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fun.

Close your eyes.  Okay, no wait — open them because you need to keep 
reading — but close them in spirit. Now pretend fun. is not a band, but an 
amusement park. Just replace the guitar with a log flume and the percussion with 
a carousel.  Now imagine the crowds lining up for a ride on fun.’s sophomore 
record, Some Nights.  The line snakes around the whole park.  Maybe there are 
some bearded ladies on it.  Maybe lots of bearded ladies.  Anyway.  As you get 
closer, you see the entrance to Some Nights is actually Nate Ruess’ head.  His 
mouth is open wider than should be physically possible and his uvula dangles in 
the dark.  The musical tracks harden into wooden rollercoaster tracks. You get on 
the car, and with a jerk, it starts to move. There’s that familiar feeling that tells 
you something pretty transformative is about to happen.  Lights flash as you go 
plummeting into the darkness.  The rollercoaster version of Some Nights follows
the same path as the album version: colorful on the outside, deeper than you had 
imagined in the center, and so good it’ll make your head spin.  
Want to go again?

 “I had met Jack briefly once and thought he was kind of a douche,” says 
Nate Ruess of his first encounter with Jack Antonoff.  They were 18 years old 
and going, separately, to punk rock shows in southern New Jersey.  Nate had 
worked at one of the clubs since he was 16 (“It’s how I developed a sense of 
what really works, and what is boring.”), and Jack was in love with the whole 
scene--well, almost the whole scene. 

“In the late 90s there was just a brilliant punk world happening in legion 
halls and fire houses. I was immediately taken with Nate’s voice but everything 
else – no.” Years later, Nate, who was the lead singer of The Format at the time 
and Jack, Steel Train’s front man, wound up on tour together. Impressions hadn’t 
changed much. “It was just like an, ‘Oh God, this guy,’ vibe from both of us right 
off the bat.  But 24 hours into that tour, Nate and I became inseparable.”
When The Format broke up, Nate’s first call was to Jack. 

Though not a “meet-cute” tale, it’s indicative of who fun. is as a band.  You 
hear them and think, “Are they really going to pull off this sound, this 
arrangement, and create a moving, catchy, memorable rock song?”  It’s become 
their signature.  So long as that signature has one last element: Nate’s second 
call was to Andrew Dost, the force behind all the literal bells and whistles of fun.  
“Andrew,” says Jack, “is one of those people who see the world like a giant art 
project.  I can’t begin to tell you how vital he is in our band.”

“My first impressions of them were both overwhelmingly positive,” says 
Andrew Dost, “I’ve heard they were….unsure of each other when they first met?”
fun. has not stopped living up to its name since their 2009 debut, Aim & 
Ignite.  A year after the debut they were opening for Paramore on their headlining 
tour and performing at Coachella along with The Strokes and Jay-Z. Now they’ve 2
teamed up with Janelle Monáe, a melodic collaboration on display in one of three
videos for “We Are Young.” In addition, the TV series “Glee” just plucked “We Are 
Young” off Some Nights to cover on the show, an experience that meant the 
world to a band that prides itself on appealing to any demographic that might feel 
disenfranchised or just plain odd.  “None have us have ever felt like anything but 
outcasts our entire lives,” says Jack, “and I know that’s something that has 
resonated with fun. fans. They are the same people as us — kids who never fully 
latched onto a specific music scene because it couldn't define them.”

With a trail of accolades behind them, fun. knew they had to step up their 
game in an unexpected way when it came to producing their second record. “I 
got really got into hip-hop,” says Nate, “I mean really into it.  Songs started 
coming to me in the middle of the night, and I would hear them with breakbeats
and samples, and it all made sense… I told everyone I wanted the next record to 
sound like a hip-hop album, and I don’t think they were unsupportive, but they 
were definitely confused.”  Then, a few hours before a show in Phoenix, the band 
snuck into a music room at Arizona State University. Nate doesn’t play any 
instruments, but by now Jack and Andrew have learned to “crack the code.”  This 
time the code was for the track that would become “Some Nights.”  Andrew 
pounded out the chords out on a piano, while Nate sang, and Jack stomped his 
feet and clapped as hard as he could to establish the pulse of the song. “That 
moment really brought us together as the band that was going to be making this
album….I just had to explain how the MPC (Music Production Center) would be 
our new best friend.” 

