Five Hundred Bucks Release Debut Full-Length

Five Hundred Bucks
Photo by Jared Wood

Philly area punks Five Hundred Bucks have released their debut full-length titled ‘$500.’

Featuring members of The Holy Mess, The Bella Vista Social Club, Brackish and Captain, We’re Sinking, Five Hundred Bucks’ debut is the follow up to their well-received 2020 singles “Shit Shape Heart” and “Spinal.”

Film fans may recall that frontman Jeff Riddle co-produced, acted in, and wrote the music for the 2020 cult horror-comedy “Uncle Peckerhead” (which, for what it’s worth, currently has a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes).

The band has released the album’s first single “Follicles” + an impressive special-effects-laden music video that belies its DIY budget.

Frontman Jeff Riddle says, “Matthew John Lawrence (writer/director of Uncle Peckerhead) and I wrote the concept together and got a lot of the crew from Uncle Peckerhead back together to make the video. Jared Balog, who did all the special and practical effects for the movie, built us a life-like dead alien and Wicky Mendoza the production designer/costumer came on board to work on it too and I produced it. It was our first time working with Tony Coon the cinematographer/camera operator who just really knocked it out of the park and was such a huge help he became a producer on it.

The song “Follicles” is pretty personal to me. It’s about my parents and their shortcomings as a mother and father. It’s about growing older and having perspective on the situation and realizing who they were and what they were going through and despite my best efforts to separate myself from them at an early age and not want to be like them, fighting some of the same battles that they fought — depression, anxiety, addiction etc.

The video is a narrative driven video about a lonely person who lives in rural America and a UFO crashes and he finds this dead alien. He brings it inside and cleans it up and develops an attachment and friendship with it and it’s the closest he’s ever felt to being accepted by anyone. We didn’t make the video as a direct correlation to the song, but it has a lot of thematic parallels.”

Creativity begets creativity, which is why some creatives can’t stop themselves. Especially in independent circles, where artists and fans connect in powerful ways, creativity can spread like a virus, infecting and inspiring others in unexpected ways. Take Philadelphia, PA’s Five Hundred Bucks, whose members have played in bands such as The Holy Mess, Captain, We’re Sinking, The Bella Vista Social Club, The Great Explainer, Brackish, Mt. Ida—and the list goes on.

In fact, just as the project started taking shape, Jeff Riddle, the songwriter behind Five Hundred Bucks, was asked to take part in another creative project altogether: a movie called Uncle Peckerhead and its soundtrack. Maybe it’s this reason that ‘$500’, the band’s first full-length, feels so narrative, full of characters and conflicts—stories that Riddle sings about both his own experience and the experiences of those around him. There’s a sepia, Americana tone that tints the punk-rock restlessness on ‘$500’—a warbling organ solo here, a bluesy guitar lick there, stripes of acoustic guitar—and only serves to darken the already dirty the edges of this album.

“The record, on a whole, has an air of gleeful nihilism,” says Riddle, “or dare I even say optimistic nihilism to it, whatever the hell that means. There’s a lot of ‘I really want to give up or quit, but I don’t know what the hell else I would do so I might as well stick with it,’ which is a sentiment that I’ve felt when it comes to music or just even life in general.”

It’s this vulnerability that makes Five Hundred Bucks’s music feel so honest and relatable—and why ‘$500’ feels so refreshing in an era where appearances seem so important. Better still is knowing that this album, which already stems from a lush vine of creativity, will likely cultivate even more rich, meaningful music in one way or another. After all, Riddle and his bandmates can’t stop themselves.

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