Five guys in Star Trek uniforms are hardly a surprising sight at Gen Con, which will bring more than 40,000 gamers and geeks downtown this month. But the Trekkies from Five Year Mission, an Indy-based band that will play the convention on August 17, are boldly going where no nerds have gone before: writing a song about each episode of the original, 1960s Star Trek series. That’s 80 episodes in all, which the band is dividing into five 16-track albums, including the already-released Year One and Year Two, plus an EP with seven tunes about the classic episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.” (Fans voted to determine which Tribbles track will appear on Year Three, scheduled to drop in November.)
Mike Rittenhouse, who, like most of the members, takes turns on several instruments, thought up the quintet’s concept. “I had been in enough indie rock bands,” he says. “I decided I wanted to do something different to get people’s attention.” He joined with fellow local Trekkies and music veterans Noah Butler, Chris Spurgin, Patrick O’Connor, and Andy Fark. In 2010, Five Year Mission—a name drawn from the show’s introduction—recorded Year One and played its first concert at the Melody Inn’s Punk Rock Night. Soon after, the group was named the showcase’s best new band of the year.
For any given episode, the five might summarize the plot or focus on one character, scene, or subplot. Fark calls the catchy music “power pop.” Only when you listen to the lyrics—did he just say “salt vampire”?—do you realize the song’s subject is otherworldly. The thirtysomethings play about 20 shows per year, from gigs at local venues to the annual Gen Con, InConJunction, and Starbase Indy conventions. They’ve also voyaged to out-of-state events like the Chicago Comic Con (where they’ll play August 8–11) and the New Orleans Comic Con, where they opened for Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner. Fans now span the world—and have bought several thousand copies of the albums. A wacky birthday video they made for actor George Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu, has more than 82,000 views on YouTube. “This is probably the most successful band any of us has been in,” Fark says.
With just three albums to go, Five Year Mission will have to decide what territory to cover next. Moving on to the Star Trek movies is a possibility, the guys say, as is a 22-episode animated series. So no, this won’t be the final frontier.
This article appeared in the August 2013 issue.