Wednesday, June 1, 2011

fun. Interview with front man Nate Ruess(former lead singer of The Format)

With summer in full swing, one of my favorite groups to play on a perfect sunny day(or a day when you need a pick-me-up), is fun.. The super group comprised of front man Nate Ruess former lead vocalist of The Format, Andrew Dost, previously in Anthallo, and Jack Antonoff, current vocalist/guitarist of American indie rock band, Steel Train. It has been nearly two years since their debut LP, Aim and Ignite, introduced their energetic sound filled with infectious melodies, fun-loving lyrics and epic Queen-like harmonies. They are currently touring the nation with Panic At the Disco, are are planning to drop their sophomore LP later this summer on Fueled By Ramen. I had chance to briefly speak with fun. front man, Nate Ruess, about their upcoming album, live performance and his unique style of writing.
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What can people expect when they come to a FUN. show?
Ruess: I have always said that it is a whirling dervish of sound. On stage we really like to have a good time, which is cool because our band name is FUN(laughs). I love playing live, and everyone in the bands is have a great time, so hopefully that comes across. I think the songs sound good (live), at least I think they do. I think for people that have seen us(in the past), our live show will change a little bit too, which is exciting for me.
What is the set-up of the show, member wise? Is it just you main three guys onstage?
Ruess: There are six of us onstage.
With such intricately orchestrated songs, do you ever run into any challenges with bringing some of your songs to the stage?
Ruess: I think it can be hard. We have any string players, and there are a lot of strings on the album and sometimes there are more vocals (on the album), than there are people singing. But I think that we make up for it in other ways. We make for it with a certain energy, and there is a little bit more of a rawness to the songs. They are different from the studio work, but they lend themselves to the live show very well. We try and duplicate as much as possible with who we are and what we have. We don't through on any CD's of ourselves and play over something. I think it works out really well.
With all of you guys being from different backgrounds and different successful bands(the Format, Steel Train and Anathallo), how did you guys get together and decide to do this project a couple of years back?
Ruess: When my last band was no more, I just knew that I wanted to work with those two (Andrew and Jack) specifically. They were the first and only two people that I called. I had toured with them in the past and had such a great friendship with them, and I admired them as musicians and as songwriters. So I figured if I was going to go down, I was going to go down in a blaze of glory(laughs), and would go with me.
How did Aim and Ignite come together, from the writing standpoint? Were they songs that you had written, or was it a collaborative effort?
Ruess: I had about forty or fifty percent of the songs raring to go, and then we worked out the other ones after the fact. But even when I had songs raring to go, that still means that there is a huge process. It took us about three and a half months to record the album.
I hear that you have an interesting writing process?
Ruess: Yeah! I don't know how to play an instrument because I'm lazy, so I just write everything in my head and try my best to explain it to either on of those guys(Jack and Andrew). Usually it varies on whether or not it starts on a guitar or piano, and then they will help me work through it and get my idea across. Hopefully at that point the song kind of belongs to all of us. So many times they just come up with ideas that I never would have thought of, that are so much better than the ones that I had.
Are you guys finished up with the new album? Any recording left in the project?
Ruess: We are putting finishing touches on the album right now. I actually have to go into the studio right in a couple of hours. We are working until the day that we have to leave for tour. We should hopefully be done, and be able to have to album mixed by then.
Do you know about when the album is going to come out?
Ruess: I think we are hoping for the late summer, I think that it should be the case.
What are some of the differences that you are seeing with this album, in comparison to "Aim and Ignite?"
Ruess: I think that it is so different. It is different in the songwriting process, to the recording process, tot eh instruments (used), to the style of songs. It still feels like a FUN album to me, because it's still my voice and lyrics, it's still Jack's guitar style and Andrew's piano and composition style. It's amazing that I think we have taken them(the songs) to a different world, and I don't think that we could be more ecstactic about it. I know that I'm supposed to say that, but I am secretly freaking out about how excited I am about the music.
What about similarities? Are there still a bunch of string arrangements and harmonies that were prevalent on the first Fun record?
Ruess: I think that it would be hard for us to not add strings or harmonies, but they are not a point of emphasis like they were on the last album. They are there for sure.
Did you you guys sit down before the writing/recording of this record and decide on a type of sound that you wanted to achieve? Or did you just let it unfold in the studio?
Ruess: I had kind of a crazy idea, and I started to write within that idea. From there I brought it up to the guys, and we all kind of thought "oh shoot! It would be crazy if we were able to do this!" It worked out, and so when I started writing the songs, I had a lot of that in mind. Others ones that I had, previously, kind of just adapted and ended up sitting in this whole thing.
Are you talking specifically about the sound, or the theme of the lyrics?
Ruess: Oh, just the sound. To me it's not conceptual at all. I mean, it might be because I always tend to write what is on my mind and I don't think I progress very far mentally(laughs). It's more of just a general sound and something new that we are trying to do, that I just don't know if that many people have done it.
You guys have been in some pretty successful bands over the years. With that in mind, what kind of advice would you have for a band just starting off?
Ruess:Yeah, to me it has to do with playing live and just being yourself as much as possible. I think as a songwriter, I want to restrict myself and fall under certain genres or this or that. I try to go with my instincts and not to give myself boundaries. You shouldn't have a lot of boundaries as a songwriter and as a performer, you should just try playing live a lot and try being good at playing live. I think that somehow in this world of pro-tools and the ability to do this and that, live music has been one of those things that has failed the most. I think that it is important to put emphasis on being a good live performer.
Speaking of the live performance, who are some people that you have looked up to in the past as far as stage presence/ live performance goes?
Ruess: Well, as a kid I was obsessed with At The Drive In. I used to think they put on the craziest shows in the world, and I thought that they were just a really cool band. There is a lot of self-awareness that you have to loose in order to become a great live performer, and they were just so good at feeling the music out and putting on a show without wondering if it was cheesy to be actually moving around. That is something that we all think of too, when we are putting on a show. One time we had a show, at a pretty hip place with a bunch of hip people and I think that we were all worried about the perception.Somehow, moving around and having a good time onstage is not synonomous with being "hip," and we just told ourselves "let's not play to the crowd, let's just be ourselves." It ended up being one of our favorite shows ever. I just always look at someone like Freddy Mercury in those situations, or Mick Jagger. i love a good front man, who doesn't necessarily play an instrument and does a good job of being a master of ceremonies too.
On "Aim and Ignite" you listed Beach Boys and Weezer as big influences. What about influences for this new record?
Ruess:I think that Beach Boys and Weezer are so inherent to us as musicians, they are always a nice fall back and obviously the new album has a lot of those moments. We tried to just come up with a collection of really good songs that could fit under any type of format. I ended up listening to a lot of Rod Stewart, Elton John and a lot of Kanye West, just channeling a lot of those things, just to me that are inherently good songs despite the production.
Perfect day, windows down driving in your car, what are you listening to?
Ruess: I'm gonna go with a band called The Long Winters. They kind of do it for me as far as summertime is concerned.

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