While softer indie rock has been in the musical spotlight for the past few years, sometimes the world just needs some gritty rock and roll. Enter FIDLAR. The LA quartet’s been around for several years now, but in 2012, they started gaining some momentum and finally got some recognition outside of their hometown.
While softer indie rock has been in the musical spotlight for the past few years, sometimes the world just needs some gritty rock and roll. Enter FIDLAR. The LA quartet’s been around for several years now, but in 2012, they started gaining some momentum and finally got some recognition outside of their hometown. Last year saw the release of their self-titled debut album, which not only resonated strongly with the punk and hard rock community, but also with major publications like Rolling Stone, Spin, and Pitchfork.
In a world of introspective music with layers of meaning to pull back, it’s nice to have some music that puts your mind directly in the present. We really shouldn’t expect anything less from a band whose name is short for “Fuck It Dog, Life’s a Risk.” The band’s not going to base an album off of heartbreak, or worry over the future, but their two-minute songs about not having for money for beer are just as relevant and important in music today as the next big indie folk band.
Bassist Brandon Schwartzel talked to us shortly before the band hits the stage with Pixies on Wednesday, January 29th at The National to talk about the band’s hip hop beginnings, the scene in LA, and a ton more.
First question I had to ask you about is your sound. I’ve heard tons of phrases and buzz words thrown around to describe your band: garage rock, garage punk, skater punk, surf punk, and even slacker punk. How would you describe your sound?
I mean, I would say we’re just a rock band. Loud rock and roll. I wouldn’t say we’re a punk band, but maybe we are by attitude. I just don’t think we’re a straightforward punk band. Surf punk, definitely not. I think of The Ventures and The Surfaris when I think of surf music and I don’t think we sound like those bands at all. I would just say loud and rowdy rock and roll music.
Do you guys try and shy away from the punk association or label?
Not really, I just don’t think we sound like a punk band. When I think of a punk band, I think of Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, and The Germs. They’re definitely big influences on us and we have some songs that are like them, but that’s not us. It’s not something we intentionally try and shy away from though. I just don’t think we sound like those bands all the time. We don’t get upset if people call us a punk band though.
So what type of music should you be grouped with?
Well, maybe punk just for the attitude. That’s how I really think of punk music. You can be a punk band and not necessarily be Black Flag. You can have that attitude of “devil may care” and you can be a hip hop group. It’s more that mindset we identify with: music that’s just honest to itself. If we were going to do a show, we would want to do it with bands that had that attitude or similar vibe to us.
Like Rancid then? I mean, a punk band that doesn’t sound like a punk band all the time?
Yeah, that’s a good one. I mean we don’t have any scene or genre or anything we want to be associated with. We’re just four dudes who play anything that we want. We try not to give ourselves many labels, but I understand why people try to label us.
So was it a little hard getting your name out to labels, agents, and promoters without labeling yourself?
Definitely not. I think now, it’s a lot easier than back in the day to not label yourself. It’s gotten to the point that with mp3s and YouTube, you can just be like, “We sound like this.” That’s what we’ve always done; just play people our music instead of trying to describe it and then they can call us what they want. That’s like the big question though: “what’s our sound?” I don’t know because it’s kind of hard for bands to answer that. I don’t know, we just play music so you all decide what we should be called.
You mentioned hip hop earlier and all four of you in the band had hip hop projects before starting FIDLAR. How did that lead into FIDLAR?
All of us in the band had hip hop side projects around the same time, right before we formed the band. I think that was a thing we were just doing for fun. Not that we’re doing FIDLAR seriously or anything, we’re definitely still having fun. The difference is that we’re all musicians and we like playing instruments. Max loves playing drums, I love playing bass, and so on. We love playing in a band so this is what we ideally wanted to do. At that time though, none of us had the opportunity. We weren’t playing in bands, instead just individually making music on our own. Making hip hop beats on your own is really fun by yourself as opposed to a big group too. Ideally, if we could all choose, we’d want to be in a band playing live instead of in a room with headphones on though.
Does that hip hop experience influence your work as FIDLAR at all?
I don’t think it has musically yet, but definitely lyrically. For myself, I was talking about partying a lot and getting fucked up in my hip hop stuff. Those topics definitely had some influence on the first stuff we put out as FIDLAR. The musical side hasn’t come out yet, but maybe it will the next time we start recording. We just don’t really think about it anymore to be honest. We’re just really involved with the music we’ve been playing. You think of songs differently when you think of playing them with other people as opposed to just doing it on your computer by yourself. I personally haven’t thought of too many hip-hop influences when we’re writing. There’s some Beastie Boys influence indirectly on that first record. You know, all of us yelling at the same time and that group vocal approach. That’s almost an unconscious influence though, so I don’t know if it counts.
