FIDLAR are the freshest punk band out of LA right now. So fresh in fact, that they caught the attention of tastemakers Pitchfork, who landed them a feature and fuelled the kind of hype that money can’t buy. Australia has jumped on board, with the band landing the coveted triple j Feature Album for the last week of January 2013. FIDLAR bassist Brandon Schwartzel took some time out of their hectic touring schedule to educate you on this brash new punk band that live by the motto ‘fuck it dog, life’s a risk’.
The band have a strong heritage – half the band’s dad was in legendary punk band T.S.O.L. They also have an honesty that belies their age. Their songs are based on real life situations that are so real, you will have to rub your ears to fully grasp it. The heavier themes explore the ups and downs of their partying lifestyles and the darkness that consumed them when it went too far. The lighter themes capture a live-in-the-moment philosophy with ragers like Wake Bake Skate. Brandon explores the ideal of ‘fuck it’ that lays at the band’s very sanctum, the authenticity of punk rock, and the weirdness that is each of their respective hip-hop side projects.
MF: Hey Brandon, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today man.
Brandon: Yeah, definitely.
MF: FIDLAR is an interesting acronym. What’s the story behind the name?
Brandon: It started with this skateboard term that our friends who Zac used to live with in LA used to say all the time. They’d be like, “Fuck it dog, life’s a risk” in regards to like doing a skateboard trick or something. We all thought that was a cool mentality. And so when we were starting the band and the four us of would all hang out and party together and write songs, we just went into forming this band with that attitude: ‘Let’s play whatever we want, because fuck it, we can do whatever we want’.
MF: There is a recurring theme that FIDLAR don’t give a fuck. What is it exactly you guys don’t give a fuck about?
Brandon: It’s more that we don’t give a fuck about what anyone else thinks, or what people want us to do, or what music is cool right now that people think we should be making. At least in LA, there are so many bands that everyone is trying to be the cool new thing. We’ve all been in the music industry playing music for a long time. You see all these bands and you think, ‘man these guys suck, but they are trying so hard to be cool’. We just don’t care as much about being cool, and we just fucking started a band and were stoked on it. That was our idea. We don’t fucking care about what anyone thinks that we should be doing. We just do what we want. And it worked out.
MF: Awesome. Have any bands come out of that scene that have been trying really hard that’ve become big/done something?
Brandon: There’s always a few. There’ll be those bands that’ll catch a break. I don’t know of anyone in particular. It was just a different idea. When we started playing the music that we play in LA, there were no rowdy punk bands. It was all this arty, indie-rock, electro dance stuff. We were like, “god, there are no more guitar bands”. I think some of it’s good. But it was just annoying that there was so much of it. It was the only thing that was going on for a while.
MF: If we rewind back to the start. How did the band come to be?
Brandon: We all kind of met around the same time. I was already living in LA and Zac moved up a few months after I did. We’d known each other before. And we’d just hang out and party together in LA. We became really good friends. I was in a different band to what he was. He started working at the recording studio and Elvis started interning at the same studio. They hit it off. Then Zac had the keys to the studio, so after hours he’d be like, “Do you guys wanna come and play, jam, record or get drunk?” So we’d all meet at the studio, and Elvis would call Max ’cause they’re brothers. And so we all kind of met in the studio and started jamming and recording songs, whoever could make it, whatever night. It’d sometimes be two of us, sometimes all of us. It just started like that.
MF: You mention that you guys party a lot. The theme of partying runs rife throughout the record. Was that a big part of your lifestyles at the time that you were making this record?
Brandon: I mean, we still party a lot, even now…because, you know, it’s fun to party, especially back when we were writing those songs. It was when we all first met and we weren’t on tour all the time and we didn’t have all this other stuff going. We weren’t even planning on making a record. So all these songs came out of that time, certain real life situations that happened.
MF: I feel like there were some dark moments on the record even though it’s very upbeat and quite happy. I found the lyrics in songs like No Waves were very dark. Was it written in a tough time in your lives?
Brandon: With partying, there’s partying when you’re happy, you know, you’re hanging out with your friends having drinks, getting fucked-up, and it’s fun. And then there’s doing drugs and drinking when you’re bummed-out, you know? Like, kind of the dark side of partying too, of like ‘man I’m bummed-out, I don’t know what to do, I’m gonna get fucked-up by myself in my room’. A lot of the lyrics have both of that, because we’ve all had both sides of that partying, of like ‘shit, what am I doing. Let’s figure it out, why am I getting fucked-up all the time’. But then there’s like, ‘yeah! We’re fucked-up! Let’s have fun!’ It’s just those two sides.