Jack is a whip-smart horn-rimmed glasses-wearing guitarist whose 
influences are Tom Waits, Jack White, and Neil Young.
Andrew counts the flugelhorn and glockenspiel among his conquered 
instruments. (Influences: Weezer, ELO, and Claude Debussy.)
And here they were, jumping out of their skin, listening to My Beautiful 
Dark Twisted Fantasy and Drake in a concrete building in the middle of the 
desert.

“What can I say?  Eventually they fell victim to Drizzy,” laughs Nate.
When pressed by their label and management for a list of potential
producers, Nate consulted the albums he loved most.  The name that appeared 
time and time again was "Jeff Bhasker.”

The legendary Grammy-winning producer for Alicia Keys and Kanye West
had his hands full at the time, working with Beyoncé, and the band worried that 
they might not have a chance to meet him. Finally, one night late at The Bowery 
Hotel, Nate got his chance. Their relationship was one that fit nicely into the 
grand tradition of fun. “Jeff wasn’t very, shall we say, warm. He had been working 
on Beyoncé all day, and he really gave the vibe that he didn’t want to be meeting 
with me...but thank God for alcohol.  We ended up hitting it off, and since I was 
drunk and lacking self-awareness, I decided to sing him something I had been 
working on. I remember singing the chorus for "We Are Young" kind of loud and 
out of key.  That’s when I learned that Jeff does this thing when he’s excited 
where his eyes perk up and somehow his ears move all the way to the top of his 
head.  He told me we had to work together.”

fun. was on their way to becoming the band that would — that could —
produce Some Nights.

“Jeff left a huge imprint in our brains,” says Andrew, “and for me at least, 3
made me realize all over again that songs are special, and that they deserve to 
sound unique.  His palette of sounds is huge.” Or, as Jack says: “Jeff pushed the 
shit out of us, and he’s nothing like us.  He helped us do something way bigger 
than what we could have done on our own." 

Jeff heard the songs stripped down with just vocals, acoustic guitar and 
piano before the band went into the studio with him. 

“Jeff has an energy, a talent, confidence, and a way of making you feel 
confident, like no one I've ever met, or probably will ever meet,” says Nate. 
“Suddenly here was a gigantic beat on top of those acoustics and pianos. Jack’s 
guitar solo in ‘Carry On’ was one of those magical moments.  I’ve never seen 
anyone so in control of their tone, and for him to take the lyrics, internalize them, 
and redistribute it into the form of a guitar solo, is just so unbelievable, and it’s a 
huge testament to his passion for music.”

Lyrically, Some Nights has a uniquely impactful note — and it’s not always 
an upbeat one.  See also: the line “I got nothing left inside my chest but it’s all 
alright” in “All Alright.” “I was just coming off of a darker and more introspective 
year,” Nate remembers, “You know, I remember being a freshman in high school 
and feeling like an outsider who always wanted this one girl to notice me, and I 
would listen to ‘El Scorcho’ by Weezer and couldn’t help but smile because there 
was at least one other person in the world who felt how I felt. That’s what I hope
to accomplish as a lyricist.  But I was having anxiety attacks about whether or not 
I could still write a song, let alone still wanting to make music. The only way to 
cope with it was to write about it.”

Maybe it’s Nate. Or Andrew. Or Jack.  Or Jeff.  Or the acoustics at Arizona 
State. Either way, it’s a good problem to have when you’re pointing fingers at 
each other, laying the blame for the magic of your new record on your band
mates. Even with the “new and improved” sound, fans will never forget what it is 
this band wants: “Some Nights has a common theme of guilt and depression and 
laying everything on the table, sure, but there’s always some sort light at the end 
of the tunnel,” says Nate. “That’s what this album is striving for, to say something 
along the lines of ‘Okay, I found that light, but it’s just led me to another situation 
where I need to find the light again.’”

And down the tracks we go.
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Sunday Jun 10, 6:45 PM on That Tent

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