Now you guys hail from LA, a town that’s had a reputation for a great music scene for decades now. What’s your take on the scene there now?
Like you said, there’s always been a big scene. There are definitely fads that come and go in music in general, and that correlates to the scene in LA because there’s so much of the music industry in LA. I think the scene in LA is good right now though because there are just so many bands there. Lot of good rock bands that are similar to our style and vibe. I think that was something that LA was missing for a while. When we started out, there was a lot of ten-piece indie bands with tons of mini-synthesizers and stand-alone floor toms that people are hitting with maracas. You know, that kind of scene. That got a little too much, I think. That was kind of one of the reasons we started making the music we did. We were just thinking, “What is up with all these bands?” No one had loud guitars or was just playing wild rock music. Once we started playing FIDLAR shows around LA, we found bands that were coming up and sounding like us so that was cool.
What types of band are leading that style in LA?
Well, there’s this record label called Burger Records. Not necessarily from LA proper, but they’re in Orange County. They’re put out cassettes and vinyls and they have put out a lot of garage rock stuff. They’ve just been growing and growing and it’s pretty cool. There’s a lot of good bands on that label and the label will put on these shows too that are really good. There’s a band called Together Pangea whose album just came out. They’re a really good band from LA that we’ve played with a ton of times. They’re kind of like our brother band. We kind of started around the same time and they’re starting to tour all over so that’s great. Another band called The Shrine was a band we played a lot of early shows with and are friends with. They’ve been touring Europe and Australia and stuff so that’s great. I mean, we were all playing these small house parties together and now we’re all on the road touring and doing fun stuff that we never thought we would do. It’s not that the house parties aren’t fun, but I mean, come on – we’re touring with the Pixies now. That’s just incredible.
Circle Jerks, X, and The Germs were the ones leading the charge for this style back in the late 70s and early 80s. Which of those bands do you think you guys more identify with?
Oh, man – we’re totally split. Elvis would probably say Circle Jerks, Max would go with The Germs, I’d probably say X, and Zac would say something else. It’s hard to choose, but those three are definitely really big influences and have a big reputation where we’re from. Max and Elvis’ old band in high school actually opened up for The Germs when they were doing their revival thing with Shane West, so that was cool.
Another band from LA, Red Hot Chili Peppers, evolved a lot over time. They started a punk band, dabbled in funk, then started moving towards alternative, and have now settled into a modern rock sound. Do you guys see yourself evolving like that or just staying where you’re at?
We’ve never really thought about it, to be honest. We’re a very “in the moment” band. If we feel like doing this, we’re going to do it right away. We try not to think too far ahead. The process is literally, “I got an idea for a song so let’s make that song as good as it can be.” If it ends up sounding like Creedence Clearwater Revival, then that’s what it sounds like. If it’s good, then it will go on a record. We have no real plans or directions, we just go as it comes. Maybe we will evolve into a different sound or maybe we’ll release ten records with all the same sound. I don’t try and think about it or give ourselves any parameters.
What are the plans for the next record?
Right now, this tour with the Pixies is the last hurrah for this crazy nonstop touring we’ve been doing the past few years. When we get home, we’re going to try and rebuild our recording studio, because it’s just in pieces at the moment since we’ve been gone so much. After that, we’ll start writing and recording. We’ve all got a bunch of ideas so we’ll start sharing them and working on them. We’ll see what happens from there.
Think it will be a quick process?
Oh, definitely. Once we get going, we work pretty quick. We just get in the zone and stuff seems to move along very quickly. We’ll want to record a song and we’ll shoot for having the song recorded and tracked in one day, even if it means working through the night to get it done. Once the wheels start turning, it will start moving pretty quick. My personal estimate is to hopefully have something done by the summer, but we’ll see how it goes.
So how is the tour going with Pixies?
It’s just surreal. I mean, it’s funny saying that because the Pixies music itself is very surreal, but this whole experience has been just that. It’s been really, really awesome too. We’re playing these huge awesome theaters and then we get to watch one of our favorite bands play every night. Then we even get to eat dinner and hang out with them a lot of nights. It’s just crazy.
Any stories you can share with us from the road with them yet?
Not much, we’re just kind of getting into it. The first show though was interesting. We started in Toronto and we didn’t really get to meet any of the Pixies because it was that first day of tour and everyone was running around. We didn’t get to introduce ourselves at all though and I was thinking, “Oh, shit. It’s going to be one of these tours where we don’t even get to meet the band.” I was a little bummed out thinking we weren’t going to meet them, but in Montreal we did and got to hang out a little. We were talking about recording with them and soccer and repo men so it was pretty cool. Nothing crazy has happened yet, but we’re just all so honored to share the stage with them. I’d love to say we can’t wait to play Richmond with them for you, but really, we can’t wait to play any city on this tour with the band.