higher than the empire state: the fun. interview;
As Nate Ruess rightly pointed out when the nice man from The Guardian introduced us, I’ve interviewed him before, twice. Those times, though, were long before “We Are Young” spent six weeks atop the US Billboard Hot 100, sold over 5 millions copies in the States, and topped the charts in 10 other countries. Fun. were just that wee band my friends were sick of me talking about. Now they’re kind of a big deal.
So it was pretty cool that Hewlett Packard and The Guardian wanted Last Year’s Girl to interview the band over Skype when they were in for their ‘How I Wrote’ session. Even cooler that Lis couldn’t do it herself, and that I happened to be going to London anyway… (partly) to see Fun…. like a big fan girl…
Skype no longer necessary, I headed to the pretty awesome looking Guardian offices for 11am, the day after I’d walked my wee legs off at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. I’ve never felt more dead in my life, couldn’t eat, and felt like I could burst into tears of exhaustion at any moment. But when pretty much your favourite band in the world are waiting for you to interview them and watch them play some songs in a tiny little studio with only two other people in the room, you find your A-game, drag it kicking and screaming down to the Victoria line and get on it.
While the last bit of setting up was going on in the studio, I grabbed ten minutes with Nate, Andrew and Jack over an assortment of still and sparkling water.
Fiona: Did you enjoy T in the Park?
Nate: Oh yeah, massively. We had such a good time, everybody was so nice.
Andrew: The food was great.
Jack: The crowd was great.
N: The crowd was amazing, actually. Everybody was wearing mud boots. What do you guys call those?
F: Wellies. Wellington boots?
J: The word welly or wellington pretty much doesn’t exist in America.
N: We have galoshes. That’s the same principle.
J: Wellies versus galoshes is a pretty good example of the difference between America and the UK, where it’s like, wellies is cute and easy to say, and galoshes is thick and hard to say. It sounds gross.
N: But galoshes sounds delicious.
A: Yeah, cos of goulash.
N: Do you guys have goulash?
A: You probably call it, like, dippies!
F: Did you see any other bands when you were at T?
J: Unfortunately no, because it was a really in and out type thing.
A: We saw The Wanted walking around.
N: Yeah, that we did see. We played something with them in the States where we didn’t even talk to each other. Then one of the guys, friendly guy, don’t know his name, I think it starts with a Z, came up and started talking to us as if we’d hung out, like, seventeen times.
A: I actually really appreciated it. He seemed nice.
N: I appreciated it too.
J: It seemed like The Wanted had tied a couple on, if you know what I mean. Do you have that expression? Like, had a couple of drinks, tied a few on? What’s the British expression for a little drunk?
N: Tipsy? Bubbly? Knackered? No, that’s tired.
J: They seemed like they were lightly pissed.
A: I think they were just friendly.
N: Friendly or drunk, that’s a new game that needs to be played.
J: They’re great, they just looked like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast with their big beers.
A: We think we’re going to be really good friends with them eventually, because they are super super friendly. And we’re pretty friendly. We’ll meet in the middle and just be great friends.
F: How are you finding fame?
J: It’s all been funny, like yesterday people came up to us at the airport, but they weren’t our fans, they were leftovers from The Wanted mob. A lot of funny things happen like that. Like, technically we got mobbed at the airport, but it wasn’t our mob.
N: When we came out of the airport there were more people waiting, but they were waiting for someone else too, and they saw us, and it’s like…
A: …we’re the fallback.
N: Like, maybe we should get a signature from those guys while we wait for this popstar. The thing is, there’s nothing I like less than being bugged at the airport. So it’s almost like, do us both a favour, don’t talk to me.
The schedule is really busy and daunting, but otherwise I think we’re enjoying the things like playing bigger shows, seeing the song and the album do as well as it is. I think that we are in love with that. We love the fact that people love the album and that they come to the live shows. Everything else is a little daunting.
F: Have there been any unexpected side effects?
J: We’ve never had our clothes tailored before. And so, this shirt got tailored too small. That’s something I hadn’t experienced. It’s a bit hard to breathe.
Fun. perform their hit “We Are Young” for Hewlett Packard and The Guardian’s “How I Wrote” series.
F: You said you’re planning to spend a lot more time over here. Do you like it better here to in America? Is it different?
N: I don’t think we like it better, I think what has actually been one of the great things is that it’s started to feel more natural. When we used to come here, like when you saw us last time, we were like, paying out of pocket. It was costing so much money just to come here and no one knew who we were. We always heard crowds were fantastic here, but never really had a chance to see that, because we’d always been some band that nobody’s heard of. So if anything, it’s just been exciting that the whole world has gotten smaller, and now we get to come here and get to feel like we’re playing a show anywhere.
F: Have you had any time to write lately, and how do you think all of this has or will affect your creativity?
N: We haven’t really tried and I don’t think we want to, because last time it went so well writing so close to recording.
A: With Fun. it’s nice to be writing and talking about these things right as we’re about to record. I think that worked really well for us on Some Nights where we kind of captured these little moments of inspiration and were able to put them directly to tape. It’s nice to not have too much plotted out before you’re ready to really make an album. It’s nice to have the album exist in that moment.
F: Does it feel weird singing songs about being frustrated with the music industry now that it has embraced you so strongly?
N: I think it feels fortuitous. I think to large extent we had to make it happen. Some people it’s just gifted to. And I think the album, at least for me, lyrically did feel like a, oh shit, if this doesn’t work, like, there’s no hope. And it did.
F: Glee and Chevrolet had a lot to do with the timing of your success. Are there any other TV shows and products you’d like your songs tied to?
N: There’s probably like a ton of things. What do we love?
A: Sparkling water. ‘One Foot’ for One Water.
N: Dostman graduated from college with a degree in Advertising, so he could probably place our songs pretty well. What song for Coca Cola? The song with the word ‘chicacherrycola’, what song is that?
A: That’s Savage Garden.
N: Nah, that’s us.
J: Barenaked Ladies?
N: No, it was Savage Garden. That’s ‘Chinese chicken’.
J: It would be cool to have our songs licensed to things that we actually use. Like razors?
A: Like Rimowa Suitcases.
N: One Foot would be a good one for that, too.
A: One giant welly that you hop into. It would be like a potato sack race.
N: We’ve circled back around. We went from welly to welly.
And so the band were ushered into the studio, with me in tow, to record their session. As technical glitches held things up, the band played around with covers, transposing and restyling, trying things out for size, and making it all look far too easy. The chemistry between them, as performers and people is absolutely incredible, and it’s a crazy little world I’d happily spend A LOT more time in.
The queue outside Heaven later that night is evidence that Fun. have ignited more than a little flame of fandom over the past six months. There is a growing number of people who truly, madly and deeply love this band (yes, that’s the second Savage Garden reference in this post, and?).
Joined for the show by the band’s three unofficial members, Emily Moore, Nate Harold and Will Noon, Fun. perform to an incredible standard. They were great a couple of years back, but there’s something here that wasn’t there back then. Maybe it’s just the difference between having crowds who don’t love them yet and crowds who already do. The singalongs are loud and beautiful, Ruess’ smile blinding, and every victorious fist thrust aloft feeling like an understatement of just how much this band are winning.
It was a fun day. It was a very Fun. day.
Thanks Fiona for coming out of music journalism retirement for this piece, and for the use of her photograph of Fun. performing at Heaven at the top of this post. Photos of Fi and Fun. at the Guardian’s offices courtesy of Hewlett Packard and the Guardian – for more sessions, check out HP’s Artists’ Lounge on Facebook.