If you like great reggae, ska, mixed with rock, Five40 is the band for you. Five40 is a unique band from Calhoun, GA that have been influenced by bands like The Mighty,Mighty Bosstones, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sublime, and 311, while keeping a sound all their own. I had the opportunity to speak with MJ Johnson, front-man, trumpet player, rhythm guitar player, songwriter, and all around cool guy. MJ and I discussed all things Five40 and I have found a band that I can honestly say has made it into my playlist. Five40 is made up of Matt “MJ” Johnson (Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Trumpet), Stewart Davis (Bass), Wyman Balcom (Drums), Dustin Massingill (Lead Guitar), and Joe Harley (Keyboards). These guys are all around 25 years old, and have been playing together over a year. They have found a sound that is true to who they are and the fans are growing by the show. The band has been playing in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, North and South Carolina. The band calls Charleston their second home, where they see crowds just as large as playing back home. They are tapping into the reggae market and are finding success at each turn. They are also winners of the Battle of the Bands in Rome, GA as well as the winners of Atlanta’s Best Bands. Five40 have played the stages of both Rome River Jam and Riverbend as well as venues all over the South.
MJ and I spoke for a while on Saturday about what makes FIve40 so unique and so well received. MJ told me that it’s a “certain vibe that makes the band so awesome”. They have been able to tap into the reggae/ska/rock market with a very warm welcome. They have a debut of three songs on SoundCloud out now but look for a full CD to be released in May 2015 and it will be available on ITunes and Spotify. I personally can’t wait for the release because if songs like “Breathe” and “Skarma” are any indication of the upcoming CD, this band will blow up overnight. Also look for a video to “Skarma” that is being filmed in Texas next month.
The band finds it rewarding that the fan base is growing and people are actually coming up to them to request songs and sing their lyrics back to them. MJ told me about a recent show that they performed at the Masquerade with Passafire. He said that the crowd was close to 400 people and “they knew the words to our songs”. After mingling with the crowd after their set, MJ asked people “how did you know our songs?” The answer was simple. People heard that Five40 were opening for Passafire, so they “went online and listened to everything that they could find.” There was even a joke at that show that the next night they would let Joe out and when they arrived at their next gig, people were asking for Joe. (Perks of the job, I guess.)
With a sound as unique as Five40, the name stems from the same unique thought process. Of course there is one story about drinking a lot of 40 ounce beers, which is pretty cool, but the real meaning behind the name is so much better. MJ told me the story about a triangle having 3 sides that equal 180-degrees. The sides of the triangle have a base, structure, and strength. The band sees the 3 styles of music to each contain the components of the triangle. When you have a base, strength, and structure in each of the ska, rock, and reggae, you get 540-degrees or Five40. (I told you guys that everything about this band is cool and unique.)
Anyone that reads my blog, will know that I have to know about the song writing process. MJ told me that a song has to come from a “vibe” and “it is never the same”. Five40 writes from personal experiences be it good or bad, but it has to honest. Every song must inspire the band and listener. Five40 wants to be known for writing a CD that the listener will “feel the need to let to ride from beginning to end.” They do not want to write just a single but a cohesive body of music. I say, AMEN to that. The song writing duties does not fall onto one member but the entire band collaborates to insure that the listener gets the full feeling behind Five40.
MJ told me that the Five40 wants this to be their career and are gearing to play more venues instead of just bar gigs. However, do not worry, they will be playing at Scores in Calhoun, GA February 6, 2015 and at The Brewhouse Bar and Grill in Rome, GA on March 28, 2015. I asked MJ if he wanted to add anything to our interview and he told me “listen to something you have not listened to before. Find a new band and support them.” I would agree 100% with that statement. Be sure you follow the links below to hear some really awesome music. Five40 is one of these bands that I consider myself lucky to have written about now because I am not sure that they will be so accessible in the very near future. For the record, “Skarma” has become a permanent song on my playlist and my daughter Rosa Kathryn can’t stop playing the 3 songs we have.