Five Eight
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Five Eight

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The best kept secret in music



After 15 years of slogging it out in the Athens, Georgia music scene—a stint marked by killer live shows and the occasional misguided overture to mainstream modern-rock radio—the punky, neurotic power trio Five Eight has been revitalized by a new audience of emo kids, who relate to Mike Mantione's open-vein lyrics and high, passionate shout. Five Eight abandons any pretense of polish on its new self-released, self-titled disc, which finally lives up to the frayed vamps of the band's first (and, until now, best) album, I Learned Shut Up. Five Eight (Buy It!) sounds hooky and heartfelt, and on the halting "The Liquor Song" and the twangy "Lousy Decision," Mantione's pained-but-wizened tone works with the group's charged performance to forge something like an epiphany...

10.06.04 - THE ONION


By Duncan Wright
What are you listening to these days?
Probably what everybody else is, the new Nick Cave, Björk, I like the Libertines ... There's a band called Razor Light who I saw and liked a lot, a band called Kasabian who I heard once, and like them, and we'll be playing with Five Eight on parts of this tour, a band from Athens who we like a lot.


By Julie Phillips
Editor's note: This is the third of four question-and-answer sessions with the Classic City's top four newsmakers of 2004, chosen by the Banner-Herald's news staff for their impact on local news. Five Eight is the pick for Artist of the Year.
Five Eight got its start some 17 years ago in Athens, shortly after frontman Mike Mantione moved southward from his home in New York. He was beckoned here, he says, in part by his love for R.E.M., and wanted to strike out on his own and start a band that hailed from this legendary music town.
For years, Five Eight was known on the music scene as "the next big thing out of Athens." But despite relentless touring and a rabid fan base, commercial success eluded the band.
Still, the band members pounded away, each year garnering a new batch of fans by way of the University of Georgia and regularly headlining sold-out shows in their early years.
And it's not like the trio, which includes Mantione, bassist Dan Horowitz and drummer Mike Rizzi, has had big aspirations - success, fame and fortune would be nice. But truth be told, they just do what they love to do. Such was the case, Mantione says, when they released their latest record in March.
That self-titled album seemed to hold some magic powder, though, and soon earned the interest of execs at 99X, Atlanta's alternative rock radio station. In May, the first single from the album, "Square Peg," was added to the 99X playlist, sparking a buzz around Athens for the band whose local fanbase had dwindled over the years. In June, the band headlined 99X's Summerfest, and then in July, another single, "I'm Still Around," was added to the station's rotation. Things seemed to be picking up.
In August, everything exploded, though, when manager Martin Winsch with Mountain Entertainment Inc. in South Carolina, got a call for Five Eight to open six dates for R.E.M. on its upcoming U.S. tour, including the final appearance on the North American leg of its tour in Albuquerque, N.M. The news was something, Mantione says, that literally brought him to tears.
This week, Five Eight travels to South Carolina to open for Cheap Trick, and on New Year's Eve plays Atlanta's Downtown Countdown at the Marriott Marquis.
In all, it's been a stellar year for a band that's been hitting the stages of Athens for as long as most music fans in Athens these days can remember.
That's why the Athens Banner-Herald named Five Eight its Artist of the Year for 2004.
Athens Banner-Herald arts and entertainment editor Julie Phillips spoke with Mike Mantione to uncover some little known details and truths behind the band.
How long have you lived in Athens and what's your first memory of being here?
Seventeen years. My earliest memory is playing a show at the old 40 Watt (where the Caledonia Lounge is now). It was me and Dan Schwartz, and Jared (Bailey) was there. Nobody came to hear us, but I just remember being so psyched to be playing at the 40 Watt.
What's your favorite place in Athens?
I don't know, I guess just downtown, because there are so many great restaurants and places to hang out, it would be impossible to name just one.
When you come home to Athens after a tour, where do you have to go first?
I don't know but I'm always craving the Taco Stand.
What are the day jobs for the members of Five Eight?
Dan's flippin' burritos at Mean Bean (in Five Points). And Rizzi works at Locos in North Druid Hills. He's there almost every Friday, except every other Friday when we're playing. And I do general contracting, hardwood floors, tile.
You've done work on a couple restaurants downtown, right?
Yeah, I did the bar at the Winery and the work on the DePalma's downtown, and I did some framing at Transmetropolitan - I still get a free pizza there every once in a while. They're Mets fans, so we understand each other. It's kind of a disease.
What's a little-known fact about Dan and Mike you can share?
Well, let's see, Dan tried to teach me how to snow ski (last year), but it didn't quite take. And Dan plays everything - banjo, bass, guitar.
Mike is really concerned about his hair (laughs). That's not really true. Oh, and also, his mother's back is as hairy as Chewbacca's - it must be mowed. I'm not kidding. It's an oddity.
What would they say about you?
Um, that I have tape around my living room and plastic on the chairs. It's the kind people can look at, but they can't go in. Also that once blowdryers were eliminated in the '70s as an option for men to use - you know, like Leif Garrett and the Bee Gees (did) - my hairstyle has gone down the toilet.
What song or lyrics by an Athens band or musician do you wish you wrote?
Oh man, there's a bunch! I really wish I'd written "My Own Private Idaho" and "Rock Lobster" (both by the B-52's). And "The One I Love" (R.E.M.). I really blew it on that one. And how about the lyrics "That's me in the corner" (R.E.M.)? I mean, that is me in the corner. So close.
Then there's "Speed Racer" (off the album "Little" by Vic Chesnutt) - I mean, you could play pin the tail on the donkey with any lyric on "Little," and I'd wish I'd written it. There are so many great bands out of Athens.
What hopes do you have for the future of Athens?
I think the entire state of Georgia should be converted to blue.
What was the very best moment of 2004 for you?
The best moment was watching R.E.M. in Seattle, with my wife, play "Life and How to Live It" and being back there, watching from backstage, and seeing Michael (Stipe) get down on his knees and do that howl. It reduced me to tears. That whole experience was unbelievable. They were so good to us - I can't even tell you.
And I think the top moment for the band was when they started playing "Square Peg" on 99X.
What are your plans for 2005?
To be a better breakdancer. I was breakdancing at all the shows, but evidently I've been doing it wrong, because I really hurt my ankle in Oakland.
There are other things - let's see, start an IRA, relearn how to diaper a baby (his fourth child is due this year). And get Brian's (Cooley, the band's publicist) floors finished.
A year in the life of Five Eight
January 2004 to March 2004: Work on finishing recording of "Five Eight" and pre-promotion.
March 23, 2004: Initial release date of "Five Eight."
May 1, 2004: Five Eight performs at Music Midtown.
May 11, 2004: 99X officially adds song "Square Peg" to rotation.
June 5, 2004: Five Eight headlines 99X Summerfest.
June 15-19, 2004: Five Eight on tour with 7 Mary 3.
July 10, 2004: Five Eight performs at 99X Upstart Festival. Guys in band meet Scott Freeman from Best Buy, who along with the staff at 99X becomes one of the band's biggest/most influential supporters to date.
July 20, 2004: 99X officially adds "I'm Still Around" to rotation.
July 22, 2004: Five Eight performs at 10 High as part of the 2004 Atlantis Music Conference.
July 24, 2004: Mike Mantione from Five Eight performs on the "Writers in the round" at the 2004 Atlantis Music Conference.
Aug. 20, 2004: Marty Winsch receives call from Buck Williams at Progressive Global Agency. Offers Five Eight six dates with R.E.M. on upcoming U.S. tour.
Aug. 24, 2004: "Five Eight" re-released with Redeye Distribution.
Oct. 13, 2004: Five Eight kicks off R.E.M. U.S. tour in Los Angeles at The Greek Theatre.
Oct. 14, 2004: Five Eight supports R.E.M. in Santa Barbara, Calif., at The Santa Barbara Bowl.
Oct. 15, 2004: Five Eight supports R.E.M. in Berkeley, Calif., on Cal-Berkeley campus at The Greek Theatre.
Oct. 16, 2004: Five Eight supports R.E.M. in Irvine, Calif., at Verizon Wireless Ampitheater.
Nov. 19, 2004: Five Eight supports R.E.M. in Seattle at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall.
Nov. 28, 2004: Five Eight supports R.E.M. in Albuquerque, N.M., at Kiva Auditorium. Mike Mantione is asked to join R.E.M. on stage for the final two songs on R.E.M.'s 2004 U.S. Tour.
Dec. 29, 2004: Five Eight supports Cheap Trick in Myrtle Beach, S.C., at House Of Blues.
Dec. 31, 2004: Five Eight to play 2004 Downtown Countdown in Atlanta with Cowboy Mouth.