MF: I find that a lot of bands filter out those stories about partying, drugs, and all that kind of behaviour. Why do you feel comfortable telling such a wide audience these things?
Brandon: I think it’s because we just like being really honest. There’s a cool thing about songwriting, about having a lot of metaphors and having all this underlying stuff. But I think for us, we just wanna be like, ‘We fucking party and this is what we do, and this is who we are and this is how we play’. That’s how we write songs. There’s no mystery to them.
MF: I really respect your honesty on the album.
Brandon: It really goes with the vibe of the band, you know: ‘fuck it dog, let’s just talk about this shit. Who cares’.
MF: I feel like you guys are doing a bit of a fresh take on punk rock. Do you feel like there are any elements of punk rock that have been overdone?
Brandon: I think there’s that scene of super hardcore punks, guys who are being narky, like ‘fuck the government, fuck society, whatever…’ There are those bands that were originally like that, and it’s kind of cool having that attitude of fight the system or whatever. But I think that there are so many bands that try and do that, but they just don’t know what they’re talking about. You know, they’re just doing it because other bands did it and they want to be in that scene. But its like when you’re fucking 16 and live with your parents in a nice suburb of Los Angeles. Like, what are you really pissed about?
MF: You can’t be a goth in that situation. It’s funny you mention anarchistic punks, because you guys are anarchistic on yourselves, physically, outside of your music, but then you sing about it.
Brandon: Yeah! For us, it’s more an attitude; we don’t talk about it all the time. It’s just kind of what it is and who we are. And I think that’s kind of cool. We don’t talk about ‘oh man, we’ll never get signed to major labels’. Fuck man, major labels are cool too man.
MF: What were the key bands from the 90s that really drove you guys into your sound?
Brandon: Me, personally I grew up in San Diego, California with a bunch of the skate-punk stuff like NO-FX, Descendents, old Blink-182. That’s what got me into punk stuff. Then I dug a little deeper and found Adolescents, Black Flag, Fear, and T.S.O.L.
MF: So T.S.O.L was an influence before you found out Elvis and Max’s dad was in the band?
Brandon: Yeah. When me and Zac first met Max and Elvis we were like, ‘No way! Your dads in T.S.O.L.?! Like, what the fuck?’ But he’s given us a lot of good advice. It’s weird because we’ll go over to their house and there’ll be Duane Peters from U.S. Bombs hanging out.
MF: I heard somewhere that you guys used to delve in hip-hop. Are you guys still doing that?
Brandon: We all had a hip-hop side project before we started FIDLAR (laughs). That’s how me and Zac met a little bit: we would do hip-hop shows together. It was weird because both of our projects had the same idea. We were fucking around, getting drunk and playing shows. It was a super good way of getting free drinks and talking shit. Then Max and Elvis had a rap project too. It was weird when we all met: we were like “woah, what the fuck?”
MF: When you started this band, did you push hip-hop to the side?
Brandon: It was more of a joke kind of thing. It was good fun. Once this started, it took over. Maybe we’ll get back into it. We are too busy right now. But, maybe if we have time we’ll put out a hip-hop record (laughs).
MF: I read the Pitchfork album review and they called you “unoriginal” and “snotty”. But then they seem to have gotten behind you. What do you think of the hype that is Pitchfork?
Brandon: I actually thought the Pitchfork review was perfect for Pitchfork (laughs). You want a perspective from them. They’ve done a lot of awesome shit for us, like premiered our videos and streamed our album. We did a really cool interview with a journalist from there. It was cool because I don’t think our record is for a Pitchfork crowd. The people that think Pitchfork is the fucking bible of music probably think it’s unoriginal, you know? That’s what they said, but they were also liking it, which is cool. Not everyone is meant to like this record.
MF: Being chosen as the jjj feature album means there’s a big chance you’ll be chosen to do a cover of a song when you eventually tour Australia. What song would you choose to cover and why?
Brandon: We have a few covers that we already do. Maybe we’ll think of a new one. We recently covered a song (titled I Don’t Care About You) by this old LA punk band from the 80s called Fear. So maybe we’ll play that.
MF: Thank you for your time Brandon. We really dig the album. We’ll no doubt be seeing you in Australia sometime soon.