In this age of self-isolation and quarantine, it's never been more important to check in on each other and to connect. This goes for artists, too, who have been social distancing alongside us: livestreaming concerts and hangouts, creating their own talk shows, and... well, that's what we want them to tell us, with Remote Access.
If ever there was a time for an album called CALM (styled with spaces between each letter) to be released, it's now — and 5 Seconds of Summer was the band to do it. The Aussie rockers dropped their fourth album, their most musically ambitious project yet, last month, but instead of taking those new songs on the road, they've been quarantined at home as part of the effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Luckily, that hasn't completely slowed their roll. Last week, 5SOS released the inventive video for "Wildflower," a sunny slice of psychedelic pop that they brought to life using a green screen that was passed between their homes. The footage was spliced together with charming animations that conjure a remarkable feeling of togetherness, despite members Calum Hood, Ashton Irwin, Luke Hemmings, and Michael Clifford filming it in completely different places.
"'Wildflower' has such a bigger scope of vision than just sitting in a room," 5SOS guitarist Clifford told MTV News. "It was cool to get that across; like, look at what you can do even while stuck at home."
Below, Clifford tells us how that green-screen adventure happened and what else he's been up to at home — from the shows he's been binge-watching and the album he can't stop spinning, to what it's been like keeping in touch with his bandmates.
MTV News: Where are you spending your time these days?
Clifford: I am spending my time in Los Angeles, at my little humble abode that I have here. I actually have a few different people living with me at the moment and coincidentally, they were living here before quarantine happened, so most of them are stuck here now.
MTV News: Is it true that one of those people is Andy Deluca, who directed the "Wildflower" video?
Clifford: Yeah! Andy Deluca, our creative director. We have a lyric video for "Wildflower" that was made using stop-motion with all different types of flowers arranged into different circles. That was made here, and then the "Wildflower" official video that we just released was made with a green screen in the backyard. We shot mine and Calum's footage here, and then Kat, who helps us, took the green screen to Luke's and Luke's girlfriend filmed him, and then took it to Ashton's and Ashton's girlfriend filmed him. So it was filmed in three different places.
MTV News: The four of you had probably never shot a music video in separate places and at separate times, right? What was that like for you, to be filming entirely by yourself?
Clifford: It's just weird. Usually when you film a music video, you have a backdrop, you know what the scene looks like, and you know what the vibe of the shoot is. But when you're on a green screen, you have no idea what it's going to be until after it's been edited together. So you have to trust your other bandmates that they're going to make a great performance as well. Or maybe not a performance; maybe they're just going to have waterfalls coming out of their armpits, which I saw for the first time in the video. That was pretty great.
MTV News: Now that you've made this video and you've seen what's possible to do while you're all working from different places, do you envision the band doing more of this kind of thing? Are there any other ways you guys are thinking outside of the box?
Clifford: I think it's been a cool test for bands and artists to have to do things out of their own home. I feel like it's pushed everyone creatively, but I would be lying if I said that I wasn't looking forward to just getting in a room with everyone again and actually being able to play instruments and just feel the presence of the band. It's been interesting to try to push the boundaries of how you connect with people [when] you only have the internet. Usually we're just so used to physically flying to another country, like, "Hello, we're all here."
MTV News: How much are the four of you talking and keeping in touch with each other?
Clifford: We'll text all day. We obviously just had an album come out, so we're always messaging each other. It's surprising how much we've been in contact — you wouldn't expect it from a band who's been together for like eight years now. You wouldn't expect us to be talking every single day, but surprisingly, we do. We're inseparable, I guess. For better or for worse.
MTV News: You mentioned being a band for about eight years now. When you look at CALM, do you think that album opens up a different side of the band that maybe your fans hadn't seen before?
Clifford: This album for us is so different from anything we've done before, but it's also so familiar. I think this record was kind of acknowledging where we've come from and acknowledging our previous success and the fans that might have stuck around for a really long time. We want to make sure that there are things they can love, but we also are always pushing forwards and trying to keep it fresh and keep it interesting for us, as well as for other people. This one is probably one of my favorites because it's got a little bit of everything.
MTV News: "Wildflower" is one of those songs that definitely puts 5SOS in a different light. Are there any other songs on CALM that you think best illustrate what you said about the band evolving its sound?
Clifford: I mean, "Wildflower" is a song that, if someone would've played it to me at the beginning of this band's career, I would've been like, "How would we ever release that? It's the weirdest song ever." I think it's cool that we're at a point where we can release stuff like that. Even a song like "Easier," which is like a dark and moody pop song. I think we're just lucky enough to be in a position where we can be super versatile and release whatever we want and it makes sense because we've been so multifaceted throughout our career. We've had so many different sounds and different influences that it can go kind of unquestioned. And that's interesting as a fan as much as it is [for] the band. It's cool for other people to be able to listen to it and never know what you're going to hear.
MTV News: I can only imagine you're looking forward to playing these songs live someday, hopefully in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, have you been playing music at home?
Clifford: We've been trying to figure out some cool ways we can continue to play together as a band while we're all quarantined at home, but it's hard. Honestly, the biggest struggle is Wi-Fi. Calum's got the worst Wi-Fi but also the best Wi-Fi — it's like, the room that he sits in has the worst Wifi but next door to him is the fastest room in the house. Mine's pretty crap all the time. So it's tough to try and come up with a way that you can play together without there being any latency. But obviously we're really, really, really looking forward to getting on the road and playing these songs eventually. Hopefully things will return to normal soon and we can get into a room and rehearse, like the good old days a couple months ago. Touring is such a big part of our lives and a big part of what makes this band thrive and what makes us connect to our fans.
MTV News: How else have you been flexing your creativity at home? Any creative projects you're working on?
Clifford: It's been hard because I'm trying to strike that balance between productivity and also taking this time as, "Wow, I finally have a minute to myself and I can actually breathe and live." It's a weird time of self-reflection for everyone. But I've made sure to be productive in my physical health; I'm exercising and going in the sun a lot more, which is… I'm sure there's people out there who know me very well and who know that the sun and me don't get along and we haven't been friends for a long time. I've been going for runs and walks, which is just so alien to me. It's brand new to me and it's pretty great. I can actually understand why people do it.
MTV News: Pop culture-wise, what have you been into? Any good shows you're watching or music you're listening to?
Clifford: I just caught up on the show The Witcher. I'm obviously a massive nerd and I'm a big fan of the video games, and I loved it. I just watched The Morning Show as well, which was very good. You know what? It sounds weird, but I've been trying not to listen to so much music. I kind of have taken this time as my time to be away from music for a minute. Honestly, the only album that I've listened to consistently is CALM. I'll just have it on repeat sometimes and I won't even realize. I've been listening to those songs for like a year now, so it's weird when it finally comes out and you can open it and listen to it on Spotify. It's a different feeling.