Five Eight 2004
The Good Nurse 2000
Gasolina 1997
Weirdo 1994
The Angriest Man 1993
I Learned Shut Up 1992


Feeling a bit camera shy


Five Eight is one of the Southeast’s pivotal rock groups. They’ve been untiring torch bearers of the Athens music scene for the past 15 plus years, sharing bills with everyone from hometown mates R.E.M. to punk rock brethrens the Ramones while amassing a heaping of praise from critics who have declared them the best live band most folks have never heard. When it comes to a thrilling, no gimmick, full throttle, rock ‘n’ roll experience, no band delivers on stage quite like Five Eight. As explosive as they are in concert, the band has always been about songs. Great songs, as a matter of fact – the kind of songs that are full of melody and an unchecked desperation that is rock ‘n’ roll at its purest. They’re songs that possess an undeniable appeal that calls for repeated listenings and have lyrics that are earnest, confessional and sung with the sincerest of force and effect.

Five Eight has weathered every storm the biz has sent their way. They signed to Walter Yetnikoff’s Velvel Records in 1997, and yes, their deal with the former CBS Records chief and music leviathan went south, just as his label did. But that’s something that seems to be par for the course these days. So is the departure of band members, and perhaps so is even a divorce, depression, drugs or a manager’s death. The real story though – the one that separates Five Eight from the rest – is not that they’ve faced the worst; it is that when faced with the worst, they have always survived. And that is what Five Eight’s new record represents like no other Five Eight album ever before. Survival. After living through what would destroy most bands a hundred times, Five Eight is still standing, and this time they have turned their wounds, their pitfalls, their pains into a full-length set of glorious rock ‘n’ roll. It’s a result that has finally earned the Five Eight name – self-titled and deservedly so.

Five Eight is the band’s most compelling album yet. One moment relentless, another stark and beautiful, the 12-song recording, which was mixed by the masterful John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr, The Breeders, Jay Farrar) and produced by Five Eight and Geoff Melkonian (of the Josh Joplin Group), is an engaging yet volcanic amalgam of manic infused melodic rock that flows and explodes from song to song as the band delves into the darker depths of life, death, regrets and relationships.