When it came time to create their second album, L.A.-based band R5 spent months holed up in the garage of their shared home building a summery yet sharp brand of groove-heavy, guitar-driven pop-rock. Lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Ross Lynch, his siblings Riker (bass/vocals), Rocky (lead guitar/vocals), and Rydel (keyboard/vocals), and drummer/vocalist Ellington “Ratliff” had recently wrapped up nearly two years of globe-wide touring in support of their debut album LOUDER, a 2013 release that climbed to No. 1 on iTunes in ten countries. But instead of putting out the follow-up they’d originally completed (an album mostly made up of songs authored by outside writers), R5 decided to start from scratch, write on their own, and push the band into a new direction completely in line with their singular musical vision.
The result: Sometime Last Night, a selection of arena-sized pop songs shot through with gorgeously crafted melodies, electrifying harmonies, and lyrics culled from real-life stories the band’s been through over the past few years. “The song “All Night” really sums up the theme behind the whole record,” says Ross of Sometime Last Night’s bright and shimmering, epically catchy opening track. “It’s about going out and staying out all night, not caring that you’ve gotta get up at five in the morning for the next gig, sacrificing sleep to just live it up and experience everything you can.”
Mainly produced by Matt Wallace (Maroon 5, O.A.R., the Replacements), Sometime Last Night finds R5 teaming up with songwriters such as Savan Kotecha (Ariana Grande, Ellie Goulding, The Weeknd) for a track but ultimately taking the helm for the majority of the album. With the band bringing a deeper level of honesty and realness to their songwriting, Sometime Last Night explores everything from post-breakup regret (on the darkly charged “Lightning Strikes”) to the thrill of—in Ross’s words—“giving in to bad temptations because they usually end up making good stories” (on “Dark Side,” a synth-laced piece of edgy disco-pop). One of Sometime Last Night’s most moving moments, “Repeating Days” blends melancholy guitar tones with gently pulsing beats before unfolding into a stripped-back acoustic pastiche in its final minute. “That song was inspired by a relationship I was in, a slightly dysfunctional situation where the same thing kept happening over and over and it just went on way too long,” explains Rocky. And on other tracks, R5 let their infectiously hopeful spirit take over: the piano-charged and propulsive lead single “Let’s Not Be Alone” puts a happy spin on the last-chance hookup, “F.E.E.L.G.O.O.D.” delivers an R&B-tinged throwback party jam, and “Wild Hearts” fuses brilliantly shifting tempos, massive beats, and irresistibly sweet harmonies into an all-out powerhouse of an anthem.
While R5 penned the album’s lyrics with close attention to the message and storytelling behind each track, the musical element of Sometime Last Night had much looser origins. “When we started writing, we weren’t trying to fit the songs into some kind of R5 formula—we were just making music that we liked and that felt right to us,” says Rocky. And though most of the album was written in the garage, a number of Sometime Last Night’s songs emerged on the fly. The gloriously sunny, bass-powered “I Know You Got Away,” for instance, first came to life while the band was driving around town. “We were in the car, and I was humming this bassline I’d just come up with, and then Ross pulls out his guitar and starts playing it as we’re driving along,” recalls Rocky. “I recorded it on my phone, and the next day we got up and started putting the song together.”
In constructing each of Sometime Last Night’s tracks, R5 mined their musical roots to match huge hooks with richly textured arrangements. “We love groups like the Beach Boys and the Beatles, who wrote these incredibly intricate pop songs, and one of our missions to make the music complex but still have a sort of simplicity to it,” says Ratliff. And when the band headed into the studio, their main goal was to preserve the raw energy of the initial creative process. “The most important thing was to work with someone who understood that what we created in the garage was so authentic to us, and who wouldn’t try to steer away from that,” Riker notes. The band found just that in Matt Wallace, as well as in Captain Cuts (the production team known for their work with Walk The Moon, Grouplove, and Marina & the Diamonds), who served as producers and co-writers on “All Night.”
Throughout Sometime Last Night, R5 reveal a rare balance of sophisticated musicianship and pure pop instincts that’s got much to do with their lifelong music obsessions. “We were raised in a very musical household,” says Riker of the Lynch siblings, who grew up in Littleton, Colorado. “Our parents were always playing stuff like Bruce Springsteen and INXS and Michael Jackson, and we’ve all been singing basically since we could talk.” All of the Lynches learned to play an instrument as kids, and in their early teens Riker and Rocky began writing songs of their own. In 2009—two years after the family moved to L.A.—the Lynch siblings formed a band with their then-new friend Ratliff completing the lineup. “We started out just jamming constantly in our living room, and in June of 2009 and we had our first official show,” says Riker. “That summer we played out almost every weekend, every chance we could get.”
Once they’d honed their chops, R5 self-released the EP Ready Set Rock in early 2010. Meanwhile, Riker and Ross each found success as actors, with Riker taking a role on Glee and Ross starring in Austin & Ally and in the 2013 Disney Channel original Teen Beach Movie. After signing a deal with Hollywood Records in April 2012, R5 put out their EP Loud the next February and their full-length debut Louder in September 2013. In the midst of the constant touring that followed, R5 built up a major fanbase that’s earned them more than 3.3 million Facebook likes and over 6 million combined Twitter followers.
With the band’s incendiary live performance captured in R5: All Day, All Night (a new concert documentary that gives a never-before-seen glimpse into the band’s career), R5 are now gearing up to head out on the road again for a 2015 – 2016 U.S. and international headlining tour. And in both their live show and on the songs featured on Sometime Last Night, R5 prove themselves to be propelled by a powerful chemistry that makes their music all the more dynamic and vital. “We genuinely loving making music together, to the point where we even get so excited about just going in to practice,” says Riker. “We love being onstage and playing for a crowd more than anything else, and the fact that we get to do that with our closest friends is really the coolest thing in the world.”