Fountain Square's Hero House is a comic book lover's dream.
Every conceivable symbol of fanboy-dom is there. Comic books and graphic novels, both classic and contemporary, fill brightly-lit shelves in one corner of the haven.
It's in this space that the band Five Year Mission was born. Since recently releasing their debut CD, Year One, the quartet has quickly made waves behind an unusual concept — to write a song for every episode of the original Star Trek series.
"It was a Star Trek idea from the beginning," said Mike Rittenhouse, co-owner of Hero House Comics and a Five Year Mission member. (NUVO contributor Wayne Bertsch co-owns the store with Rittenhouse.) "The idea of doing a song for every episode of the original Star Trek was the idea for the band. I was going to do it all myself, then I thought it would be fun to do it with somebody."
With the exception of drummer Andy Fark, everyone in Five Year Mission (rounded out by Noah Butler, Patrick O'Connor and Chris Spurgin) knew each other from playing in and around the local music scene. Rittenhouse approached Butler, a fellow hardcore Trekkie, about his idea. Originally it was only going to be an in-studio enterprise.
"The farther we got along with it, the more we realized it deserved to be a real project," Rittenhouse said.
They recruited O'Connor, Spurgin and Fark — all Star Trek fans but not nearly as zealous as Rittenhouse and Butler — and set to work on their first song cycle. Four of the members are songwriters, and each picked four episodes to write tracks for.
"We literally drew episodes out of a hat to determine who wrote what," Butler said. "Back when it was just Mike and I, we were mildly entertained by our writing. Then Patrick and Chris came in and threw some songs at us. We were like, man we need to step up our game. These guys just blew our songs out of the water."
How lyrics have come together has depended on the episode.
"Some of them write themselves," Spurgin said. "The tone of the music and the lyrics just come right out. The episodes where characters just talk and not much is going on, then you have to focus on a piece of the episode and not necessarily encompass all of it."
The track "The Naked Time," written by Spurgin, refers to one six-minute scene from the episode it interprets.
"Some songs you're just describing an episode from beginning to end," said Rittenhouse, referring to his composition "Shore Leave" that closes the album.
"That's still the funniest song to me," Fark said. "If you took away the music and weren't singing it but speaking it, you'd just give a six-minute rundown of the episode."
Three seasons, six albums
The original Star Trek series lasted three seasons on NBC in the 1960s. There were supposed to be five, but it kept getting cancelled. Five Year Mission plan five albums to cover all 80 of its episodes (including the never-aired pilot "The Cage") split into 16-song cycles.
"It's kinda hard to make a 29-song album," Rittenhouse said. "We had to break the seasons up."
Playing shows was never in the group's original plan either, but Fark kept getting them gigs. Turnout turned out to be better than expected too.
"If you book it, they will come," Fark said. "And come they did."
"Dressed in uniform too," Butler noted of the 20-some people in attendance at their live debut, which was during the Melody Inn's Punk Rock Night. It was impressive enough to earn them the title Best New Band.
"So far it's been a pretty warm welcome," Rittenhouse said.
The response from Star Trek freaks has been even better. Five Year Mission played their CD release show the Friday after Thanksgiving at the city's annual Starbase Indy Star Trek convention. It was the first time the event featured a live band.
"They treated us like royalty," Fark said.
Aside from their opening-night performance, the band backed up Star Trek Voyager star Tim Russ for a dinner set the following day. They were listed as the favorite part of this year's Starbase Indy by fans on the convention's Facebook page — along with astronaut David Wolf.
"I think it's funny that we were as well-liked as an astronaut," Fark said. "That should be our tagline."
Five Year Mission have already received invitations to play at other Star Trek conventions. But they also hope to have enough crossover appeal to play regular clubs throughout the Midwest.
"While the lyrics deal with specific episodes, the music translates really well," Fark said. "The question I always got when we first started was is it spaced-themed with lasers and synthesizers and stuff? No, it sounds like power pop."
Added Rittenhouse, "We just happen to be singing about Star Trek instead of our girlfriends."
They've already been asked repeatedly what they'll do after Star Trek. Suggestions so far include other Star Trek series and specific movies. The band does include at least one Buffy the Vampire Slayer devotee.
"I'm totally down for that," O'Connor said. "I've written three songs already."
Such discussion is still premature. For now Five Year Mission just want to bask in the success their creation has created.
"I've been overwhelmed with the positive response," Butler said. "We've all been in bands with varying degrees of success — where you're happy if you make a hundred bucks one night or sell two CDs."
At Starbase Indy they earned almost $1,000 through CD and T-shirt sales alone. Immediately after their Friday-night set, attendees were buying their CD, unwrapping them at the merch table and asking for autographs. Members also posed for an unusual number of photos.
"Aside from the money, it's just nice to have people listening to your stuff," O'Connor said.