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How A Dead Ska Band Came Back To Life a Little Over a Decade Ago


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Five Iron Frenzy announced that they were coming back to the music scene in November of 2011. This is the back story.

It had been several years since the band had performed on stage and a mysterious countdown timer was on the once abandoned official website.

After months of waiting to see what the band’s website countdown was about, weeks of teasing social media posts, and a scavenger hunt that was more hype than substance, the two words that fans had been waiting years for hit the web: “We’re Back!”

There was a Kickstarter campaign launched to raise $30,000 for a new album, which was funded in 54 minutes. That number reached $160,000+ in just two weeks. The band released its first new song in eight years (for free), it was downloaded over 17,000 times from the band’s website and social media profiles (not including iTunes, Amazon, etc.) in the first ten days after the announcement.

Facebook and Twitter had thousands of fans talking about the band being back. It had been a long 8 years without them.

The funny thing is, just six months before, no one in the band was seriously considering a comeback.

They had said all along that it would be at least ten years until a reunion. And yet, something started one afternoon when two unlikely events happened almost simultaneously…

Some Back Story

After almost 9 years of touring and record label deadlines, Five Iron Frenzy did one final tour. They called it Winners Never Quit, to thank their fans. The band said goodbye via one last concert at the Fillmore Auditorium in their native Denver, CO in front of a sold-out crowd in November of 2003. The following year a live album was recorded from the farewell tour and was released and the band parted ways. Eventually, the website was abandoned as well. The domain name held by the band for years as an official source of news and promotion, FiveIronFrenzy.com, eventually expired.

As a long-time Five Iron Frenzy fan and general web geek I had been watching the domain name’s registration expiration date and wanted to save it from the fate of other bands’ abandoned domain names. Just look at the domains Bleach and Supertones lost as examples. I didn’t want the band’s music and legacy to be forgotten or tossed aside. I also didn’t want spammers or domain name squatters to get the site. Over the years I’d been to countless FIF shows in several states. I’d grown up with great memories associated with those shows and even took a road trip to Denver from Chicago to see my favorite band one last time.

In early 2008 the domain name dropped and I was able to enter an auction for the domain name. After several days of bidding and waiting and bidding again, I won ownership of the domain name. A few days later a fan site was up and fan-based updates happened regularly with photos, interviews, and links to the band’s music online. In 2010 the band produced a documentary called “The Rise and Fall of Five Iron Frenzy” that covered the band’s often troubled existence with all of its ups, downs, and what-ifs. There was some talk of the band’s history and music on the web after that, but it wasn’t time for a comeback. There was no real prospect or hope of a return for several years, if ever, based on the documentary’s view of things. As a fan I was sad, but I remained hopeful. Anything was possible. Right?

A Funny Thing Happened

At the Cornerstone Music Festival on June 29, 2011, Leanor Ortega-Till (the band’s ex-saxophonist) was misquoted as saying that Five Iron Frenzy was getting back together. On that same day, before the reports of Leanor’s misquote came out, I set up a countdown timer to Five Iron Frenzy Day of 2011. Five Iron Frenzy day happens every year on November 22 in remembrance of the day that Five Iron Frenzy quit the music business in 2003. My plan was simply to post a new website design and content because nothing newsworthy had happened related to Five Iron Frenzy since the release of the FIF DVD in 2010. With both things happening on the same day, a slew of online posts and articles began speculating that FIF’s return would soon follow.

A few days later Leanor clarified her statements as “hopes” of the band getting back together, but that they were not even in discussions about it. This post was published on Leanor’s Jeff the Girl fan page on Facebook and the then fan-based FIF website on July 5, 2011.

This is Leanor. I agree it is a long shot–call me the optimist, but I do hope it happens. I did not CONFIRM that we will play Cornerstone or any show in fact. In conversation I said to a person, I hope so, we have talked about it, and if it were to happen (us play shows again) it would not be until after 2013. I still do hope we do all play together again someday. I do hope we write new songs and release them. Will it happen? I can’t say, and I am only one member. But I do agree, it will take a TON of work, and a TON of communication and vision. In the future–please do not post conversations as interviews. Words are so strong and my wanting to convey hope came off as fact—-I apologize for any confusion I may have caused.

