From being featured in the Discover app to landing radio airplay in the U.S. to being asked to join the soundtrack of a feature Hollywood film to getting on the eligibility list for an Oscar nom for “Best Original Song,” this is the story of a little-known band who hustled their way to DIY success. “You got me hooked, you got me dancing…you got me!” <— That right there is the quintessential reaction a fan has after experiencing a live show care of the boys from Belgium, The 5 AM. A couple months ago we received a crazy email from these dudes completely out of the blue, raining down props on ReverbNation’s tools and services. Seriously, we couldn’t have scripted this story any better, but it all came from these guys. Cause apparently some really cool (and unexpected) stuff happened to them recently. It all starts with a concert 2,000 feet above the ground…
Tell us a bit about your band. How did you form, how long have you been together, what kind of music do you play?
We are The 5 AM, a band from Belgium, and we’ve been making music together for two years now. Our music is a sort of fresh rock ‘n roll. We connected with each other in exploring the strong musical chemistry between us, in the studio and live on stage. We also found each other in our crazy, ambitious ideas to get our music heard. One of the first things we did was a gig in the sky in Belgium’s biggest hot air balloon. This kind of craziness has been a part of The 5 AM since then.
How did you get started with building an audience and getting your names out there?
When we figured out how to name ourselves we started with our social media networks. ReverbNation was one of the first networks we joined. We were soon convinced that ReverbNation offers an excellent package we couldn’t find elsewhere. The website builder and electronic press kit were the first services we used. Those are easy to use and very effective. It’s exactly what every starting band needs. Later on, we started using other services like Fan Reach to manage our email newsletter, the fan reviews and the digital distribution. We’re happy premium users now. The digital distribution of our debut album ‘Free’ has been done entirely through ReverbNation.
You mentioned a couple cool things that happened to you by just being on ReverbNation. What all went down?
It’s quite a story! It all started when we decided to try out ReverbNation’s Crowd Reviews to get some feedback of our songs. It’s always exciting to hear opinions of people who have no connection with the band. Those reviews were very useful for us and were more positive than we hoped for. With one of our songs, we were selected as Featured Artist on the ReverbNation website. Another song was selected by ReverbNation for the Discover App. This put our band in the spotlight for a much larger audience: Radio stations in the US started playing our songs and we even have two songs featured in the Hollywood film ‘What Happened Last Night’!
One day we received a surprise email from the film’s director: “Hey, I’m a director of the film ‘What Happened Last Night’ and I’ve found one your songs on the ReverbNation Discover App. Can I use this song for my film? Do you want to write another song for the film?”. Wow! We were invited for the Cannes Film Festival for the screening of the film, together with the crew and actors. And the story is even getting better. Last month we learned that our song “Runnin’ Runnin’’ is on the ballot for the Oscar Nominations for ‘Best Original Song’!
How did you first hear about the Academy Award nomination? What was your reaction?
We knew that there was something coming up. The film’s director was invited by the Academy Awards to submit her film and she asked us to fill in some forms. Having our song approved by the committee and make it to the ballot feels like a great honor. It makes us proud to see The 5 AM, as an independent rock band from Belgium, in the list with Justin Timberlake, Sia & Pharell Williams. I guess it shows the power of social media nowadays and in particular ReverbNation as a strong music platform.
How has your life / career changed since these things have happened to you? Is it a matter of simply feeling validated – like you’re doing the right things as a band – or have these events had other results?
For us it feels like being validated for our crazy ambition and our optimism. When we did the gig in the hot air balloon in 2015 the general perception was that it was just an incredibly cool thing to do. Though, for us it wasn’t about that stunt in particular, it was all about dreams and crazy ideas and making those dreams happen. Now, with everything that came to us; the film, Cannes, the Oscars, this picture became more clear: Think positive and positive things DO happen! This way we have been able to connect with so many people who share that kind of energy and optimism: fellow musicians in all kind of genres, actors, director Candice T. Cain, Maurice Engelen (Praga Khan, Lord of Acid) and most important everyone that visited our shows.
What has been your biggest challenge as an artist/band, and what have you done to overcome it?
Well, there is this tempting ideal that many bands or musicians have, that, one day, someone discovers you, takes you by the hand and leads you to instant success. Talent shows are probably the easiest way to get some exposure as a band. We see many bands that emerge from talent shows end up missing a solid foundation. Our approach always has been to rely on our talent and creative ambition to build our own crowd. This was a big challenge but now people start recognizing this attitude and it works out really well.
Any advice for new musicians just starting out on ReverbNation?
Be active, use it as much as you can. ReverbNation offers that complete package. It may cost some money but it makes a big difference if a band has a professional website and press kit. The only thing that we have to focus on now is content and of course, this has to be good. ReverbNation offers a great platform to connect with other artists, radio stations or even film directors. Maybe we have been lucky but it’s fair to say that much of our story wouldn’t have happened without ReverbNation.
What’s next up for The 5 AM?
We’ve just launched a crowdfunding project for a single, a video and a new full album. With our debut album ‘Free’, released in May 2016, we aimed for a strong live feel. Even though no singles were intended, the songs Free and Lights Closing Down received airplay on US radio stations. This time we DO aim for a radio single – or even better, our second full album! And a new stunt will be a part of that. Feel free to check out our Kickstarter website and we invite everyone that enjoyed this interview to be a part of our next story!