tastic singles including “Slam Dunk (da Funk)” and “(Baby) When The Lights Go Out”, but have been pretty much out of the game since they split uneasily in 2001.

A failed stab at reuniting happened in 2006, and then along came ITV2 with an idea that would tug on the long lost memories of 90s kids, who were brought up on Smash Hits magazine and Top of the Pops: The Big Reunion.

Pulling in all the ‘big’ names – 911, Atomic Kitten, B*Witched, Honey, Liberty X and even Blue – the show aired earlier this year and featured a massive comeback performance at the Hammersmith Apollo – sadly, minus J.

All now in their early 30s, we caught up with super energetic Sean and Ritchie, to find out what life is really like post reality TV:

Sean Conlon:

“Nah, never – thought that was it. End. Forever,” says Sean bluntly when asked if he imagined 5ive would ever get back together after they originally split up – it didn’t stop him being the first to get involved when The Big Reunion came knocking though.

“When I make decisions I kinda know instantly whether it’s right for me or wrong for me and that,” he explains. “For me personally, I didn’t really ask, [they] just said do you want to do it? And I was just like, yeah, and for some reason it just felt right. I think when things feel like that it’s about timing; where you are in your personal life, how you feel about the past, whether you sort of wanna confront it, whether you’ve dealt with it and then it’s just a case of putting one foot in front of the other, still with a lot of trepidation and a lot of fear.

“But, you know, so far so good, touch wood – although I can’t find any,” he pauses, scrabbling about looking for a piece of pine. “Oh, I’ve found a little bit now.”

Sean, who has been busy song writing since the split, was always the quiet one in 5ive, so it was a bit of a surprise when he turned up on The Voice trying to make it as a solo artist (he didn’t get through the first round sadly). Has he missed performing? “I have missed it. But the strangest thing about it is, it don’t feel strange, it feels normal. I think being off stage feels stranger.”

What is a little bit strange is the fact 5ive is now, well, ‘4our’ – which doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it? “J said yes, then he said no, then he said no, then he said yes, then he said yes, then he said no, then he said no, then he said yes – that went on for a year, then we just decided to go for it anyway, take a risk and see how it went down,” Sean says wryly, admitting they haven’t exactly left the door open for their former eyebrow-pierced band mate. “I’d say it’s left open ajar, I wouldn’t say it’s wide open, but I wouldn’t say it’s completely shut,” he muses. “The thing is we’ve been through so much on the show, and we’ve opened up about so many things, and gotten over so many things, on camera and off camera, that I think if someone just came back in the band who hadn’t been through that process, it’d probably be a little bit weird.”

With a summer of live gigs lined up, the foursome have got other things to worry about anyway, namely feeling the strain of being 30-something pop stars: “I don’t know if my knees will hold up on ‘If you’re getting down’, [I might] need some cod liver oil!” And then there are those pesky horses at Newmarket Nights: “Abs is the horse man; I don’t know if he likes betting on horses but he likes riding them. I’m a little bit afraid of them but I do like a little gamble.”

On the night they’ll be performing alongside fellow Big Reunioners Liberty X and Blue, but that doesn’t exactly mean they’re all the greatest mates. “We’re not enemies, I wouldn’t say we’re like best friends or anything like that,” says Sean frankly. “We have a chat, we have a laugh with some of the bands, a few drinks here and there.”

Does it ever get competitive between them and Blue? “It probably does a little bit, I don’t know. You’d have to ask them,” he says with a laugh. “I suppose it does a little bit though, people probably thinking things, but 5ive are not, we’re just having a laugh.”

Unsurprisingly it’s mostly been their original fans digging out dusty 5ive albums from the attic, but it turns out some younger fans are emerging too. “We went to Radio One the other week to do an interview,” says Sean, clearly bemused. “And there were young girls outside and I came out with one of the other guys, and I asked them: what are you doing? Are you waiting for One Direction? And they said, no, we’re waiting for you. And they were only about 13 or 14 and we were like wow. You know what I mean?”

Considering the fact the 90s are well and truly over, and, reunions rarely work out (bar Take That and the Spice Girls), do they really think things will work out differently this time around? “I’d say we’re probably about 10 per cent more mature, no more than that,” Sean jokes, before getting serious again. “We acknowledge that we’re all very different characters; we don’t only accept that, we appreciate it and embrace it. That’s the magic of the band really, it’s the dynamics of the different characters.

“Before, when we were kids, we’d struggle with it. We still do sometimes as you’ve seen on camera but there’s a great respect there, with all of us and a great bonding.”

So, will they still be together in 5 years’ time? “I mean if we were still going, that’d be absolutely amazing and incredible, I’d personally love that, but I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in five minutes, so…”

Ritchie Neville

Floppy, blonde haired Ritchie was the pretty boy of 5ive (swoon), now he’s possibly the most enthusiastic pop star alive. Seriously.

“It’s so much fun, just so much fun,” he buzzes, describing what it’s like to have reunited, an Australian twang filtering down the phone line a legacy of a decade spent away. “I always knew it was going to be good, but it was actually unexpectedly sort of brilliant. I was living in Australia so was almost a bit disjointed from it – I think the boys maybe saw the lead up to it a bit more – so I got sort of thrown straight into it and yeah, it’s reignited a lot of passions for me.

“I hadn’t been performing or singing or anything for 10 years, so, it was a really, really nice thing.”

And he’s genuinely excited for Newmarket Nights, so much so his voice goes up another octave: “I’ve never done a racecourse gig so I’m actually really excited about it, I think it’s going to be really, really good. I imagine the people will be really geed up to have a good time.”

Whether the pun was intended or not, it’s refreshing to interview a pop star so happy-go-lucky about being back in the industry, and one who just says whatever’s in his head.

“I honestly had given up even thinking about [the band], I really had,” he remembers. “It was something that happened many years ago, sort of it was my greatest achievement, and in many ways after the band I’ve kind of run away from that. A lot of the times after that I was living like some kind of ghost because I just wanted to be a normal dude and do normal stuff.

“I think I needed to find myself is what I’m saying, which is hard when you’re constantly reminded of it everywhere you go. Then I went abroad and I was gone for a long time and maybe, I don’t know, maybe I found myself,” he says, laughing at the cliché. “It was like, well, I know who I am now, let’s get on with my job.”

He admits it’s still been slightly daunting going from being a successful restaurateur in Australia to hauling himself back on stage though. “Never in my life have I had stage fright but I had it at Hammersmith Apollo,” he says. “I don’t know what it was but I really got it badly. I’d almost have liked a little warm up gig or something. But as soon as we got on there it was strangely familiar and alien all at the same time. Good though, really good.”

So why does he think now is the right time to make a second go at it? “The stars aligned and it just happened,” he replies instantly, adding he can’t wait to get out there and “just rock out basically.”

He’s also much less tentative than Sean when it comes to the idea of recording again: “Personally I would love to get in the studio, even it’s just for a laugh, and make some music.”

I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens.