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Known for their energetic live shows and quirky music comprised of pop melodies and a larger-than-life sound, fun. visited Ohio University Tuesday, October 18, with Janelle Monáe as a part of the Campus Consciousness Tour. This tour aims to help educate university students about environmental issues, while teaching musicians how to reduce their carbon footprint while touring.
ACRN sat down with singer Nate Ruess, guitarist Jack Antonoff and vocalist, bassist and keyboard player Andrew Dost between their two performances to discuss their sophomore album, reviewing reviews and blogging.
ACRN: First off, I know this is a relatively generic question, but it’s always kind of bothered me, why are you guys named fun.?
Nate Ruess: Because the name “Ice Cream,” didn’t get the strongest reaction.
Andrew Dost: Everyone hated everything we said except this one. I think people just must have skimmed over it and not responded.
NR: One night we were all just sitting around with friends and we were just going crazy, saying different names and whatnot, and then someone said “Ice Cream," and then I think someone else was like “No.” But then we liked what it kind of conjured up, so Jack [Antonoff] said “fun” and we were like, “Yeah.” That’s the best one out of the forty other ones. I said "The Weekend" at one point
Jack Antonoff: Really?
JA: You were so ahead of your time.
NR: No, but then someone was like “There’s a band called Vampire Weekend. And I was like, [in disbelief] “There’s a band called Vampire Weekend?”
JA: That’s how long ago this was.
NR: They were like, “They’re about to blow up.” And I was like “Umm, no one’s heard of this Vampire Weekend band.” And then they did blow up, but now there’s band called the Weekend as well.
ACRN: Aim and Ignite had extremely positive reviews, are you nervous about having to do the second album with such high expectations?
NR: We would if we didn’t believe in the music so much.
JA: Yeah, I’d say we’re at a point where [if we get] any bad reviews we’re going to be like, “Oh they’re just doing it because it’s the second record.”
AD: I think we’ve all probably gotten reviews that we didn’t like in the past. I don’t really even think about that anymore.
NR: Yeah. With Aim and Ignite, I was really worried with how it’d be reviewed because it was a new band and whatnot. It wasn’t like there was an under-confidence in the music, but I was worried about it. This one, I couldn't care less.
ACRN: Yeah, I’ve only heard one bad review for Aim and Ignite.
JA: What’d they say?
ACRN: She was just saying it was over-produced.
JA: I get it.
NR: It wasn’t. Well...
JA: I wouldn’t say "over-produced."
NR: It was over-produced in, like, a cool way. It’s like the life of the album.
JA: You know what? A bad review is when someone criticizes something that didn’t exist. So if we do something and someone doesn’t like it, then that’s fine. There’s a lot there, so if someone’s like, “There’s a lot there and I don’t like that.” Then it’s like, “Oh that’s your opinion.” The only things that ever bother me is when someone says somethings that aren’t there.
NR: Like what’s an example?
AD: Like the tuba solo was terrible? [Laughter]
JA: If someone called us like, a Vampire Weekend rip-off--just cause we’re on topic--that would enrage me. But if someone said certain things sounded like, you know, Queen, I’d be like, “Okay, that was intended, so I don’t care if you don’t like it.”
NR: I used to, back in the day, want to do reviewing the reviews on a website. If they were like, “It kind of sounds like the Goo Goo Dolls right here.” Then just like note, with yellow pen like, “What the...?”
ACRN: Do you guys know when your next album is coming out?
AD: Pretty soon, early 2012.
JA: In the near future there will be a definite release date is a good answer.
ACRN: I keep seeing different things all over.
NR: There’s nothing that is any sort of panic about whether or not it’s going to be released, or when. It’s just about done, and everybody’s over the moon about it. We’re just trying to figure out the perfect time to release it.
ACRN: Have you decided on a title yet?
JA: Yes, we haven’t really announced it yet, though, so...
ACRN: You can’t say.
AD: Some guy accidentally let it slip in some interview the other day sort of. It was a weird roundabout way.
NR: Why don’t you let the audience...
AD: I’ll tell you the story, but I won’t tell you the title. He was like, “So I got this sampler in the mail and it’s called ‘blank.’” And I was like,“What?” And he was like, “Yeah, so that’s the name of the new album right?” And I was like, “Oh. Well... yeah, I guess it is.” That’s the story.
JA: You know what? It’s out there, people don’t just know it yet. It’s right in front of your face.
NR: It’s probably like a week away.
JA: But currently, it’s right in front of your face.
NR: At one point during the show, it’ll be literally in front of your face.
JA: And then after the show, it’ll be right in front of your face.
ACRN: Now you’re making me nervous. I feel like it’s a test.
NR: It’s Janelle Monáe! [Laughter]
ACRN: That’d be amazing. That’d be so confusing for record stores.
AD: That’s a pretty good idea. Are there any laws against it? Like if we called our album Snoop Dogg or something? Can we get sued?
NR: Ahh, yes. Well, like Prefab Sprout did an album called Steve McQueen, and Steve McQueen wouldn’t let them release that in United States as the name of the album.
JA: So what’d they call it, “Bullwinkle”?
NR: Two Wheels Good, which is better than Steve McQueen.
ACRN: Alright, so how would you describe the overall sound of your second album?
NR: There’s a lot of emphasis in just trying to take some of the flash out of it, make it more about the songs. And within that, I think we found a whole new range of influences.
ACRN: Going off that, what were some of your influences and inspirations for the album?
NR: We listened to a lot of hip-hop. We worked with a lot of hip-hop producers.
ACRN: I heard you listen to a lot of Kanye West.
AD: We listen to Kanye all the time.
NR: It’s been awhile actually. I haven’t listened to him in a long, long time.
AD: Oh, I break out 808s [& Heartbreak] like every other day.
JA: The record or just the things?
AD: [Laughs] Yeah I just play 808s into my headphones. No, his album, 808s & Heartbreak.
JA: What’s cool about working with hip-hop producers is when you put people in the room opposite than you are, you can feel free to back-track and be like, “No, make it more rock,” because you know that it’s still going to be a huge influence. So, that was a cool thing to do--to get in a room of people that were the main influence, and we were free to just not worry about that part of the influence. No one ever said, “Make it more hip-hop,” because that’s what they were going to do.
ACRN: Now I’m super excited for it.
JA: Oh well maybe you won’t like it. Maybe you’ll give it a bad review, and maybe we’ll have something to say about your review.
ACRN: That’s why I want to know the release date, so I can claim the review already.
NR: Maybe you’ll be like, “They were listening to a lot of Lil Wayne.” And we’ll be like, “No, we weren’t.”
ACRN: You guys have been doing a couple of collaborations. You had “C’mon” with Panic at the Disco and “We Are Young” with Janelle Monáe. What is it with collaborating with other artists that you like, and how is that different with writing within your own band?
NR: Well, I think the Panic thing was a little more collaborative. Janelle, she just came in and sang. Well, actually she didn’t come in and sing, she was off in like, a foreign country and got the files and sang. But, I think it’s cool.
I think the three of us have inherent sound and style that we established on the first album that allows us to bring other people in or work with other people, because we’re always going to sound like ourselves. No matter how much we progress and change, we can get better. But whatever we do, we tend to all have a specific sound for ourselves and so I think when it’s just another, you know?
We were talking about the first album and how we’ve got all this production on it and stuff like that. Well, that’s just like a different level of production is now working with other people and having them do their stuff and sing on it.
ACRN: You guys are currently on the Campus Consciousness Tour, and you’re reaching the end of it, what are some highlights?
JA: Two nights ago.
NR: Oh, god.
JA: We love having a good time, but it’s usually in a very calm sort of way. And the other night we just ripped it up. It was a lot of fun, we went out and...
AD: We, like, raged. We drank a lot, and we closed the bar down, right?
NR: Did we close the bar down?
JA: We closed the bar down. They just ushered us out. From my perspective, I was drunk, and I just kept looking around, it was like a movie. I saw Andrew and was like, “How did we get here?” It was really wild, and we rarely do that, maybe three times a year or so. It was fun.
AD: It was really fun.
NR: We started out, our intention was just to go dinner, and the only thing that was open was a bar. So somehow we started drinking, but then there were fans...
JA: They didn’t even have food.
NR: Yeah, they closed down the food, and there were fans that came, and so we were like, “Sure, sit with us.” We’re generally pretty closed-off people, I guess not in like a douchey way, but we’re just kind of weirdos. So, they came and sat down with us, and then suddenly the bar filled up with a lot of people from the show.
JA: And it was just a celebration.
NR: It was a celebration for sure. Like, I had ended up in a corner with two couples talking about dance and what it meant as far as art.
AD: I got hit in the face with a sandwich so hard that it made my lip bleed.
ACRN: Oh my god, what kind of sandwich?
AD: Jimmy Johns.
NR: Jack ended up knocking on the door of a sorority, just randomly.
JA: Looking for a shower, cause there’s no shower on the bus.
