Tuesday, March 13, 2012

INTERVIEW : Fun.

People all over the globe are slowly but surely falling head over heels with the concept of Fun. Not the noun, you realise, but the name of your new favourite band. This New York based three piece with the blow-the-roof-off-the-stadium sound is in the process of taking over the music world and after hitting No.1 on both the US and Australian singles charts over the past five days with their new track 'We Are Young', the future of Fun. is looking mightily rosy.
We hopped on the phone to chat with band member Andrew Dost to get the lowdown on the band, their ride to the top and to find out what they have planned for Australia. But we begin by congratulating him on the band's US No.1.

"I really don’t know what to say about it or how to process it yet. We’re so thrilled. We couldn’t be happier," he says, confirming that the band was together when the good news came through.

"We’ve all been pretty much together for the last month or so, either touring or preparing to tour or buying groceries or whatever, so basically all the good news that we’ve got lately has come when we’ve all been together. It’s nice to be playing music with these guys and to be sharing all these moments with them. It just makes me so happy and so proud," Andrew enthuses.

Fun., of course, is not a new concept. The band formed back in 2008, bringing together the talents of The Format's Nate Ruess, Anathallo's Andrew Dost and Steel Train's Jack Antonoff. But here in Australia they have, until recently, been relative unknowns, so for those who are yet to discover the band and it's stupendously catchy grooves, we ask Andrew to explain what Fun. is all about.

"Well I would say that we’re a rock band and we have some maybe theatrical tendencies," he says, surprisingly. "We like musicals and we like things that have a lot of drama… the highs are high and the lows are low. And we’re also really into hip hop, so that comes through a lot on the new album too. So I’d say rock, theatre and hip hop - that’s probably a lot what we sound like.

"Rock is what we grew up on," he continues. "It’s the only kind of band we’ve ever been in. We play guitars, we’ve got a drummer and we love The Beatles. All I’ve ever wanted us to be is a rock band, so no matter what we might sound like, I guess that’s what I still consider us to be."

The name of the band came about quite organically, with Andrew telling us that there were plenty of ideas and plenty of discussion.

"We were really racking our brains," he recalls. "We had a thousand options to choose from and we came up with the name ‘Ice Cream’. We didn’t really like calling ourselves ‘Ice Cream’, but we liked the idea of ice cream and we liked how it made us feel. And we decided that that was fun. We went online and we couldn’t find any other bands named ‘Fun’, so we ended up just going with it. It ended up sticking and it’s worked out well so far."

But there's also the little matter of the 'full stop' at the end of the band's name - and, we're told, it's there for a reason.

"We Googled extensively and couldn’t find any other bands with that name," Andrew explains. "And then we got an email from, I think, a band in Sweden who said that they were called ‘Fun’ and then we just had to distinguish ourselves in some way from them and then it would be okay. So we just added a 'period' (that's a 'full stop' to us) and that was enough for them. So we are Fun with a period officially."

It's only in recent months that the band's trajectory has hit an almost vertical state, but even as far back as 2009, Andrew tells us that there were signs of the success that was to come.

"I think what really set it off for us was a show in 2009 when our first album came out. We had been doing all the support shows and nothing had really clicked so far. And when that album came out, really the day of, it seemed like people started learning the words and singing along. They started getting rowdy in a very pleasant way, I guess. There was so much energy in the room. That was, at least for me, when I started to think, ‘wow, this is really special. This could be something that we do for a really long time'," he says.

Then late last year, the band's single 'We Are Young' featured on hit TV show 'Glee' and earlier this year, it was used as the soundtrack for a well-publicised Chevy Superbowl commercial. Since then, Fun. fame has hit the stratosphere.

"We’ve had a really nice, really lucky, really fortunate string of events," Andrew muses. "And it felt like there had been a nice build slowly in our lives, but in the last year or so it’s been very quick. I feel like the dominoes have toppled in the right way for us.

"I still don’t know what to make of it. I’m 28 years old and I’ve been playing music professionally for about the last ten years and nothing has happened quickly for me - or for any of us. So I guess I’m taking it all in my stride. And we know that we’re grateful for any piece of good news we get, because we know that it doesn’t come around very often. So we’re just really enjoying it all."



Not only did it bag the coveted US No.1 spot last Thursday, it seems that their latest single 'We Are Young' has captivated audiences in Australia too, claiming the ARIA No.1 spot over the weekend. But what is it about this single that has resonated with audiences across the globe? Andrew theorises.

"I think there is an energy in the song. It’s hard to say – I guess if I knew what it was, I would write ten more," he laughs. "I think there’s something about the melody, there’s something about the beat and there’s something about the lyrical content that strikes people in the right way. We didn’t set out to make an anthem or anything, but we did want to make a song that hit people right in the gut – and hopefully that’s what happened.

