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The End Is Here

  • Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 11 Nov
  • COMMENTS
The End Is Here
Five Iron Frenzy has played its last fairway. The band wrapped up its goodbye tour Saturday in Denver, saying its final farewell to 3,600 fortunate fans who scored tickets to the big event. We couldn't make their very last show, but we did catch up with the band in their final swing through Chicagoland, a sellout at Elgin's Judson College just days before their final gig. After nearly 10 years on the road and countless lives touched, Five Iron is calling it quits, opting to settle down at home and/or pursue other musical projects following their swansong CD, The End Is Near. Prior to their electrifying concert at Judson, singer/songwriter Reese Roper, trombonist Dennis Culp, bassist Keith Hoerig, and guitarist Micah Ortega reflected on the group's legacy and what life will be like after Five Iron.Describe your emotions on this farewell tour.Michah Ortega: It feels pretty good to me because a good thing is coming to a close. It's a good ending to a good chapter.Keith Hoerig: Compared to a lot of bands we're friends with, you couldn't ask for a better ending. We still have fans that want to come and see us. We're still friends with each other and making friends with the other bands. One of the best analogies I've ever heard is comparing it to a high school graduation—even though you're really excited to get out and you're ready for the future, it's still a little bit scary and still a little bit sad because you know there are friends you might not see again. That last part may not be true for the band since we will still see each other, but there's definitely a mix of sadness and excitement.Resse Roper: It's very clouded right now because I haven't been home since September 8 and I'm really tired and been sick for three weeks. There's the emotional stuff, but right now I'm just thinking of getting home.So, why are you guys calling it quits?Dennis Culp: Almost as important as having the courage to speak when God wants you to speak is having the courage to shut up when your ministry has run its course. I honesty feel like we've reached who we're supposed to reach and done musically what we're supposed to do. I'm fully at peace with that. Plus people's musical interests are changing and we're interested in exploring other options while we still have musical life in us. Also, I'm having a kid—my wife is due in April—and there's no way I would have toured with a kid.Hoerig: I think everybody wants to try different things. We met with our pastor a year ago, which we do every year to talk about what we want to accomplish for that next year. Basically there was no way everybody's life visions could fit with what people wanted to accomplish with Five Iron. There were some people who were like "We need to be doing this full time" and there were some people who were like "No, I can't be doing this full time because I want to have a child, or go to school, or raise monkeys." If you heard that last rumor on the Internet, it's true. Monkey raising's going to happen! OK, I'm kidding about the monkeys. But there was no way to make it all fit together so the people who want to do full-time music can, and those that want to do other things can follow as well.Roper: Sonnie Johnston [FIF's guitar player] and I are starting a new band with a guy from both the Supertones and Ace Troubleshooter called Guerilla Rodeo. A lot of me wants to be, "Oh this is so sad since we'll never be coming back here," but we'll actually be touring Guerilla next spring, so I'll probably be back around. Then Sonnie and I are starting a label, which Guerilla will be on, called Ministry of Defense.Is Five Iron's side project Brave St. Saturn going to continue?Roper: I doubt it. We'll keep making albums, but Keith and Andy and Dennis don't really want to tour.What have been fans' reactions on FIF's farewell tour? Roper: Usually there are a couple of kids that come up crying, which is kind of weird, but the shows have been good for the most part. Overall, people are coming out and seem really excited to say goodbye and see us one last time.Hoerig: In most cities it hasn't been too sad. I think it's just people coming out to see us one last time and they've pretty much seemed like normal shows.Ortega: I hear a lot of thank you's and a lot of appreciation, more so than usual. It feels very right.How do you feel the band's overall career has been perceived by the industry—both in mainstream and Christian circles?Culp: I think the people who like us really like us and really believe in us, but I don't think we're fully accepted by the Christian community. I never really felt like a real mainline Christian group, but Christian culture can't be more important than being Christlike. We were never the poster children for the Christian booksellers, nor were we totally received by the mainstream, but I think we were fairly well accepted by both because we were a legitimate band and a legitimate ministry.Culp: I think the people who like us really like us and really believe in us, but I don't think we're fully accepted by the Christian community. I never really felt like a real mainline Christian group, but Christian culture can't be more important than being Christlike. We were never the poster children for the Christian booksellers, nor were we totally received by the mainstream, but I think we were fairly well accepted by both because we were a legitimate band and a legitimate ministry.Roper: In the Christian community, we've been received by kids who don't really fit into mainstream CCM culture—the kids that kind of get picked on in youth groups. I think most people in Nashville either hate us or don't know we exist. Either way, they've ignored us, like when they're giving out Dove Awards. In the mainstream we've gotten attention and respect, which we're thankful for—just the fact that people in the general market listen to us. We've gotten to tour with a lot of big bands so that was cool too.Talk about your last album, The End Is Near.Culp: I call it a capstone. I really think it summarizes us stylistically and lyrically. I really feel good about it. If there was a record that I would want us to be remembered by, this is it without a question.Hoerig: Right now you can only buy it at shows and online, but when it hits stores after the tour, it's going to be called The End Is Here. Besides the new studio songs, it's going to come with a bonus disc from the tour.How do you think you'll feel the day after the tour when you're back home?Hoerig: We'll all be ready for lots of monkey raising!Roper: I'm just going to sit at home, watch movies, play guitar and sleep. I love Five Iron and these guys are some of my best friends in the world, but especially this year it's been so much work. It will be good to have it all behind us.Culp: The question for me is "How am I going to feel in six months?" After any tour we all go home and decompress. We don't even talk for a few weeks. We start feeling normal again. And then when it would normally be time for us to start thinking about another project or another tour, we're going to realize, "Hey I can't ever do that again." That's when it's gonna hurt, I think—sort of like when you have a relative pass away. It's really sad and surreal to you, but it doesn't really hit until several months later when you'll want to talk to that person or ask them something and realize you can't because they're not there anymore.Any final thoughts on the band's ability to impact listeners over the years?Culp: Five Iron's always been this group that hits a city, throws out a bunch of seeds, and then packs up and goes. Most of what we hear are second-hand stories, which are really just jaw dropping. Like someone was at one of our shows, totally messed up on drugs and wasn't a Christian. Then two years later we'll meet them and hear how their lives have totally changed and they've become a Christian. Crazy stories like that are so unreal because all we did was come through town, play a show, have a few conversations, and maybe say something from stage. It's when we hear what's happened through that which makes it all worth it.For more about Five Iron Frenzy and their music, visit our artist page for the band, where you'll also find reviews of their albums, including The End Is Near. You can currently purchase that album online at the band's official web site. Look for The End Is Here in stores 2004, as well as a Five Iron best-of compilation in the next couple years.