ACRN: Did they let you in?
ACRN: I was going to say, they’re not allowed having boys upstairs.
JA: It’s illegal right?
ACRN: Most of the sororities here are not allowed, at least.
JA: It’s so uptight, so anti-college.
ACRN: Yeah, sorry.
JA: We really enjoyed playing the shows, though on this tour, besides that. I would actually say the size of shows have been pretty uneventful because we’re in college towns, so there’s not a lot happening that isn’t from the college. We don’t go to school here, so you see college kids running around, and you don’t have a lot to do. They [Nate and Andrew] play a lot of basketball.
NR: Yeah, we play basketball on a daily basis. We played over at Ping Center.
JA: But having the shows so far to do is cool, cause if you’re in Los Angeles or places like that sometimes you do really exciting things and the show’s just part of the day. But the monotony of the tour has added to the quality of the shows.
ACRN: Yeah, this isn’t as exciting of a city.
AD: The city is cool. I bought like eight records at the record store.
JA: It’s a lot of the same stuff. A lot of Jimmy Johns, a lot of Buffalo Wild Wings.
ACRN: You guys just came after Homecoming weekend, so everyone’s recovering still.
JA: Everyone’s fried.
ACRN: Well, and we have Halloween next weekend, which is our big thing, especially now that we’re ranked the number one party school in the country.
NR: That’s what everyone says.
ACRN: That’s what we got rated, and it’s based off the Halloween party we have coming up.
NR: Who rated it that?
ACRN: Princeton Review.
NR: Oh shit. Oh my gosh, then this place is crazy.
ACRN: You’ve [Nate] been on the Campus Consciousness Tour before, how has this one been different?
NR: Well Guster’s not here. That’s no disrespect against Janelle Monáe, but those guys are honestly the best time. I think that will still go down as the best tour that I’ve ever been on. And that’s all music aside. It was the best. Ryan [Miller; vocalist and guitarist] and I would play racquetball everyday and we’d go to frat parties.
But, this is my favorite fun. tour that we’ve ever done without a doubt, just based upon how we’re playing. It’s nice to come into an album with a little bit low pressure. In this situation, these aren’t high-pressure situations. This allows us to really work out a lot of new stuff and work ourselves out in a way that coming off recording a new album feels amazing.
ACRN: And actually you [Nate] wrote a two-part blog for Spin when you were on the Campus Consciousness Tour.
NR: This is true.
ACRN: And you went to a frat party, and it seemed like it scarred you for life. Have you been to anymore recently?
NR: No, but there seriously isn’t at least a month that goes by that I don’t think about it.
NR: Fiji, oh my god.
NR: One night I’ll tell you about it.
ACRN: [to Jack] I’ll send you the link to the blog.
NR: The blog was great, I was surprised that I didn’t... that was my first and only attempt at blogging.
ACRN: That’s your only one? Would you ever do one again?
NR: No, because I thought that I was turning in gold, and no one cared.
ACRN: Oh, see I loved it.
JA: That’s so sad, that’s really why you don’t like blogging?
NR: Yeah, no honestly I was like, “Here I am, Nate Ruess, blogging for Spin,” and no one cared.
ACRN: Oh, I loved it.
JA: See, someone cared.
NR: I sent it to my girlfriend to proofread and stuff, and she was like, “Yeah, it’s good.” And I was like, “No, it’s great.”
JA: I’m spilling my guts here man!
NR: And she sugar-coats everything.
ACRN: That’s not what you want in a reaction. But Andrew, you play a wide variety of different instruments.
AD: That’s true.
ACRN: Do you have a favorite?
AD: Yes, if I had to pick one I would say that I really like playing the moog keyboards. Some people call them “moog.”
NR: You don’t even play one on stage.
AD: I know, but they’re awesome. It’s my favorite thing to mess with.
JA: What you’re implying is that moog is its own instrument.
AD: Yeah, it’s more than a keyboard.
ACRN: Alright, one more [question]. Jack, you had a Steel Train self-titled album with a companion album with all female vocalists. Do you ever think you would you try something like that with fun.?
JA: Absolutely. We actually... we have what we think is a ground-breaking idea that hopefully we’ll be able to execute. Because, the concept of that album and everything done with that band, we try to do with this band is to keep up with the times, but do it better. So the theory there is everyone is doing these remix albums, what’s the new take on that? Like I said, it’s way in the future, but we’re toying around with some ideas that really excite us that are roughly in that concept of pushing things outside of what they’re supposed to be.
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