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Story By Ian Kirby
Sometimes we get lucky. We get the opportunity to bring you, the readers, an exclusive interview tailored just for you from some of the most contemporary and hottest artists of the time. See Key & Peele on our August cover.
Sometimes we crusade. We bring forth cover stories not necessarily because of how hot the artist is, but because there is a message, purpose or meaning to the show we feel important for students to be exposed to. See our cover in last November's issue on Dr. Cornel West.
Very rarely do we get to do both at the same time. We get an exclusive chat with an act that is not only totally en fuego, but is doing something to change the world while they're at it. See this cover on fun. and the Campus Consciousness Tour, sponsored by Reverb, Ben & Jerry's and The Ally Coalition.
If they had only a one-hit wonder with the now epic "We Are Young," fun. would be a monster success. The official YouTube video is north of 143 million hits and exploded into the mainstream collective consciousness being featured in numerous placements, the first of which was "Glee." It was then in a Chevy Superbowl commercial, and hit number 1 on Billboard. It was the first ever single to log 300,000 or more sales for seven consecutive weeks and has been certified 5 times Platinum by the RIAA.
However, the infectious rhapsody "Some Nights" has proven that they have album power and staying power. You can't go around a corner right now without hearing this song, which at the time of this writing is number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is on commercials, movies and radio stations everywhere you look.
We have a conversation with Jack Antonoff of fun. and find out that while they live up to their name, it's not all games for this band, as the first topic we cover is their headlining the Campus Consciousness tour because of their deep commitment to equality. "The way we see it, LGBT rights is a human rights issue, and human rights is everyone's business, whether you are the one being oppressed or not. No one is free unless we are all free. Just because some of us were born into the 'elite' class of being straight doesn't mean we shouldn't care about everyone else living in our communities that have less rights because of their sexual orientation."
Jack says one of the most important things fun. (and you) can do with the platform they've suddenly been provided is simply raise awareness around the subject. "We all feel very strongly that this is not being discussed enough among bands and artists, and really everyone else outside of the LGBT or far right traditional marriage camps. It really should be at the forefront of discussion. It is the civil rights issue of our generation and there is are no better people to talk about it with, that are going to change the world more, than college students. They are at the age where they find their voice, they go out and vote, they make a difference. They are the future of arts and business and will set the tone for the next generation. We want to do our part in making sure everyone knows how important it is to speak up."
For Jack, Nate Ruess and Andrew Dost, the idea of doing more with their success than simply to be successful is a vital one. "That is a big part of it too; to have the success we have had, it would be unfortunate (and kind of lame) if we didn't recognize the other things that came along with that, such as the responsibility to use that platform to say something of value, and to be a little bit bigger than your music. We are a band inspired by the 90's, whether it was Fiona Apple or Pearl Jam or Radiohead. It's an effort to make a bigger and more lasting statement."
"We Are Young" was only released just over a year ago, and "Some Nights" in February of this year. The level of activity for the band has been so explosive, it's clear from talking to Jack that the dust hasn't even had a chance to settle when we talk about the band's introspective perception of the current pinnacle of their success. Clearly the group hasn't even had a chance to step back and admire the view, let alone gain any perspective on it. "It's not as if we are so disconnected from reality that we are excessively, obnoxiously humble in a faux Forrest Gump way - of course we are humbled by the success, of course we are aware of it but honestly, we do have a hard time grasping it on a tangible level, especially in the U.S. because we have been touring internationally for so long. We don't have access to U.S. TV and radio. We've been in Europe for months at this point, and even when we are in the U.S. we're on the bus the entire time or we're in meetings or working on the show. We definitely are seeing an increase in crowd size and enthusiasm, but I don't think any of us have gotten enough time to settle into our regular lives since all this happened, so it's hard to comment on our profile back home or the success we've had because we're still in the eye of the storm. I haven't really even heard much of our songs on the radio, especially "Some Nights" and I want to; I want to experience it the way everyone else experiences it and get that kind of 'dream come true' satisfaction (laughs)."
Jack is okay with not resting on their laurels though. "The ironic thing is, that to be where we are now, we have had to work so hard we don't have time to kick back and enjoy it. But, if we had that time, we wouldn't be doing what we need to do to see that success anyway. It's strange. You can't have both."
The song "Some Nights" in particular has become set to be the next "We Are Young" anthemic type of favorite we all remember for years. Jack says from the moment they had the final cut, the band knew they had something special. In fact, if you want to pick up their CD, the album is named after this title cut. "We knew it was very special to us, but in no way did we anticipate how special it would be to the mainstream audience. The only thing that we thought was that it was a profound artistic achievement. If you polled the three of us, we would all agree it was the greatest artistic achievement on the album."
Personally, when I hear "Some Nights," the layered depth and vocal and instrumental olympics one hears always puts me in mind of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," arguably one of the greatest modern compositions ever and one famously tough to create in the studio. But once it was done, there was magic in the air and Jack describes a similar process in the creation of "Some Nights."
"It was a long road working on that song because it was very tough to put together. Once it started sounding like itself, we did have that moment where we thought 'wow this is really happening.' The song was turning out to be not only what we sought to create, but something even better. That is an incredible moment. To me, the song 'Some Nights' still sort of sums up the mission for what the album is about. The song always had that artistic allure for us, but we are all still a little baffled it commercially has become such a success. To us, it was the centerpiece of the album, but not what we thought would be for the general audience. I mean, it doesn't even have a chorus. It's an odd song that jumps around between points, but the words are extremely poignant, which obviously has resonated more fully with fans than simply a catchy hook. It excites me not only for us, but for the future of where radio might go as well."
The influences of fun. run a broad spectrum of space and time, but one reason they are so palatable for the teen through college generation is that these guys are also hip to their music. Only in their late 20's themselves, the guys in fun. are still discovering new musical influences and ideas, many the same as their audiences. "There are certain influences that are very current and at the tips of our tongues. Those are the people that are out there popping right now like your Kanye or Drake, the people we are sitting around the studio discussing. Then, there are those more bedrock influences, the artists that don't seem to get brought up in every day conversation as much but are equally as influential on the shape of our music. The Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin, those recording artists that don't get brought up because they've always been there."
fun. is going to be launching the Campus Consciousness Tour at the end of October in Portland Maine through the end of the semester. Check out this ultra hot band on a very important and proactive (and totally green!) tour.
Contact Matt Galle at Paradigm Entertainment at 212-897-6400 or email@example.com for more information.