"I think the song is about just living in the moment – being with your friends, going out, experiencing a night and really being present there. That’s I think what I’m playing at. I think I have a natural tendency to either dwell on the past in a negative way or dread the future in a negative way and whenever we play that song, I just try to be right there. I try to be right there in that exact moment in time and play it and feel it. I think that if that’s not what it’s about, then that’s what I personally take from it every time."

Andrew is the band member credited with creating much of the band's signature sound. 'Some Nights' is a lush, dramatic opus. Colourful, rich and full, the album effortlessly blends a number of different styles. And with Andrew's love of film scores and musicals firmly in mind, it's not difficult to comprehend its grandeur.

"I like to think that songs deserve to be special. That songs deserve to sound unique and deserve to have their own home, I guess," he says. "The lyrics and the melody in a song are everything, but they also need a world in which to exist. Nate is a fantastic lyricist, but I like to try to put even more colour and life into that. I just like a lot of sounds. I love texture and I think that when Nate creates such a rich tapestry with his words, Jack and I just have to try to match that and expand on that with sound. And it’s a very very fun task."

Of course, incredibly rich and impressive production would be nothing without a talented vocalist out front. But that's precisely what Fun. has in Nate Ruess. Alternating between flashes of Freddie and swathes of old-school troubadours and storytellers, Nate has the ability to hit piercing highs in one breath; in the next, drawing you in with warmth and tenderness. Andrew has nothing but praise for his frontman.

"I think he’s just remarkable and I’m happy to support that voice, because I think it’s a voice for the ages. And he smokes!" Andrew laughs. "He’s phenomenal. He is a very larger than life presence and he has a larger than life voice. I wish I could sing like that."

In an effort to blend Jack and Andrew's extraordinary soundtrack with Nate's powerhouse voice, the band on this occasion turned in, what many would consider, an unorthodox direction for a rock outfit - they turned to a hip hop producer. Jeff Bhasker has worked with some of the best in the business including Adam Lambert, Beyonce, Bruno Mars, Alicia Keys and Natalia Kills. He was also the man behind much of Kanye West's last album 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy'. We ask Andrew what prompted the band to seek him out.

"We really really loved the last Kanye album," he says. "Well all his albums, but ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ in particular. We want everything we do to be inspired and touched by the best part of ourselves and the best parts of our culture. And for ‘Some Nights’, what set off that whole chain of inspiration and desire was that Kanye album. Fortunately, we had the chance to work with Jeff, who had a big hand in making it.

"Kanye’s a great producer on his own, but Jeff is responsible for a lot of sounds too and he is phenomenally gifted. We thought it would push us into a different creative space. To work with somebody from outside our own world. And it did – he just took us out of our comfort zone, he really expanded our minds and we just feel so lucky to have had the chance to work with him."

One thing we wanted to discuss with Andrew was the album's cover image (above), which struck us because it's completely unclear as to what it is, what it's meant to be or the message it's supposed to convey.

"It is open to interpretation," he admits. "I chose that image because I couldn’t tell what was going on. The photographer’s name is Nacho Alegre and he’s one of my favourite photographers. I think that his work has such a mysterious quality – that picture especially – I can’t even explain why it resonated with me, I just loved it so much.

"I’m glad that I can’t tell what’s going on and I’m glad that you can’t and I hope that nobody can, because there’s just something about seeing that flame in his hand, just the way they’re leaning and the way their bodies are positioned… It just struck me.

"I tend to think that the best art raises questions. It makes you wonder what’s going on. It makes you think about things and I hope that’s what the cover does. I hope people wonder and ascribe their own meanings to whatever’s going on there."

With the immense interest in the band coming from all corners of the world in the wake of their US No.1 success, it would be easy to dismiss any prospect of the band spending time on local soil. But Andrew says he's been hearing differently.

"I keep hearing that we’re going to come later this year," he hints. "And I don’t know when exactly, but our manager keeps talking about it and I’m really hoping to get there. I’m hoping for the Fall, because I’d really love to come to Australia."

On the strength of their new album alone, we'd love to have them here. Our lives have been just that much shinier since receiving 'Some Nights'. The album is bold, bright, brash and packed with great tunes and world class production.
Vibrant, youthful, energetic and dedicated to the craft, it's not hard to tell where the road should lead next for this band. But wherever it travels from here, just to watch and appreciate the journey itself will all be part of the Fun. (Period.)


Fun.'s No.1 US and Australian single 'We Are Young' is available digitally now.
Fun.'s album 'Some Nights' is now available at all good music retailers.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Id be very interested to know the origins / the bands feelings about Janelle Monae's appearance on the track.

To me, her 'featuring' credit is ridiculous. She is back-up at best, repeating one short line four times, which you can barely hear (i had to see her in the video to pick it).

So it seems a little unfair that she gets to ride on the tracks success. Was it a record company thing?

auspOp said...

Hey Anonymous,

We were also surprised that Janelle got a credit on the single for appearing as a backing vocalist.
She and Fun. are on the same label (in Australia at least) and within the Warner umbrella in the US, so it would make sense to promote from within.

The auspOp team