R5 have a huge fanbase that just keeps growing.
The pop rock band are currently on tour and working on new music, but drummer Ellington Ratliff found time to catch up with LAGoss.com from the road.
“We’re really excited to have music released and we’re obviously on the New Addictions tour so that’s going well,” he told us.“We’re still getting our tour legs, as we say, but the shows are great, because the hardcore fans are all coming out. So it’s been a real good time.”
Ellington first met Lynch siblings Ross, Riker, Rocky and Rydel – who are related to Derek and Julianne Hough – years ago, and he “definitely” couldn’t have predicted the success they would go on to have.
“When I met them and we started to play together, we were 16 or so. It was rough, because I was playing with other people as well – you know, crappy high school indie bands, but I thought I was really cool,” he told us. “I was like, ‘These guys want to play. Whatever.’ I wasn’t vibing it.
“But then after a while I ended up making a decision to leave my other bands for R5 just purely based on the fact they were more fun to be around. Other indie artists can get broody and moody so it was cool because it was a different vibe. That’s why I was like, ‘I’m going to stick with these guys.’”
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With Ross’s credentials as a Disney star on Austin & Ally, the band quickly built up a huge number of fans, who have stuck with them all the way.
“What’s funny is that we’ve been touring so long that our fans are all in their 20s,” Ellington said. “Which is weird because I’m used to having a fair share of Austin & Ally fans coming, and they’re now 15 and up. It’s almost like seeing old friends that have grown up.”
The drummer revealed that setting an example to their young fans “was definitely a factor for a while”, but added, “Now it’s been so long that we’re just kind of letting them grow up with us, and so far it’s been perfect.”
And how does Ellington feel about his heartthrob status?
“A heartthrob?” he says with a laugh. “You know, it’s fun. Just today someone handed me a scrapbook labelled, ‘Ellington Ratliff, we’re happy you exist.’ If I ever need a pick me up, having someone writing a cute note about why I’ve changed their life [is really nice]. But it’s weird, because it’s like, ‘Holy crap, I helped you through that?’”
Ellington has no doubt that the band and their fans will continue to grow together, and that listeners will appreciate their music no matter where it takes them.
“We’re confident in our songwriting ability and we kind of know where music is going because we pay a lot of attention. This is part of my slang, but we do what we think is dope,” he laughed. “And the fans will like what we do because they like us. They trust us and we’re cool with them. And even if at first maybe it’s over their heads, they’ll grow to like it.”
While Ellington and his bandmates are thoroughly embracing the digital age that we live in, he loves that they are extremely popular while also being “the best kept secret”.
“I can play to a theatre full of thousands of people and then go back to my house and just walk around fine. It’s not overflowing into our personal lives for any reason,” he said. “It’s been this awesome balance of having fans and having success on the road, and being able to do what we love but without it affecting our personal lives. Obviously when we’re on tour it’s one thing, but we’re ready for that, and it hasn’t become overbearing.”
Ellington and his girlfriend – the band’s female lead Rydel – also find plenty of time to be a couple despite their celebrity status.
“The fans are super respectful when it comes to that. It’s not a problem,” he told us. “We go back to our hotel room on our days off, and it’s just easy. It’s much easier than it seems. We’re having an awesome time.”
Ellington is also very close with the other members of the band, and they all keep each other grounded.
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“That boils down to the band,” he said. “Because once we get out on a tour bus, we’re playing video games, hanging out and talking about the show. And there’s nothing weird about our crew so it’s like a family unit on the road. After we play in front of all these people, we come back and we’re just a normal us.”
Refreshingly, the group write their own music, and Ellington says there are good days and bad days when it comes to the creative process.
“We get into a mode. There’s a certain momentum that you reach where you get in the zone, and things are happening. All of a sudden you have an awesome song and everything sounds amazing and you know what to go with,” he explained. “And then there are certain times where everything sucks. You’re like, ‘Why do I write music?’ Every artist knows you have your ups and downs.”
Ellington also does acting on the side, and R5 are busy recording new music while touring across America, before kicking off the European leg of the New Addictions tour in September.
“We have a bunch of touring and we’re going to try to release as much as possible. Hopefully around September or later there might be a song or something released,” he shared.
And although he has a huge amount on his plate, Ellington is loving every moment of it. “Honestly being that busy is nice,” he says. “It’s like a marathon, and you just get comfortable in running.”