fun. PHOTO COURTESY OF LINDSEY BYRNES
There's nothing quite as fun right now as being Nate Ruess, Jack Antonoff, and Andrew Dost. Ruess (formerly of The Format), Antonoff (of Steel Train) and Dost (of Anthallo), make up the musical trio, fun.—and yes, their name is rendered just like that, lowercase, with a period at the end. It's certainly memorable. The band is preparing for their second album release, Some Nights, on February 21, 2012. fun.'s new album has been getting hype since they released their track, "We Are Young," featuring Janelle Monáe. They even supported Monáe this fall on The Campus Consciousness Tour at universities across the States.
For Some Nights, the trio drew in new influences, with the help of Jeff Bhasker (who has produced for Kanye West, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, and Drake) to create a mix of indie-pop, theatric rock and hip-hop (minus the rapping). fun. has tried to raise the stakes on their music by taking in everything they heard and gathering new influences more from hip-hop beats.
fun.'s Nate Ruess spoke to Interview about working with Janelle Monae, the band's change in musical direction, and trying to make the world a little more fun.
ILANA KAPLAN: I remember being in early high school listening to The Format. That was one of my favorite bands growing up. How did The Format transition or not transition into fun.?
NATE RUESS: With The Format, it was a matter of... we had gotten tired of doing The Format. So, as soon as that kind of happened, I called Jack and Andrew. I had always kept note that those were the two people that if anything ever happened... maybe I could see the writing on the wall, or something like that. As soon as that became a possibility, I just called them up right away. I asked if there was something we can do. Next thing I knew, I found myself in New Jersey a week later.
KAPLAN: Steel Train is based out of New Jersey, right?
KAPLAN: I know they've played at a local record store called Vintage Vinyl.
RUESS: Steel Train is very Jersey, so that makes sense. Next thing, we knew we started writing our first album and we were a band. One night, after working all day on demos and stuff, we decided to get together in a room and be like, "Are we a band?" Kind of if people are dating: "So, are we boyfriend and girlfriend?"
KAPLAN: Do you still talk to the band members of The Format?
RUESS: Sam (Means) has been doing stuff. He's been writing songs for movies. He just had a song in a commercial. He's kind of been doing his own thing.
KAPLAN: What kind of influences have each of you brought into fun.?
RUESS: Just a wide range of stuff. Basically, anything we're listening to, we find a way to be influenced by it. I think we're all very, very particular about music. If there's something that gets played on the beat in our earphones, then it's probably something that will interest us. If you look at our iPods, there are probably like a billion different things. I think for me, this time around, with this new album that we're finishing right now. I was listening to so much hip-hop. I think it was really a big influence for me.
KAPLAN: How did you get Janelle Monáe involved on "We Are Young?"
RUESS: She knew our producer that we had done "We Are Young" with, and most of the album with. So, he had brought it up to her once. He played her the song, and she was really enthused about it. I think right about that time, we had planned on doing a tour with her. It probably was one of those situations for her where she had never heard of something and then heard about it like four times in one week randomly. Next thing you know... we say she recorded on the moon, but I think she recorded in England.
KAPLAN: She's wild! Is she going to be making any surprise appearances on your upcoming tour dates?
RUESS: We just got off tour with her. We were on tour with her, and we're playing a couple of shows in NY and LA. I'm not sure if she's going to be in town when we're in town. We'll cross our fingers. When we were on tour with her, she came out on the last night and sang with us.
KAPLAN: On your second album, what can we expect that's different from the first, other than the hip-hop influences?
RUESS: Well, that's obviously a big thing. I don't know how to rap, so there's none of that. My flow is weak. I think that there was just an emphasis on trying to make the songs a little more cohesive, I suppose. Sometimes when I write, I tend to kind of be all over the place. I do think there's something very endearing about it. This time around, I also wanted to focus on having a song... if it's something like Elton John, have it be a concise, not so long and drawn out... just a really good song.
KAPLAN: So, this album is being put out by Fueled by Ramen? What's that experience been like for you, switching labels?
RUESS: It's been wonderful. It's been very, very easy for us. I think that with the label, they knew what they were getting into when they signed us. Me, being on a major label in the past, I had my apprehensions about things. I also wasn't as naïve as I used to be. We both approached it like we knew what we were getting into with each other. They've been so good to us in every possible way.
KAPLAN: Did you always think you were going to be a musician?
RUESS: Well, I never wanted to get a job. That was kind of my thing. I came from somewhat of a musical family. I had an uncle on Broadway. My dad kind of knows how to play instruments. Although, I always find it annoying when he does play an instrument. I think that I always thought that if my uncle was on Broadway, then I must inherently have a good voice. I don't think that for a while I did. Eventually, out of sheer will of never wanting to get a job or go to college, I found my way into doing music full-time.
KAPLAN: What would you do if you weren't a musician?
RUESS: I'd probably be like a meth addict.
KAPLAN: I doubt that. [laughs]
RUESS: Sometimes I wonder. Sometimes I really, really wonder. No, I don't know. I'd probably find something to do in the music business, because I do love music and all that shit.
KAPLAN: Who would you want to perform with in the future?
RUESS: I think playing with Janelle was something that was kind of a dream come true, as far as that happening. I would love to play a show with Kanye. That would be amazing. I want to play a show with Tom Petty or Bruce Springsteen. It would be really fun, especially to stick around, watch their show and watch how they work a crowd. It's really a wonderful thing.
KAPLAN: fun. is such a simple band name. Why did you choose "fun.?"
RUESS: That just felt like the most natural name out of all of the names. Everything else just felt so contrived. Even now, when I try and think of band names just randomly, I'm so thankful that "fun." is the name of the band. I never really think twice about it. It is so simple and so easy.
KAPLAN: It's sometimes "fun" with a period and "fun" without a period, depending on how you Google search.
RUESS: I think legally we have to do "fun" with a period. I think we agreed because apparently there was another band called "fun." We Google-searched, which now makes sense because we're so impossible to Google-search. We couldn't find anything, and one day a Swedish metal band's manager emailed us saying that was their name. We didn't really want to give up the name, so we were like, what if we add a period to it?
KAPLAN: There's nothing like a grammar or punctuation change to make it all work. What's been the most exciting thing for you guys since the project started?
RUESS: It's probably been the last six or seven months making this album. It's been pretty surreal. I've been doing this now for almost ten years, professionally. Nothing has been as much of a highlight for me as the last six or seven months.
fun. WILL PLAY AT THE BOWERY BALLROOM WITH PARTY SUPPLIES TONIGHT. THEIR ALBUM SOME NIGHTS WILL BE OUT ON FUELED BY RAMEN ON FEBRUARY 21, 2012. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE.