Put five women from five different countries into a studio, pair them with some of the hottest producers and songwriters in the business for their big-label debut album and give them a spot on Britney Spears’ U.S. tour.
Sounds like an episode of “Making the Band.”
But Christina, one-fifth of i5, says it’s not as calculated as it seems.
“It started with a couple of us answering an ad for an audition in a newspaper,” the sole American member said recently. “That group formed other girls and it fizzled out; it wasn’t right, the contracts were bad. A couple of us kept going with the idea and found the rest of the group. Collectively, we’ve been together two years.
“No one put us together. We all individually auditioned. It was interesting, it was like chemistry does matter, because the group before didn’t work out. We left that group, we wanted girls from different countries … no Milli Vanillis here. We wanted the true deal, and we got it.”
i5, whose self-titled Giant Records debut album was released Sept. 12, revels in its international flavor: Andi is from England, Gaby represents Mexico, Kate hails from the Philippines and Tal comes from Israel.
“Chemistry keeps the group sane,” said Christina, a native of Orlando. “You’re always going to have one bad apple, and like they say, it will ruin the whole bunch. That’s why there aren’t a whole lot of girl groups; we say it all the time, girls are difficult. We’ve gone through a lot. We’re like sisters, we fight but we make up. The fights are different because we communicate and we don’t leave the room until it’s solved. No huffing and puffing and walking away.
“Guys are different, they beat each other up and have a beer. Girls are different, we take things personally, but the girls we have now, the core, are like ‘That looks bad on you, don’t wear it. Wear this, it makes you look hot.’ We’re very male-like – you know, ‘do this, do that,’ but that’s our forte, business and music. They go hand in hand.”
Skeptics shouldn’t scoff at i5. Their sound is fresh and contemporary, laden with hooks and pop sensibility. Judging by the infectious first single, “Distracted” (co-written by David Frank and Steve Kipner, who penned Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle”), they have more in common with the Bangles than Spears.
“We don’t care what anyone calls us,” Christina said. “If somebody wants to call us the next Bangles, we like that. If we can have one-third of their success, I’ll go to sleep happy.
“We’re all performers at heart. We’ve all been striving on our own in different lands. We’ve been together two years, and we’re still amazed by each other’s stories. It takes a lot of strong women to leave their homeland. I’m talking deserts, camels – Tal crossed several oceans to get here. Gaby fought stereotypical sexism; she’s an electrical engineer who looks like a ‘Baywatch’ playmate, and Andi’s been performing her whole life, went to boarding school in England. Kate emigrated here from the Philippines.
“I graduated college in three years, and I busted my butt out here (in Los Angeles) and I didn’t know anybody. I was going to do it, regardless. I’m 23, and I’m not a young chicken anymore, so I needed to do this now. As the American, I was hoping Americans wouldn’t say ‘That’s representing America? My daughter’s better than that,’ but hey, to each his own.”
i5 had a busy summer. Not only did they tour with LFO and Nickelodeon’s “All That & More Music Festival,” they won over Britney fans.
“The Britney tour was pretty cool,” Christina said. “We were on the side stage, which was actually beneficial for us, because we had an intimate setting with about a thousand people. They would come from going to get a Coke and watch us, then stand there for hours, missing all the other acts until Britney came on. They got autographs from us, we physically got to touch people. That right there makes a difference. We just sold a thousand records right there.”
The time is right for i5, Christina says.
“It’s time for people not only to get a group from all over the world and get along,” she said, “but it’s also time to see a girl group get together and make it and be successful and not break up because someone got pregnant.
“We sing all our music. We don’t lip sync, we never have, we never will. We’re artists first and performers second and we believe that people are paying to hear my raspy sound if I’m hoarse, they want to hear me hit that note if I can, they like it when we banter onstage and laugh. They want us to be like them, and we are like everybody else. The only difference is that we’re five girls in their mid-20s from all over the world, we get along and we play good music. That’s it.
“People ask us, ‘What’s your motto?’ It’s ‘hope you like it, have a good time.’ “
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “Kenny Rogers, a 45 of ‘Lucille.’ I got that because on the opposite side was ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ by Olivia Newton-John.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “M.C. Hammer in Orlando. I think I was 12. It was amazing, I’ll never forget it. We were like the only white people there. He was a great performer.”
THE LAST CD I BOUGHT: “Marc Anthony. I love it. That song, ‘My Baby You,’ it’s beautiful.”
BWF (before we forget): For more on i5, visit www.i5girls.com.
More updates: Joe Henry, Marcus King, Lily Kershaw, Poliça, Sarah Brightman, Jerry Leger, Simple Minds, Grateful Dead, etc