R5’s second full-length album, Sometime Last Night, arrived last July. A new album is notable, but the bigger news is that the group came close to releasing an entirely different album as its second full-length effort.
R5 brings its Sometime Last Night Tour, with guests Ryland and Parade of Lights, to Bell Auditorium at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16. Tickets are $29.50-$49.50 at georgialinatix.com, (877) 428-4849 and the James Brown Arena box office.
The group, which is signed to Disney Music Group’s Hollywood Records and includes Ross Lynch, who stars as Austin Moon in the Disney Channel television sitcom Austin & Ally, actually finished what it thought would be its second album, only to have second thoughts, according to bassist/singer Riker Lynch.
“We were finishing up and it didn’t quite feel right at the time,” Riker said in a recent phone interview. “We were like, ‘OK, we’re going to scrap it and start over.’”
For a group that was only on its second album, it was a bold decision for the five band members – Ross, Riker, brother Rocky Lynch, sister Rydel Lynch and family friend Ellington Ratliff. They wanted to have a much bigger hand in the songwriting – something they didn’t get to do on their two previous Hollywood Records releases.
Both the 2013 EP, Loud, and the full-length debut, Louder (released later that year), were largely written by Evan “Kidd” Bogart, Andrew Goldstein and Emanuel Kiriakou. That trio had writing credits on all 11 songs on Louder (with members of R5 pitching in on the songwriting on six of the 11 songs).
Kiriakou (whose credits include David Archuleta, Selena Gomez and Hot Chelle Rae) executive produced the album, while Goldstein (whose résumé includes writing and producing MKTO, Demi Lovato and Hot Chelle Rae) and Rocky Lynch shared production duties on the album.
This isn’t anything new, of course, since many top 40 and teen pop acts (that’s R5’s target audience) rely heavily on outside writers and producers to create their albums.
Riker said working with professionals like Bogart, Goldstein and Kiriakou was important at that stage of R5’s career.
“With Louder, it was like our first album, so Louder was an amazing learning experience,” Riker said. “We had to go through that. We had to have that album in order to get to where we are now because we didn’t know anything about recording an album.”
The second album originally had heavy involvement from outside writers and producers as well. But in deciding to shelve that first version of the second album, R5 went to its label and said they wanted to take the creative lead.
The band got the green light for what became the Sometime Last Night album.
“We had a meeting and we were like, ‘We feel like we just need to start over and do it ourselves, do more (of it) ourselves,’” Riker said. “And the reaction was pretty good. It was a good like ‘OK, if you guys are going to do this, the only thing is it has to be as good or better than what you’re competing with’ because we had songs (for the original second album) that were written by Ryan Tedder or other big writers. So it was like if you’re going to write a song on your own, it has to be as good or better than OneRepublic or Maroon 5 or Walk The Moon. You’re competing with these extremely good bands, and you have to be at that level.”
That kind of directive could certainly put pressure on any group, especially one with just one full-length album to its credit. But if the four Riker siblings and Ratliff (that’s where the band name R5 comes from) were feeling any heat, it didn’t show during the writing process, which Riker described as spontaneous and natural.
Looking back, Riker thinks scrapping the first version of the second album was the best decision the group could have made at the time. It allowed R5 to demonstrate its songwriting skills and create an album in Sometime Last Night that better reflects the kind of rocking pop sound the group wants to create.
Songs like the anthemic mid-tempo track Wild Hearts, Let’s Not Be Alone and I Know You Got Away set the tone for Sometime Last Night with their bright and catchy vocal hooks, big, danceable beats and cheery energy. Meanwhile, the ballads Repeating Days and Do It Again, the Maroon 5-ish blend of funk, pop and soul on Lightning Strikes and the bouncy disco-ish Dark Side bring some welcome variety to the album.
The writing for Sometime Last Night was a genuine team effort for R5. In the group’s pre-Disney/Hollywood Records years, Riker and Rocky generally took the lead in songwriting, with some contributions from Ross. (R5 self-released the EP, Ready Set Rock, in 2010). The writing mix, though, changed on Sometime Last Night.
While Rocky generally continued to create the basic structures for songs, Ross and Ratliff took on major roles in writing vocal melodies and lyrics. Riker’s involvement was more limited because he was busy at the time as a contestant on the popular ABC show Dancing With The Stars.
Riker and his brothers had some dance experience as members of the Rage Boyz Crew dance team on another television dance show, So You Think You Can Dance, in 2009. That experience didn’t hurt, as Riker and his partner on Dancing With The Stars, professional dancer Allison Holker, finished second in the show’s May 2015 finale.
Doing the show tested Riker more than he expected going into Dancing With The Stars.
“When I started it, I was like all right, I have some dance experience. I’ll be good,” he said. “But it’s so much harder than anybody even realizes. It’s insane how physical and mentally draining it is. It’s very, very difficult … But at the end of the day, it was so fun.”
Any dancing in public for Riker will now happen spontaneously on stage during R5’s tour. But these won’t be choreographed routines. An R5 concert is first and foremost a rock show.
“The live show for us is very, very important, and we really strive to be the best we possibly can be. I think our live show is really, really strong,” Riker said. “We put on a very energetic show. We really kind of come out going crazy and get everybody to go crazy with us.”