If you didn't know any better, you might mistake Family Force 5 for a gimmick group. After all, the Atlanta quintet melds rock, hip-hop, punk and club music for something it calls "crunk rock." Its singer's name is Soul Glow Activator. And costumes, props and lavish sets are essential to the band's live show. But guitarist Derek Mount, whose stage moniker is Chap Stique, says it's all genuine. Nothing is a mere tool for attracting attention.
"I think at first, if people hear about the stuff and haven't checked it out, they might think it's a gimmick, but there's such a tongue-in-cheek element to the band," he says. "We know that some of the things we do are gimmicks, but we do them so over the top that you get it. It becomes a joke.
"We're asking everybody who is coming to the shows to wear silver or something very futuristic," he says of Family Force's latest road trip. "All these kids have been sending us pictures of themselves dressed as aliens and robots, and it's incredible. Gimmicks are when a band has to do something to make it more entertaining. Ours are more for sheer humor." Preparing for tour - like Family Force's current one, which it's dubbed Dance or Die 2 - can be daunting, admits Mount, especially when the group makes a point not to repeat itself onstage. The guys are always looking for new and interesting ways to engage fans. "It's always a big process to prepare for a tour," he says. "We had to do wardrobe, design new clothes for us to wear. We do our show like a DJ set, where there's music playing the whole time, so we had to change out our interlude songs. It's a big deal for us."
The Family Force's biggest deal is its 800-pound, 6-foot drum machine, affectionately referred to as the Family Force 5000 by band members. Carting around costumes and the ginormous gloves Soul Glow sports is relatively hassle-free compared to getting, and keeping, the Family Force 5000 onstage night after night.
"We used it every day on the Warped Tour," says Mount. "And about three weeks in, we got to the stage, and all the techs were [saying,] 'Come here and check this out!' There was a huge hole in the stage where our drum machine had fallen through. This was a heavy-duty stage, and this machine that looks like a NASA computer put a hole in it! They had to weld parts of the stage together so the machine wouldn't endanger people's lives. "This is our first tour taking it around to real venues. We're a little nervous about that. We hope they can handle the wrath of the Family Force 5000."
For being such a formidable live act, Family Force 5 manages to retain much of its outlandish personality on its albums. The band spent almost seven months penning songs for its latest CD, Dance or Die. Most of them were composed on the tour bus, using members' excess and offstage energy as inspiration. Still, Mount says that the band's collaborative writing style and collective ADD-like tendencies mean that songs often "take forever to write."
"We all sit around together and all write," he says. "I think that's a really neat system, because it provides checks and balances in a way. Nobody's gonna accept any filler or anything weak.
"We're a really nutty bunch of guys, and I think that really just comes through," he concludes. "We watch a lot of Transformers and listen to a lot of Abba and Depeche Mode and play videogames. That's what brings our personalities out."