Five Knives burst onto the Nashville music scene in 2011 as an electro-rock group. The four members— vocalist Anna Worstell, electronics Zach Hall and Nathan Barlowe and drummer Shane White—started off by playing basement parties until they signed with California-based recording company Red Bull Records. Now, the group is on the road with Icona Pop and Lowell on Reverb’s annual Campus Consciousness tour. The Statesman caught up with Worstell over the phone in between shows. Interviews were edited for expletives and space.
The Statesman: Red Bull says that you guys are “the perfect intersection of where good old rock ‘n’ roll and electronic music meet.
Worstell: Yeah, I think so. I think we’ve turned into an electro pop rock kind of band, for sure.
The Statesman: Is there a way you would describe yourselves?
Worstell: I think we would kind of describe it as, um, like a live band DJ set with a pop flair.
The Statesman: Who has been your biggest influence?
Worstell: We have several different influences. Our music’s kind of morphed a little bit over time. But when we all came together, each person in the band had a different influence. For me, my influences came from like punk rock, Iggy Pop, that sort of thing. And Gwen Stefani, fashion-wise. She’s a huge influence for me. For Nathan, he came from a background of loving Depeche Mode. Our drummer, Shane was completely into metal. And Zach loved hip-hop. And we kind of blended all that into one big, large super electronic group.
The Statesman: In that case, how did this super group meet and start making music?
Worstell: We’re all from Nashville. Nathan and Zach are both songwriters in town. And they got together just starting collaborating, throwing some beats together. I got a phone call from Nathan. We’d known each other for years. I was in another band in town at the time. And [Nathan] asked if I wanted to come give his music shot, sing on it. And I was like, “Yeah, sure. I mean, I’ll try. Yeah, let’s give it a whirl.” I met up with them and started singing on each track. Then we realized we had something going and we should post something online and start doing something like that. When we did that, people started asking, you know, “What’s your band? And when are you guys going to be playing?” And we weren’t even really a band yet. We just realized we had something special so we would maybe start doing some shows. Shane, our drummer, we wanted live drums in this band just to make it different from a typical DJ set and Shane we found on YouTube. And he had so many hits on his YouTube page and he was such a b****s drummer that we just knew. We knew he’d be able to play live to electronic track. So we met with him and he learned the song literally in one day. And that kind of describes how we all got together.
The Statesman: What was your first show like and when was it?
Worstell: We unofficially got together in late 2011. When we started playing shows, we wanted to do something a little bit different. So instead of just playing the Nashville scene like we were used to, I mean we all had been in different bands and we kind of warned out that scene so we threw basement parties instead. Our first show was actually a basement party. We built our own bar in the basement and kind of just threw this huge party. And that turned into bigger and better things. We rented out a rooftop in downtown Nashville where you had to show a password on your phone to get in the elevator to come see us play. The hype started got word of us throwing these parties like that. That’s when Red Bull kind of heard what was going on and they came and saw us play at South by Southwest in 2012. And that’s when stuff really started happening for us.
The Statesman: Why the name Five Knives?
Worstell: Because Four Knives sounds really stupid. There really isn’t a specific reason behind it. But when the name was officially thought of it basically phonetically sounded dark and edgy. And I think that definitely fit our music.
The Statesman: What’s one track that you’ve heard that you really wish that you had written?
Worstell: Maybe every Bruno Mars song on the planet?… Nathan Barlowe says he wishes he had written a song called “Hero” by Wildcat Wildcat. “Gangnam Style” by Psy. That was Shane White. I kind of wish I had written “I Don’t Care” by Icona Pop.
The Statesman: How do you guys like touring with Icona Pop?
Worstell: Well, we’re one show down. The girls are super rad. They’re really friendly. I had heard good things about them. It’s all true. They’re really, really friendly. I think it’s going to be an amazing tour. We’ve been getting great response from their fans and I think it’s going to be awesome. We’re super stoked about the whole thing.
The Statesman: Hands down- the best show you’ve ever played?
Worstell: Hands down the best show we’ve ever played? Recently we played a festival in West Palm Beach, Florida called “Fun Fest” and that show just was insane. Like the crowd just went ape-s**t. That was actually with Pretty Light and yeah, I don’t know, we just had a great response. It was one of those shows where…I don’t always jump into a crowd or walk up to people and do crazy stuff like that but we just took it there and the band played great. We played some of the new music and I think that actually happened this year. So that was one of our best shows.
The Statesman: What can we expect from you guys on Tuesday?
Worstell: Well, you can expect us to bring it like we always bring it. I mean, I think that we have developed our show to a point where we feel like it’s super entertaining and great and exactly the direction we’re trying to portray. And you can definitely, I don’t know, expect a lot of energy. We always have energy.