Although LA skate punks FIDLAR (an acronym for “Fuck It Dog, Life’s a Risk”) are not the kind of band I normally gravitate toward, their seemingly unlikely friendship with ingeniously passionate, badass, and infectious Brit feminist singer/songstress Kate Nash, arguably both the best singer/songwriter of the 20th century, in addition to being just my own, personal favorite and most in-awe-of public figure of the past decade and a half (Nash appears on their “Somebody Kill Me” and “AWWWKWARRRDDD,” and regularly covers their “Cocaine.) was more than enough of a reason to give the SoCal punks a thorough listening… Their self-titled debut LP dropped about a year and a half ago, and while SoCal culture (and guy culture in general) are not something I have a history of identifying with (to put it mildly), the album fucking rules! It’s a blend of ultra-heavy surf rock, combined with the beautifully sloppy abandon of proto-punk garage rock, and the hyper-anthemic brand of punk established by ‘80s survivalists of the no wave scene (The record even includes a track entitled “No Waves.”) They also have the best competence for the fun-loving-yet-teen-angst-ridden, upbeat brand of badassery that I’ve heard since the golden years of Lookout! Records (which actually makes their quite-good covers of songs by the likes of Weezer and Blink 182 make a bit of sense).
This summer I finally got a chance to experience FIDLAR live, when they double-headlined Union Transfer with METZ, and I have to say that it was the most wonderfully raucous show, short of Refused’s recent reunion tour, that I’ve experienced in my 100-shows-a-year history since The Stooges reunited. The band also released their sophomore LP, Too, earlier this month, an aptly slightly-more mature take on the poignantly-punk-Bill-and-Ted aesthetic of their debut, but the tunes, albeit a little bit less abrasive, don’t really suffer… even a little bit… It’s a little more radio friendly, but if it were considered to be at all watered-down compared to their debut, it would only be because it more closely resembles the ‘90s stars of 120 Minutes and Alternative Nation appropriating the likes Iggy and the Slits, rather than Mr. Osterberg and Ms. Up themselves, which, let’s face it… is pretty much just as amazing…
FIDLAR are currently on a US/UK tour that will take them through the end of November, which includes a September 24th stop back at Union Transfer, and I recently got a chance to chat with the super cool Elvis Kuehn, FIDLAR lead guitarist/vocalist (brother to FIDLAR drummer Max Kuehn, sons of Greg Kuehn of T.S.O.L.), whose particular brand of coolness would seem to be equal parts Spicoli and Lux Interior. At the time of our chat the band was just about to head over to the UK for Reading and Leeds (“I’m just getting some shit ready. We’re heading over to the UK for Reading and Leeds. We’ve actually played there three or four times before and it’s always been really cool.”) before returning to the US for some headlining dates, before heading back across the pond for some more headlining shows. And when I ask what have been the highlights of the first half-decade or so of FIDLAR, he tells me that it’s hard to top the international touring: “Just being able to tour the world has been pretty amazing and to see places you’ve never been and having people come out to see you in London and Paris and Tokyo and know all the words is kind of insane.”
I ask Elvis what it is that influences their stripped down, but super intense and engaging live show (Their last Philthy show seemed to have about half of the audience losing at least one shoe and all of the products in their hair by about 2/3rds of the way through their set.) and he tells me that it all goes back to the very-DIY and very-informal settings of their earliest gigs: “We started and were playing house shows and that’s just kind of how we’ve been playing since. No matter how many people are there, you just give the same show, no matter what and not just be a dick because there’s like five people there. We just always try to have a lot of energy and hope the audience responds.”
Once we start talking about their latest album Elvis tells me that the process was a bit different from their debut, but that much of the inspiration was from the experiences the first album afforded/required-of them over the past several years.
“For this album we sort of took some time off to be at home and work on writing. I mean, we ended up having about 40 demos and we were working with a producer, which we had never done, and we recorded it in Nashville and not at home, so we were out of our comfort zone, but I think that was actually helpful. Influences go pretty deep, musically. Everything we listen to probably comes through in some way. And in terms of themes, after our first album came out we started touring pretty heavily and being away from girlfriends and home and loved ones and not being able to focus on writing, so that was something we had all had on our minds.”
As far as what the future holds for FIDAR, Elvis tells me they plan on being on the road for quite some time, once again: “We’re just going to keep touring. We’re going to Australia eventually and Japan. Once we get the album out, we pretty much focus on touring. And when it comes to how their relationship with Ms. Nash first began, it turns out to be just as charming as it is mundane: “She was just friends with one of [FIDLAR vocalist/guitarist and bassist] Zac and Brandon’s roommates, so when she would come to LA we would hang out and it happened very naturally.”