5ive's Sean Conlon
30th Oct 2013 - everguide
When the Spice Girls aced the charts worldwide, the bigwig music guys who put them together were pretty pleased with themselves. 'What now?' They asked. 'I know – let’s do the same thing but with boys,' they said while sitting around a mahogany table in their world domination boardroom.* So they did what anyone in 1997 would do and put an ad in the paper. Russell Brand tried out. He didn’t get in. But Sean Conlon and four other teens did and so 5ive were born. They flourished into the bad boys of pop, laying the polished path of boy bands to come (looking right at you, 1D).
10 million albums and 16 years later, 5ive have reunited and are back on tour. We caught up with Sean to talk about matching outfits, setting hotel rooms on fire and the stresses of being a famous teen.
Bianca Fioritti: Hi Sean! It’s kind of intimidating talking to you because when I was a kid I had 5ive plastered to my wall. It was ALL about the merchandise back then. I remember my friend owning a 5ive doll.
Sean Conlon: (Laughs) Scott’s kid had a doll of me and he used to play with it when he was little. There you go.
BF: It was also the peak of the fan club. There are still so many shrines to 5ive on the internet with comic sans writing and bad flashing GIFs. They all claim to be the ‘official’ fan club. It’s actually amazing.
SC: (Laughs) Right.
BF: How much fan mail did you get?
SC: It was back in the day before social media – we used to get a hell of a lot.
BF: What kind of stuff did people send you?
SC: A lot of letters. A lot of chocolate. A lot of photographs with us. Sometimes we got given weird things, like we got given a hamster once.
BF: Did you keep it?
SC: No, I think our record label took it to the people who protect animals – the RSPCA’s equivalent in Argentina.
BF: Do you get recognised in the supermarket?
SC: Yeah we do, but it’s different now. When we were kids, it was a kid recognising a kid and you’d get all the screaming and the drama. You’d be a bit embarrassed. Now, most people are older and they might not say anything. If they do say something it’s kind of subtle, saying they enjoyed a show or our music. It’s really easy now compared to what it used to be.
BF: Fewer deafened ears I’m sure.
SC: Until we do the gigs and then we’re back to the screaming.
BF: You won a young composer competition at 13 and got propelled into 5ive at 15. How do feel now about becoming a part of something so big at an age where everyone else’s biggest stress was whether to pick between studying French or Italian at school?
SC: It was definitely too much, too young, too soon. I kind of knew that at the time. It was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass on. My mum could have turned it down for me but she knew that my dream was music and I decided to take the risk. There were consequences to that. I think had I been a lot older and more mature, I probably would have had a much better perspective of life.
BF: I remember being 15-years-old and wanting to try out for a talent show on TV and my mum thinking I was too young. Even just going through that audition stage, she was a bit worried about how I would take feedback, or if I did get through, what the consequences of that would be.
SC: If I had a kid I’d have to be really honest about whether I thought they had the talent or not, and whether I thought they were ready, because it’s such a harsh, cruel world at times. You wouldn’t want them to not be confident.
BF: Totally! 5ive split up in 2001 after selling 10 million records. The success and fame played out EXACTLY like a teen novel about stardom.
SC: Like I said, it all became a little too much towards the end. We were too young. In my personal experience, between 15 and 20, as you put it, most people are deciding what they want to study and finding themselves. I was concentrating on finding who Sean from 5ive was and I never really got a chance to find who Sean Conlon was. I guess that’s what I needed to go and do. I mean, look at Miley Cyrus, you know? She’s doing a Britney Spears on us.
BF: Speaking of Britney, I assume you still have choreographed dance routines.
SC: We do. Still got the old dancing going on.
BF: Do you have a crazy workout schedule leading up to the reunion?
SC: No – we’re kind of like the most unprofessional band you’ve ever witnessed. We fall in and stumble out… but somehow it works.
BF: Is there anything you’ll do differently this time?
SC: There’s a million things we won’t be doing and one of those is wearing any of the clothes we wore before. I didn’t like ‘em, Scott didn’t like ‘em and Ritch didn’t like ‘em.
BF: Did someone else dress you?
SC: It’s not that we didn’t pick our own clothes but J and Abz dressed like hip-hop and then me, Scott and Ritch ended up coming more towards them so we looked like a band. I don’t know why we did that. Now we focus on the fact we’re individuals.
BF: You guys were like the bad guys of pop. Abz and someone else burnt down a hotel room, right?!
SC: Yeah. I was a few doors down the corridor. I was in bed and I heard Scott banging on my door saying, “You gotta get out, you gotta get out! The hotel’s burning down.” I just looked him in the eyes and stood there in my dressing gown. I thought he was playing around but he was dead serious. I walked out and all the guests were outside the hotel in their dressing gowns and everything, then we got escorted to another hotel. It’s quite surreal.
BF: Did you get into any trouble for it?
SC: Well, they didn’t do it on purpose. I’m not sure how Abz did it, but it was pretty crazy.
BF: Do you remember a TV show called ‘Neighbours from Hell’?
SC: It was a TV show that was on in England at the time, about people saying if they had a bad neighbor. We’d just got together before we’d released music and our neighbours didn’t like us, so we ended up on TV. (Laughs.)
BF: Back in the ‘90s you said the person you’d most like to meet was R.Kelly. Have you met him?
SC: No. But it’s changed – it’s Quincy Jones now.
BF: You and Ritch once said if you met the right ones you might date a fan. Did that ever happen?
BF: I sense some hesitation there.
SC: Uh, I don’t think… it didn’t happen. No.
BF: Listening to ‘Let’s Dance’ makes me realise 5ive were all over autotune before it became big. What are your thoughts on autotune in contemporary music?
SC: It’s a reality of the business. This generation listens to music with their eyes. They’re quite concerned with what the artist is wearing and saying. I just don’t think it matters anymore, that’s the truth.
BF: You’ve basically lived five lifetimes over the past 15 years. Is there anything left on the bucket list?
SC: The crazy thing is, I don’t think I’ve achieved nearly anything that I want to. When I look back at what we’ve done with the band, we’ve achieved so much but I think it’s just in my character to want to keep going and do so much more as a songwriter and producer. I want to do some guest vocals, feature on other people’s albums. If you felt like you’d achieved everything you wouldn’t have the burning desire to live, would you?