Music News

Peoria's Fivespeed Is Back After a Storm of Drugs, Fighting, and Label Woes

Fivespeed seemed to have everything going for it three years ago. The five-piece Peoria hard-rock outfit was signed to Virgin Records. Their music was receiving national radio play. They toured nationally, packing in sweaty fans on the Warped Tour. They sold out hometown shows.

Inside the veteran band, though, things weren't going as well. After a decade together, singer Jared Woosley, guitarist Jesse LaCross, guitarist Brad Cole, bassist Matt Turner, and drummer Shane Addington were on the brink of losing it. Soon after Warped Tour, the band's members — ranging in age from 29 to 35 — knew they had to take a break.

Woosley was struggling with a heroin addiction. The band's bickering led to occasional epic blowouts. They had $60,000 worth of gear stolen at a tour stop. Their touring schedule was full, but their bank accounts weren't, leading to a lot of friction. So one of Arizona's most promising local bands began what turned out to be a three-year hiatus.

Fivespeed never broke up, the band says, even if people thought otherwise. They simply checked out for a while.

Shit hit the fan even before they hit the road on what turned out to be a disastrous stint on the 2005 Warped Tour. They lost bassist Rob Anderson just before they played their first date, when he said he couldn't afford to put his life on hold for the band.

"Rob basically hit the wall that we all eventually hit," LaCross says while sitting on Turner's patio in the far west 'burb of El Mirage. "We were just trailing behind him."

No Use for a Name bassist Matt Riddle stepped in for two weeks until the band could fly Turner out as a replacement for the duration of the tour.

"I jumped into the band in the middle of a shit storm," says Turner.

Like Anderson, the rest of the members were dealing with the financial pressures of being in a band, and they wondered how they would pay their bills back home. But the worst was yet to come. During a stop in Detroit, their van and trailer, which contained all their gear (instruments, laptops, cell phones, merchandise, and $2,000 in cash, from merch sales) was stolen from the parking lot of a Hilton.

They grimace as they tell the story.

"Half of that sound was due to the select gear that we had acquired over the years to perfect that live tone — and it was all gone," Woosley says shaking his head.

"I had a vintage Ludwig drum set that we bought on eBay for $3,000," Addington adds. "I can't even talk about it. I have the rim for the bass drum hanging up in my garage. I just can't believe it's gone."

As they turned to the hotel bar to drown their sorrows, some of their Warped Tour peers pitched in, offering everything from gear to stage time. And though they were down, the band finished the tour in a minivan, proving they weren't down for the count just yet.

Virgin offered the band a "small" amount of money for new gear, but it didn't make a dent in their losses, says Woosley.

"That money that they gave us was the money they were supposed to give us to help us with our rent and to pay our insurance on our cars, and that sort of thing," he says.

After returning from the Warped Tour, a road-fried, beaten-down Fivespeed embarked on a nearly nine-month tour. They traveled to Manhattan to perform at the legendary CBGB before it closed, playing for the new president of Virgin Records.

Woosley speculates that the new label president wasn't impressed. The label shelved the band soon after the show.

"[Virgin] didn't drop us, but they retained our rights," Addington says. "After that, we just got into an argument one day. We all got out of the van, and we didn't call each other for a couple of years."

"We were all so tired by then," Woosley adds. "The money wasn't helping us pay our bills, and the pressure from home was really great. Money will tear apart any relationship, whether it's business or romantic."

Money problems suck, but Woosley's personal demons also contributed to Fivespeed's downfall. His heroin addiction was a brutal foe, he says.

"Anyone who reads into the lyrics of this last record can read into what I went through," Woosley says of the band's 2006 Virgin debut, Morning Over Midnight, which followed 2002's Trade in Your Halo. "It numbed me and destroyed me. I was already depressed and thrown through the wringer."

Woosley says he went into hibernation for a year after the band's split.

"[Heroin] just separated me from everything I love," he says. "It completely separated me from music. It made touring horrible for me."

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Kelly Wilson