Monday, 31 May 2010

Detour Wee Jaunt

Detour took me on a wee adventure:

Monday, 24 May 2010


It's half past ten on a Saturday night and I'm sitting outside with Nate Ruess from Fun. They've just played their first ever Scottish show, in front of a sizeable crowd in the Art School as part of Stag & Dagger. Their infectious and extravagant pop sounds less polished live, but their energy and presence creates something equally captivating.

Their record is so full of gems that they leave incredible songs like Be Calm and The Gambler off tonight's set list. Obviously I had a word with Nate about this, and am fully expecting to see Fun back before the end of the year to satisfy my demands.

If you're familiar with Nate's old band – The Format – you'll know the boy can seriously sing. His main comrades in Fun are Andrew Dost (ex-Anathallo) and Jack Antonoff (Steel Train), although the live band amounts to six.

Their debut record Aim & Ignite is released in the UK on 7 June. If you're impatient, though, it is already out Stateside and is already on Spotify too. It's pretty awesome.

How would you describe Fun?

Nate: To me it's just pop music. There's a lot to it from a recording stand point, but I think when you break it down, we're just writing pop songs, like in the 60s, 70s sense. Or even the 80s. We strive for a chorus, and we hope the songs are catchy and yet we want them to be meaningful if the listener decides...

Why did you decide on the name, Fun?

Nate: Because ice cream was a stupid name.

Well, it's probably more Google friendly than Fun, although I think your SEO isn't too bad.

Nate: I hope so. I haven't Googled myself recently.

This is your first time in Scotland. Have you had a chance to explore?

Nate: Not really, we've just been within a half mile. And we're all so jetlagged that we pretty much slept the ride from Liverpool to Glasgow. Which is sad because I think that we all appreciate where we're going, I think there just comes a point where we all just shut down.
We're going to a movie after this. I would like to enjoy Scotland, but I suppose we see a cinema as an opportunity to take a breath. I always like to assume that I'll be back wherever it is that we are.

Well, I hope you'll be back soon.

Nate: I hope so too. I'm going to have haggis that time.

I've never had haggis.

Nate: Why?

Because it's gross!

Nate: The concept is disgusting, but if everyone's eating it, there has to be something to it.

No no no. I suppose I have a problem with the concept of foods. I liked cheesecake until I found out it had cheese in it.

Nate: I know. It took a little getting used to, and then cheesecake became my favourite dessert. So I'm sure haggis, cooked in a sheep's belly... I'll find a way to rationalise it.

I'm sure you could get some tonight if you wanted. Loads of wee places sell it.

Nate: Oh, I feel like it's everywhere, but I've taken my tour of Scotland with the nachos. A real traditional Scottish meal.

You've just come off tour with Paramore and Relient K in the States. How was that?

Nate: It was wonderful. It was the biggest tour that we've ever done and I felt like we did a really great job of being ourselves up on stage, and getting whatever it is that our message is across. But furthermore I think that both bands were just great tour mates and I think we all left the tour being like, this was too short of a tour, and hopefully let's try and make more dates out of it in the future.

You play with a lot of bands that don't really fit together with Fun musically. Do you ever find it difficult to connect with crowds?

Nate: No. We play for so many different crowds, whether it's hipsters in New York or Brooklyn, or scene kids across the United States. We've always told ourselves, let's not cater to anybody, let's just be ourselves. There's something very rewarding about that, when you have a show and it's successful no matter who you're playing for.

What's been your best show to date?

Nate: We had a show in Phoenix where I'm from, with Jack's Mannequin. It was a big show, and it just felt like it was our show even though we were opening up for them. From my old band I'm so used to having a certain level of success in that area of the United States, and that was the first time that it really didn't feel like anything had changed.

How different is it being in Fun compared to being in The Format?

Nate: Well it's a different group of people. I think that Fun has achieved in some regards a lot more than The Format has, but I'm so proud of what we had done in The Format. We didn't have anything – I guess all we had was a touring fanbase in the United States and we made the most of it. We're still working towards that in Fun, and with The Format it was really all that we ever had. That's all I really end up caring about at the end of the day anyway.

Is the creative process quite different?

Nate: It can be. It really depends. I mean, now there's two instead of one, so the two might feel the need to speak up, I guess, a little bit more in the creative process. And they're both just so talented that they can be let loose on any part of any song and figure it out. Whereas The Format was just, two of us who had grown up together with an assumption that we would be able to make it through, but I think it took a lot more work for The Format than sometimes it does for Fun.
When me and Jack and Andrew get together, I don't think it's that we progress as a band - I think that we progress as individuals, get together, and try to figure it out from that. We don't necessarily see eye to eye on that many things, but it works in a way that we can respect each other.

If you could recruit anyone from any band to join yours or be involved in some kind of project with, who would it be?

Nate: Well, I'm a singer, so I can't make myself obsolete... I think from a technical stand point, I'd always had my eye on Andrew and Jack. They were always the two guys. Andrew is my favourite person when it comes to composing harmonies or playing piano, and I think Jack is my favourite person when it comes to guitar, or even dissecting a song and constructing a beat. So I'm not even bullshitting, those are the two guys I'd work with, because I know how good they are.

So not even someone for a token guitar solo in a single or something?

Nate: Well, Jack would be the guy to play that guitar solo - that's the thing!

What singers do you look up to?

Nate: Otis Redding, Freddie Mercury, Eddie Vedder, Adam Duritz from the Counting Crows and Van Morrison. Just soulful singers that, well, none of them really adhere to the structure of the song, which is something that I'm trying not to do.

What's next after the rest of these UK dates?

Nate: We've been touring for the last four months, so we're hoping to go home and sleep for a little bit.

What do you miss most about home?

Nate: I don't know. I really don't remember. My home situation is so... it doesn't make very much sense anyway, so sometimes it makes more sense to be on tour. I guess I miss having a day off. Just time to do whatever I want. But otherwise I'm just as content being on the road.

Lastly, what's the most FUN you've ever had?

Nate: Probably involves dancing, but without me realising that I'm dancing. If that makes sense.

Listen to Aim & Ignite now on Spotify
Fun on MySpace
Fun on Twitter

P.S. Remember the CD is out on 7 June :)

The Pop Cop

Last week, one of Scotland’s finest and most highly respected music blogs vanished.

The Pop Cop, before its untimely demise, introduced me to some great new music. The Pop Cop picked up on bands that I'd love to say I picked up on myself first, but usually didn't. The Pop Cop informed me of a lot of Scotland-specific music news that I wouldn’t have got as quickly or as readily elsewhere. The Pop Cop was, no offence to the rest, my favourite.

But given the combination of the music industry’s bizarre, self-mutilating behaviour, some misunderstandings, and the rather brutal handling of things by the blog hosting service (sorry Blogger, you know I love you, etc.), The Pop Cop wasn’t rewarded for his awesomeness and his band plugging finesse. No. He was shut down.

Extra interestingly, the straw that broke the camel's back – or exceeded the arbitrary limit set by Blogger of complaints for linking to copyrighted material – was a complaint that didn't even point towards anything in particular.

So anyway, there's not really much point in me droning on about it, pulling the situation apart, or anything else, because you can read about it for yourself.

Read about The Pop Cop's unfortunate situation

I think it's quite obvious that the decision to pull the plug on The Pop Cop was pretty daft. It's also pretty poor form that Blogger are apparently ignoring the situation and not offering the guy who ran the blog to get access to his account to at least recover three years of work and take it somewhere else.

But mostly I think it highlights the bigger issue – that the music industry needs to sort its game out. They want people to listen to music, buy records, go to shows, etc. Yes? Music blogs want to help people find bands they like to do all those things. Yes? So we're striving towards the same thing. Yes? Can we be friends then?

Anyway, I could ramble for hours. In fact, I have an unpublished blog about the even broader issue of mp3 downloading that I may wheel out soon, too.

But for now, I hope you'll support The Pop Cop in his plight.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Stag & Dagger Glasgow

Antlers at ABCCompared to all the other wee city centre festivals, Stag & Dagger is surely the most chilled out and mature. The queue to exchange tickets for wristbands seems to keep coming at a steady (although fast-moving) pace almost all evening, plenty arriving as late as 9 or 10 to just catch a few of the bigger bands.

With the sunshine blazing brighter than Glasgow's seen for yonks, it was quite nice to take a break in a nice wee dark venue – and ideal weather for those who could be bothered to walk out to Captain's Rest where a lot of the best bands were billed.

In the city centre venues, all the big names seemed to be scheduled in the same, 9.30ish slot, resulting in the festival suddenly seeming twenty times as busy as it had earlier, with queues forming all over.

Up against We Were Promised Jetpacks, A Place To Bury Strangers, My Latest Novel and plenty others, American band Fun pulled a decent crowd in the Vic Bar and played like a band worthy of a much bigger stage.

Fun at Vic BarThey may be a 'new' band, but with their rich history (Nate Ruess was the front man of The Format, and his new bandmates are from Steel Train and Anathallo), a half hour set seemed a bit like giving Jenson Button a Nissan Micra to do the Grand Prix in. Just plain silly. The six songs from their debut album Aim & Ignite that they played were awesome, but the set felt like it ended far far far too soon.

Sitting outside the Art School chatting to Nate for my interview at 10.30 at night, it was still beautifully warm, and Stag & Dagger's momentum showed no sign of waning. In its typical way, though, the last train home marked the end of my night. The line-up and the scheduling may not have gone entirely my way, but Stag & Dagger was still a lovely wee day out.

And Fun. Were. Amazing.

Monday, 17 May 2010

The Whisky Works

The Whisky Works release their debut single today. And their debut EP next week. Even though it's sort of a re-release. Shhhh. The only reason I bring it up is because the original EP launch gig last summer was one of the best gigs I've ever seen. There's another launch gig on Thursday at Nice 'n' Sleazys that you should probably go to. Sadly, I can't.

Anyway, go listen to The Whisky Works on MySpace.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Idlewild call it a day, maybe

When I was 18, my favourite band (RUTH, anyone? Their singer went on to much bigger success as Aqualung) broke up. I had an awkward summer where I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself, then Idlewild came along and before I knew it, I was chasing a drunk Bob Fairfoull across a field at T in the Park to get an autograph. Crazy.

Like every hardcore Idlewild fan seems to, there are bits about Idlewild I like and dislike, and whenever they release a new record, I think it's rubbish in comparison to the old stuff. But I always seem to come around to everything they do. I'd currently make the controversial shout that my favourite Idlewild albums are Hope Is Important and Warnings/Promises. Not a cool choice, but seriously... 'Too Long Awake' is an incredible song.

Anyway, things were weird for Idlewild for a while. What they wanted to play and what they wanted to write seemed to clash with what the fans wanted to hear in an irreconcilable way. But lately it all seemed to have come back together, not least at their last few shows. They really looked like they were enjoying playing the old songs, and the crowd were greeting the Post Electric Blues stuff with genuine warmth.

But instead of us all living happily ever after, Idlewild have called indefinite hiatus - and people who know people tell me that the break seems fairly permanent or at least very long term.

Here's hoping those people are wrong.