Three-piece former boy band 5ive may not know how to count very well but they know exactly how their new career on the feel-good nostalgia circuit adds up.

The band, a kind of gang of bad boys next door, enjoyed numerous hits during their late nineties heyday - under the guidance of their then little known manager Simon Cowell - but they broke up in 2001 after inter-band feuding.

After a short-lived reunion in 2006, they’re back again with a much truncated line-up to re-live the good old days for fans of postmodernism irony and maybe even music lovers who like quality rap/pop crossover at odds with 5ive’s ballad-obsessed contemporaries like 98 Degrees (me neither), Boyzone and, later, Westlife.

5ive play the Electric Ireland Throwback Stage at the Electric Picnic this weekend on a bill that also includes S Club Party and Jenny Berggren from Ace of Base. It’s a small part of the sprawling Picnic experience that gives concert-goers a chance to relive their teen hoods and take a break from Millennial hipster overload. 

Ritchie Neville: "We played V Festival a few years ago and we saw Simon Cowell and I had to ask him one question . . . "

Now aged 38, 5ive member Ritchie Neville has carved out a new career as a restaurateur, sommelier, and occasional actor and he looks back on those days of pop stardom with fondness but he also tells RTÉ Entertainment that he has never worked so hard in his life.

"We literally wouldn’t have days off in years. The first two years was just crazy - we probably had two days to a week off in two years and it was 18-hour days and a lot of flying around the world," he says.

"I’d been looking at pictures of One Direction a few years in to their success and they still looked quite fresh so I said to Simon, `Simon, how come the 1D boys look so fresh?'"

"We were trying to break the whole world in one fell swoop so it was gruelling and it was really hard work. People don’t think it is because they see the videos and we were smiling and it looks like fun and it is, don’t get me wrong, but definitely the most tiring thing I’ve ever done in my life."

Neville, who does an uncannily good impression of Simon Cowell, also knows a thing or two about life for the modern day boy band.  

’5ive were the guinea pigs, we worked you like dogs and we realised that people do have a breaking point." - Simon Cowell

"We played V Festival a few years ago and we saw Simon and I had to ask him one question - I’d been looking at pictures of One Direction a few years into their success and they still looked quite fresh so I said to Simon, `Simon, how come the 1D boys look so fresh?’ And he said, `If I’m honest with you, we learned from our mistakes in the past.

"’5ive were the guinea pigs, we worked you like dogs and we realised that people do have a breaking point. If we worked them for a month, fully working their balls off, they get two weeks off, they go home, they get to see their family, they have a life . . . ‘

5ive are promising an all thriller, no filler show on the Throwback Stage on Saturday night

"My god! I wish we could’ve had that!" Neville laughs. "We probably would have gone for a few years longer and enjoyed it a little more but the machine just keeps on churning."

They may be Electric Picnic virgins but 5ive are no strangers to Ireland having played numerous shows here during their brief spell in the limelight in the late nineties.

They may be Electric Picnic virgins but 5ive are no strangers to Ireland having played numerous shows here during their brief spell in the limelight in the late nineties.

"So many shows, so many great shows. Going back to our own shows at The Point, then we played the 02 and we came over with the Big Reunion and I know all bands say it about every territory but we truly love the Irish crowd, always up for the craic. I just think there seems to be a really good and big connect between our tunes and the Irish crowd - they just seem to love it and not to mention, I do love Guinness and I do love pubs.

"I do seem to remember having a good few nights out in Dublin. I can’t remember the names of the place . . . I can’t remember much of. I was having too much of a good time. We did a lot of our recording at Windmill Lane Studios so we have a lot of history with Ireland; a lot of our hits were recorded there."

After 5ive’s second break-up in 2007, Neville took part in Sky1 series Cirque de Celebrité on Sky1 and in 2012 opened a restaurant in Sydney. Later he took part in the Channel 4 celebrity skiing competition The Jump and didn’t die. In fact, he finished in 3rd place.

No longer fully involved with the music industry, Ritchie rues the day accountants and managers took over the business but he knows what side his contract is buttered on and he’s promising an all thriller, no filler show of hits on the Throwback Stage on Saturday night.

Looking back, how much did 5ive live up to that bad boy next door image? "Ehhhh, there was elements of it," Neville says. "We were young and we say and do silly things to get ourselves into trouble sometimes but I don’t think we were necessarily a lot worse than the squeaky cleaners - they just hid it!

"And also, it’s a self-perpetuating thing because we had a bad boy image and I guess that’s how we were marketed. The press love a story so as soon as somebody said something to somebody or there’s a kick off, they love to print that because it goes with the image."  

Alan Corr @corralan

The Electric Ireland Throwback Stage line-up

Caption

Friday, September 1, 8.00pm: Jenny Berggren from Ace of Base

Saturday, September 2, 7.00pm: S Club Party

Saturday, September 2, 8.15pm: 5ive

Sunday, September 3, 7.30pm: Smash Hits

Day-time movies include Police Academy, Clueless and Dumb and Dumber.