fun.’s recent Janelle Monaé-featuring single, ‘We Are Young’, has done remarkably well. Most notably, it is currently the first and only song that has recorded 300,000+ downloads seven weeks in a row. To date, it has sold over 5.1 million copies worldwide. But all pianist Andrew Dost wants to discuss is ice cream, same-sex marriage and of course, music. The kind fun. will be playing when they appear at Splendour In The Grass later in the month.
Dost has toured with The Format and played in Anathallo, both well received critically, but neither ever really cracked the mainstream. Having now done so, it’s a strange feeling being so popular. “It’s a really good feeling” corrects Dost, “one I never thought I’d get to experience. I mean, I’ve been making music for so many years and some of the stuff I’ve made is really weird, really out there. So now people are listening to what I’m doing, it’s a really good feeling, something I didn’t really expect.”
He says he had “sort of stopped dreaming. Like when you’re ten years old and you first pick up a guitar and look in the mirror and dream about playing on stage or whatever, you think about having a hit song or something; and that sort of gets beaten out of you over the years – so I’d stopped thinking about it. It’s a very good feeling,” he reiterates, “I’m very happy and very proud of what we’ve done.”
A lot of the New York band’s songs are sonically dense, especially on their debut album, Aim and Ignite. However Dost says they have considered doing an acoustic album, or at least an acoustic tour. “I think that’s how the songs are written. Like Nate [Ruess, lead vocalist] is singing, I’m sitting at a piano and Jack [Antonoff, guitarist] is on the guitar and we’re just tossing ideas back and forth. So the first version of every song that we do is stripped down. We talk about it – like, ‘Alright, here is where the horn is going to enter,’ and ‘there’ll be a xylophone right here like this’. But ultimately, it’s just the three of us just smashing it out on our main instruments, and I think an (acoustic) album like that would be very exciting to do.”
fun.’s music has taken a turn for the electronic, which was mostly unintentional. Aim and Ignite was a great achievement, and Dost says, “I’m really proud of it, I’m not trying to knock it in any way, but I’d say I think we were trying to do too much with it in terms of the sonics. Like we’d have a horn part, and a xylophone enter, and then a string melody, and under that we’d have a six part harmony and there’s just so much all the time.”
For Some Nights, the band’s latest effort, “we tried to just do less,” explains Dost. “We tried to focus on the songs a little more and we tried to let things breathe… let them stand alone, let the tempos be more consistent, rather than having the drumbeat kind of follow Nate’s voice around. Having him be a little more rhythmically grounded, have it flow a little more. That was a conscious decision.”
In terms of the instruments however, it was more spur of the moment. “All the synth and different voices, whether they were analogue or digitally made, that’s what we were into at the time. Like we had a bunch of cool keyboards, so we were just using them and messing around to find the right sounds. It was a lot about discovery.”
In a sense then, it’s a similarity that the two album share. “The first album,” explains Dost, “we had a steel drum, so we threw it on; and we had access to an accordion player, so we had him record a few parts. It was just, what’s around, what can we use? What’s inspiring us? And that’s how I like to record. If you’re feeling something, if you’re feeling inspired, go for it.”
fun. isn’t just about the music though. The members are strong supporters of gay rights, and are starting a same-sex marriage charity. A non-profit organisation to help educate the public and fund projects. “Jack has definitely been spearheading it,” says Dost, “but it’s also something that me and Nate believe very strongly in. In America, it’s just very strange that not everyone has the right to get married, not everyone has full equal rights and that really bothers us, so we’re going to do what we can.”
Dost acknowledges that they aren’t politicians or heads of corporations, but “within our world – within whatever we can do – we want to be as outspoken and vocal as we can.”
They don’t have a name for the charity yet. “We know first hand that naming a project something strange like ‘fun.’ can have mixed consequences.”
Speaking of which, incidentally, the name ‘fun.’ started with ice cream. “[It] was just a response to ice cream,” reveals the pianist, “because we thought that would be a cool name, and everyone likes ice cream! But it was just too silly.”
Hitting our shores for Splendour In The Grass in late July, Dost is particularly excited to see the Sydney Opera House: “I like architecture as well as music, and that is like the world’s standard for both those things. I can’t wait to go,” anything else? “…and try Vegemite. I’m really curious.”
However, they aren’t planning to just play Splendour in the Grass and leave. “We’re going to try get back to Australia for longer, and to hit more cities. Maybe in 2013, because it’s a big country. Just because we’re hitting Sydney doesn’t mean we’re going to see the whole thing.”
fun. pride themselves on appealing to anyone who feels left out, disenfranchised or odd. For those people, Dost has this to say: “If you’re feeling that way, if you’re feeling left out, that’s how we feel. Still, every day, and that’s okay and that’s normal.”
“I grew up kind of feeling that no one understood me or cared that much about me,” says Dost candidly, “and that’s not a bad thing, that’s normal. It’s important and that’s okay…you can grow up and genuinely be happy.”
“I feel like music is a big part of that,” he continues, “it was for me growing up. Hearing Rivers Cuomo shred his throat singing ‘Across The Sea’ on Pinkerton, those things really shaped me and really helped me feel like I wasn’t alone in the world, and I guess that’s what I want our band to be.”
Some Nights is out now through Fueled By Ramen. fun. play Splendour In The Grass at the end of July, along with a number of side shows. Full details and dates here.
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