Perfect pitch.
Capitol’s Breakout Pop Band 5 Seconds of Summer Heats Up

The story behind Capitol’s 5 Seconds of Summer—whose EP, She Looks So Perfect, scores a 143k, #2 bow on this week’s HITS Album Sales Chart—is fueled by longstanding bonds between execs that precede the births of the band members.

The Australian pop-rock quartet is the latest breakout from Modest Management, the folks who brought you One Direction, and the foursome has benefited greatly from the support of 1D, both on tour and online.

’s retail debut is one of the best for an EP by a new act in recent memory, but Capitol chief Steve Barnett considers it something of a calling card. “This EP is just the first chapter in what’s going to be a long run for us,” Barnett says. “Since they were going to be playing in front of 4 million people with 1D, we thought the right approach was to put out an EP instead of a single to precede those live shows.” 5SOS’s full-length album is due out—when else?—in the summer.

Barnett’s relationship with Modest’s Richard Griffiths goes back “longer than we’d care to admit,” as the veteran manager puts it; more than 30 years ago, they worked together on another Australian act, AC/DC, with Barnett as manager and Griffiths as agent. (This long-lasting professional friendship was traced, you’ll recall, in a recent I.B. Bad column.) Griffiths also goes way back with Capitol U.K. head Nick Raphael, who worked for him at BMG in the ’90s.

Griffiths first heard 5SOS in 2012, when Matt Emsell (then of Wonder Management) shared their material—including some highly trafficked YouTube clips—with Modest’s Will Bloomfield, an old pal; when Bloomfield played the band for Griffiths and partner Harry Magee. “We loved it,” Griffiths recalls, adding that he saw the opportunity for “a slightly different take on what we’d already achieved with One Direction.” Emsell was brought on board at Modest along with the band, handling day-to-day.

1D’s Louis and Niall were already fans, and the rest of the British pop sensation’s members were soon won over, inviting 5SOS on tour. The band had already done some writing on its own, and Team Modest paired them with some other writers right before their tour with the U.K. pop giants began. “We saw the response from the 1D crowd was insane,” Griffiths says, “and that got people going.”

Griffiths approached Barnett and Raphael, the latter remembers, with a very specific plan: Raphael and his longtime A&R head, label SVP Jo Charrington, would oversee the creation of the record, Barnett would release it in the U.S. and Raphael’s team would launch it in the U.K. and worldwide. “He said, ‘Don’t listen to the demos as a finished record—listen with a view that you’ll do your thing to it,’” reports Raphael. “Richard insisted they needed a year of incubation.”

Raphael and Charrington attended a 5SOS show in Dublin. “I think about one minute and 13 seconds into the first song,” he notes, “I grabbed Richard by the arm and said, ‘We’re in. Whatever it takes, we’ll do it.’ There was a spark, a chemistry about them that stands out from the crowd.”

As for Barnett? “We committed just based on the team that was around the band,” he says. “Then we saw them when they opened for One Direction at Staples Center, which was amazing. We felt very excited about their potential.”

“Steve had a plan,” Raphael remembers, “and he said, ‘You have to trust me—this is how I’m going to run it in America. I’m going to come later than you.’ He and his team have delivered everything they promised.”

The first writing sessions for the EP yielded the title track, which the band co-penned with writer/producer Jake Sinclair.

The digital campaign, overseen by Modest’s Katie Ray from the outset, was state-of-the-art, and paved the way for the first content rollouts in early 2014. Each week, notes Capitol SVP Marketing Kirdis Postelle, there was an online initiative to engage fans—a Twitter “blowup” or a 10-second “fan mayhem” clip alongside more conventional elements like videos and fan presales.

“It’s all driven by social messaging, and they’re so smart about it,” Postelle notes, emphasizing the community orientation of the band’s outreach. “It’s the 5SOS family, and everything is fan-facing.” Even in their contests, she adds, “they refuse to pit fans against one another.”

The official video for “Perfect” bowed in February; it has earned more than 11 million views. Pre-orders for the EP began on 2/25, with more than 20k on the first day and 45k+ in the first week.

The title track impacted Pop radio on 3/25 and was #3 Most Added; at presstime it’s trending Top 30 at the format. “Greg Thompson and his team are doing an amazing job,” Griffiths observes, noting in particular the support of early adopters like KIIS L.A. PD John Ivey and SiriusXM.

The EP streeted on 4/1. It hit #1 on iTunes in 48 countries, and was kept from #1 on the HITS Album Sales Chart only by Disney’s mega-soundtrack, Frozen; its 143k bow is obviously a huge feat for a short-form release from a brand-new act.

Even so, Teams Capitol and Modest are already looking ahead to the full-length, which Raphael and Charrington say is virtually finished; in fact 5SOS won’t be doing any U.S. TV until the album is out. And as the band prepares for its U.S. headlining tour (kicking off on 4/11 in San Francisco) and 1D stadium dates starting in the fall (including three shows at the Rose Bowl), it’s clear their summer is just heating up.

“This is more than 20 years of relationships coming together on one project,” notes Raphael, “and so far, it’s working.”
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