When drummer Andrew Dost was asked to join Fun., the new band that singer Nate Ruess was putting together with Jack Antonoff, Dost knew almost before playing a note in the new group that there was real potential for the band.
“I didn’t know (guitarist) Jack (Antonoff) that well,” said Dost, who had met Ruess as a touring member of Ruess’s previous band, the Format. “I think Nate is just a fantastic guy, and in addition to that, he’s an amazing performer and an amazing frontman and an amazing songwriter. You don’t turn down a chance to work with somebody like Nate.”
Antonoff, whose other band, Steel Train, had opened for the Format, quickly impressed Dost as well.
“I thought he was a phenomenal guitar player, a great songwriter and just a really funny and awesome guy to be around,” Dost said.
“It (Fun.) just sounded like a dream come true, really, and so far it really has been.”
Indeed, Fun. has become one of 2012’s breakout bands.
The group’s recent single, “We Are Young” (which features guest vocals from Janelle Monae), earlier this year shot to the top of the Billboard magazine Hot 100 singles chart and held that spot for six straight weeks, while the CD that features the song, “Some Nights,” debuted at No. 3 on Billboard’s album chart.
The group has also been on an extensive U.S. tour in support of the new CD, which should further boost sales for the album.
Despite the attention Fun. is receiving at the moment, Dost said the band has been keeping its eye on the task of being a touring band.
“I guess we’re just kind of going about our business and trying to keep our heads down,” he said. “We just want to keep working hard and making good music. It’s nice (that others) can see that we’re doing well, but really we’ve been playing music together for so long now that it’s hard to change any habits or even notice when things are going well, or going poorly, for that matter.
We’re just kind of doing what we do, I guess.”
Indeed, the three members of Fun. are experienced in the ways of the music world. Ruess’s band, the Format, was signed by Elektra Records in 2002, and released two full-length CDs and several EPs before splitting in early 2008. Steel Train, which remains together, has released three full-length CDs and two EPs since forming in 2002.
Dost, meanwhile, was a member of the group Anathallo, which released four CDs and two EPs between 2001 and 2008.
But when the Format came to a halt in 2008, Ruess wasted no time in forming Fun., immediately contacting Dost and Antonoff to complete the band lineup.
“Aim & Ignite” introduced a band that obviously had a talent for writing smart and catchy power pop and the potential to develop into a special band.
And the group’s willingness to take musical risks and grow as songwriters and musicians is evident on “Some Nights.”
Rather than follow down the same guitar pop path of “Aim & Ignite,” the group embraced a new range of influences and partnered with producer Jeff Bhasker (known for his work with Kanye West and Drake) to find a different groove.
The choice of Bhasker reflects the fact that the band members began to fall for hip-hop and R&B after releasing “Aim & Ignite.”
“I think it was our headline tour, I want to say, two years ago,” Dost said. “We had started listening to Drake, and I think we had always been fans of Kanye West. But then from Drake we started to really think about wow, these sounds are really not happening elsewhere. These guys are really pushing it forward. Then once Kanye’s album, ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,’ came out, that was really life changing and really, really blew our minds.”
The influence of hip-hop and Bhasker is apparent in the rhythms on “Some Nights” and in the adventurous attitude of the production and sonics of the CD. That noted, Fun. didn’t forsake its love of pop on the new CD.
“Some Nights” is still first and foremost a pop album. But where “Aim & Ignite,” with its orchestration and instrumental treatments, was an elaborately constructed power pop effort, the new CD is more epic in its personality. Orchestral elements are once again built into several songs, as are programmed beats, electronic elements and synthesizers.
The scope of the instrumentation and sonic impact of the songs created some challenges in figuring out how to play the songs live. Even with three additional musicians in the live lineup, the group still is using some pre-recorded tracks, samples and triggers to achieve the sound it wanted on stage.
“I think that’s a really fun challenge, and it’s really nice for us to not necessarily replicate the album, but to figure out new live versions of it,” Dost said. “I find that to be just a really interesting challenge.”