FIDLAR's long-awaited debut album is a Pabst-soaked party record with strong songwriting anchoring its punk attitude. Pulling from hardcore, surf rock and pop-punk, and with the immediacy of The Clash's first record, the foursome, made up of singer/guitarist Zac Carper, Brandon Schwartzel (bass), and brothers Elvis Kuehn (guitar) and Max Kuehn (drums), sing about being young and dumb and getting fucked up. But all the funny lyrics in the world wouldn't mean a thing if the songs themselves didn't captivate you, and they do, across FIDLAR's 14 tracks. There's nary a hint of cynical sneer, and though they play with sloppy punk abandon, their hooks are tight as a six-pack ring. FIDLAR sing about who they are and what they do, whether that's waking, baking, skating in mechanical hedonism or reflecting that said young hedonism can "kind of suck."
The band has been selling its debut record at shows for some time now, but it's officially out in stores Jan. 22. FIDLAR is playing Amoeba SF Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. and Amoeba Hollywood Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. They're also playing a release show at LA Fort Jan. 22 with Pangea, Meat Market and Spaceships. I caught up with Carper as the band was set to play SF. WARNING: This will be a bit NSFW (Not Suitable for Wussies). There's poop involved.
PST: Fidlar has some of the best song titles in recent memory (such as “Cheap Beer,” “Stoked and Broke”). Do those usually come first before the lyrics and sort of guide them, or do you guys kind of joke and throw stuff around to see what sticks once the songs are written?
Carper: It kinda matters. Sometimes the title will just pop out and we’ll think of a chorus with the lyrics and base it around that. Sometimes we’ll jam it out and think of a topic to sing about. I remember with cheap beer, I said “I dunno, I just wanna write a song that says I drink cheap beer so what fuck you,” and someone said “why don’t we just yell that?” Sometimes we’ll just hear someone talking and say something funny and we’ll use that. It’s all a collaborative process and super fuckin’ fun.
PST: I read you and Elvis met at Kingsize Soundlabs. Were you guys working there? How did the rest of the band come together?
Carper: I was working as an engineer for [Elliott Smith producer] Rob Schnapf, and I was also living in the control room. Me and Brandon were pretty much homeless at that point, so we’d either sleep in our car or sleep at the studio. I was usually the one that locked the studio up so when everyone left, I’d call the guys and we’d all get together and get drunk and jam. Elvis was an intern there and one day we were both really hung over and decided to jam. I remember we jammed for like three hours straight. It just kinda clicked really easily. We then split a $5 Little Ceasers Hot-n-Ready and drank more. Elvis and Max are brothers, and me and Brandon are practically brothers (we’ve been living together forever).
PST: People have been anticipating this album for a while. A lot of hype has been built up, which can be good and bad as far as expectations go. Did you want to wait to release your first album until the time was just right, or was it a matter of finding the time or honing your sound?
Carper: We’ve actually be selling our record at our shows the past couple months. It actually took a while to be able to record it because we were getting so busy with touring. We finished the record around end of summer last year, and we’ve been on tour for a long time. We didn’t have time to do the other things that involved making a record, like artwork, insert sleeves, etc. etc. etc. We finally got everything together, and it’s comin’ out on Tuesday!!! SO STOKED!
PST: You’ve played with an impressive set of bands and toured with The Hives. What did you learn from those experiences?
Carper: We’ve never played on that big of stages and to that many people [as we did] with The Hives. I learned a lot about crowd interaction and to just let the fuck go and go for it. It was extremely nerve-wracking playing to that many people, especially people that don’t know who you are or what you are all about. But after the first show, we all got on the same page and played how we would play a house party. I also learned not to try and outdrink Europeans.
PST: I know you’ve also played a lot of house parties and warehouses and things like that. What’s the weirdest show you’ve ever played, either large or small?
Carper: One New Years show, we played this backyard that had a couple motor homes in Highland Park. While we were playing, some girl stood on one of the motor homes and shit off of it. That was pretty intense. I also remember being super hopped up on whatever the fuck I was on that night and my car broke down on my way back home. I ended up getting a tow truck to tow my car back home and the tow truck driver was fuckin’ wasted. We were drinkin’ in the tow truck the whole way home. I think he offered me some speed too. It’s all a little blurry.
PST: The “Gimmie Something” video has been one of my favorites released lately. Can you talk a bit about how that came together — it’s my understanding that it’s Creedence Clearwater Revival live footage manipulated to look like they’re playing your song. Do you know if anyone from the band has seen it?
Carper: I was trying to do something similar to a song I did with Kate Nash called “Awkward.” I wanted to get clips from Point Break and Notting Hill and try to manipulate it in a way that it looks like Keanu Reeves and Hugh Grant are singing the song. It took forever to do five seconds of it, so I asked Ryan (my brother-in-law and fifth member of our band) if he could do it, and he came up with the concept for “Gimme Something.” We like taking existing things and fuckin’ it up. It’s like digital graffiti or something. I’d be stoked if someone from CCR saw it. They are our favorite band.
PST: Most of the album’s lyrics seem to celebrate being young and debauchery, but at the end we have this lyric ringing out, “It kind of sucks being 22” in a kind of exhausted sounding song. Was that there to give it some balance, make some sort of statement, or we shouldn’t read that much into it?
Carper: Probably shouldn’t read too much into it. Our lyrics are pretty straightforward. I mean, if you read them, they are actually all kind of depressing (laughs). The lyrics are pretty dark. I had this system: Every time I’d get bummed, I’d write bummer lyrics but make the music sound happy as fuck. It’s an attempt to get me out of being a bummed out idiot.
PST: Can you give me a list of five punk records that you’re particularly fond of?
1. Gun Club - Fire Of Love
2. Adolescents - Adolescents
3. Redd Kross - Born Innocent
4. Black Flag - Damaged
5. The Germs - GI
6. Black Lips - Let It Bloom