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fun. Heads to the Bowl with Their BFFS

Guitarist Jack Antonoff Talks Autotune, Arena Shows, and Tegan and Sara


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

We are young. And so are the nights. As in Most Nights, fun.’s summer tour.

Okay, so technically the record’s middle-aged at this point. But the tour will be young at heart when it makes its stop at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Saturday, September 7.

Look at the band’s accolades: Their songs have been featured in countless commercials. They won two Grammys this year. They were the first rock band to have a song (“We Are Young”) enter the Billboard Hot 100 chart at the top spot in over a decade. (The last band to do so was Nickelback with “How You Remind Me” back in 2001.) Not bad for a band that had to lower the case of their “f” and add a period to their name because a Scandinavian death metal band already had snagged “Fun.”

Aside from having a name that’s fodder for terrible puns, fun. aims to live up to their moniker—especially during shows. Guitarist Jack Antonoff says they intend to maintain elements of intimacy and showmanship for their packed arena crowds. “There’s a saying that when we play in the club, we try to bring the arena show, and when we’re in the arena, we try to bring the club show,” he told The Independent last month. “The most important thing for a concert experience is that the bands and the fans are all in it together.” He calls the band’s interaction with the audience a “collaborative effort.”

And the fans aren’t the only ones fun. is connecting with — their openers, Tegan and Sara, are also their best friends, Antonoff says. Beyond friendship status, “You get a push and pull when you’re on tour with great artists,” he says. “You want to play better. You want to infect them. You want to, you know, get on that level.”

One level where the two acts relate is the “indie” label that the press has affixed on them — even as they’ve crossed over into mainstream pop media. However, Antonoff says categorization oversimplifies music. “You know, every band has some title, but underneath that, there’s a mess of — a collage of different definitions of what they are.”

Take a listen to Some Nights and you’ll hear a band whose sound ranges from theatrical touches reminiscent of Queen to songs (like “Why Am I the One”) that channel the grandiosity of Electric Light Orchestra to production levels that extend beyond the standard idea of “indie.”

Despite the categorical parlance used by most media outlets in reference to fun., it’s telling that coverage of the band is nowhere to be found on alternative overseer Pitchfork. But Antonoff sees the positives in the blog’s dismissal. He says the band’s fans listen to the music for what it is, rather than allegiance to a scene. “I can imagine it would be really stressful if you were tied into a scene,” he says. “What if you wanted to do something that didn’t fit into the parameters of that?”

One such liberty the band took was to not only draw inspiration from hip-hop, but to work with leading figures of the genre. For one, Janelle Monáe sang on the chorus of fun.’s breakaway hit “We Are Young.” And then there’s the involvement of producer Jeff Bhasker, who was, in part, the inspiration for the record. He’s responsible for churning out Kanye West’s 2010 opus My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which was what all of the fun. members were listening to when they started work on Some Nights. “If we were in the studio without him, we would’ve been saying, ‘Let’s get a Jeff Bhasker-type drum beat,’” Antonoff says. “But instead we were standing right there with him.”

In terms of sound, they notably transmit a particular element of modern hip-hop: Auto-Tune. Antonoff acknowledges that the sound effect has a “weird” connotation as a crutch that smooths out less-than-tuneful voices. But fun. messes with that notion, even going so far as to use it to make frontman Nate Ruess’s voice crack on the album’s title track.

“Calling [Auto-Tune] a voice-perfecting software would be like calling a [black forest TK] pedal a guitar-perfecting software,” he says. “That’s one thing that people use it for. … [But] it’s one of the most forward and modern inventions in music,” he says. He’s particularly fascinated by how it grabs and bends notes in “crazy” ways. However, despite the debate surrounding the effect, fun. has not gotten any feedback from Auto-Tune-smith T-Pain [at the time of the interview].

And fun. doesn’t stop at crossing genres — their individualism of sound reaches to cross-medium influences. While recording Some Nights, the band played films in the background, including Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery — the soundtrack for which inspired their album’s intro. “It’s all art, you know. Songs can be visual, and visuals can be melodic,” he says. “They’re just there to evoke feelings and challenge people, so there’s a lot [artists can] learn from each other.” These shared functions between film and music create a kind of synesthesia that speaks directly to fun.’s anything-goes approach. It’s the kind of sensory overload that literally screams “young!”

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fun. plays the Santa Barbara Bowl (1122 N. Milpas St.) on Saturday, September 7, with Tegan and Sara. The show starts at 7 p.m. Call 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com for tickets and info.

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