-Leanor Ortega Til

On July 6, 2011, I drafted a clarification letter “from the band” and sent it out to the FIF members to be approved before posting it online. While I was hoping for a comeback, I realized that this was probably not the time because the band wasn’t talking about it… yet.

Hey Kids,

There has been a lot of buzz about Five Iron Frenzy going around the internets in the last few days: countdowns, technical difficulties, rumors of a reunion tour happening, and so on. The record needs to be set straight. Some of you folks have been with us for a very long time. You deserve only the truth. As of right now none of us (the members of FIF) have agreed to a reunion in 2013.

We tried to pull it together for a new record and a tour about a year ago but it sort of fizzled out. That doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen, but it certainly is NOT confirmed. We all have families of our own now and are spread all over the country; we can’t just leave our jobs and go meandering all over the country to play shows.

Leanor did not confirm that we would play Cornerstone or any future show as fact. In conversation she mentions hopes, ideas and view of a future with Five Iron after 2013. That is the 10-year mark we as a band agreed to before we broke up. If we do any thing new in the future it will take a TON of work, and a TON of communication and vision. In the future kids, please do not post conversations as interviews.

Words are powerful. Hopes were viewed as fact and that caused confusion. Please receive our apologies for any misguided hope or despair that was caused this week.

We all agree that a tour it is a long shot, but many of us hope it happens one day. For now? Buy our dvd or some of our music. Again if you already own it.

– Five Iron Frenzy

An important conversation started online that day. Instead of everyone giving the go-ahead to post the letter and move on with their lives free of FIF, Reese Roper (the lead singer) suggested actually doing a reunion tour in 2013. Band members started to chime in—everyone had jobs, families, and more responsibilities than before. Not to mention the amount of debt some band members still had from years of touring with very little pay. Why couldn’t they do a reunion tour of some kind? Maybe it wouldn’t be 4 months of straight touring, but some long weekends out on the road, a few festivals, or a two-week tour. In the following three days, a playlist, the new song release idea, and practice dates were set up.

Everything was starting to happen, a Five Iron Frenzy reunion was going to take place.

Fast Forward A Few Months

I was about to launch my very first marketing campaign with a second-hand Linux computer and GIMP.

In order to get the word out as best as possible, I came up with the idea of a scavenger hunt to precede the band’s comeback announcement. Everyone in the band seemed to agree that it was a good idea as well. Many fans were already following the countdown, but a scavenger hunt would help to get more people involved. There were three main parts to it:

Day #1:  A simple, yet maddeningly complex (if you didn’t use “view source”), Find the Blue Comb game was posted. Very web 1.0.

Day #2:

Leanor Ortega-Till launched a personal website via a clue given on the URL Day #1 led to. There was a page selling her poetry book online and a page with clues on what to do next… Post the Fire Extinguisher image (based on an old FIF sticker) all over the web.

Day #3:

There was a word hunt across several Five Iron Frenzy-related domain names (most of them have long expired or moved on to other owners). Lyrics of various FIF songs were posted with some letters bolded, italicized, and so on. Images on those posts have hidden alt tags that equal parts of a password. All of this put together correctly led to the below “badge” and yet another teaser about the Nov. 22, 2011 announcement.

The final announcement of a new song and reunion of the band via a letter from the band and videos from Reese Roper and Andy Verdecchio (the drummer) were posted online. The band’s official site and social media outlets all mirrored this in an effort to get the word out as quickly as possible. That’s when everything in the last two weeks started to happen. Band members and fans alike were overwhelmed with thankfulness that Five Iron Frenzy was back and its project was funded.

The events that make up the reunion story of a band loved by many are all to blame on the combination of events one day in June 2011: a band’s hope to play again, a misquoted saxophone player, and an inspired techy fan.


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