Los Angeles shredders FIDLAR are this week back in Australia as part of the monumental Laneway Festival 2016 lineup. Their sophomore record, Too, dropped last year and has been met with critical acclaim and gone for a wild run on the charts and the airwaves around the globe and especially so here in Australia.
The record came three years after the release of their self-titled debut LP, a fireball of nihilistic and fucked up fun which catapulted them to fame and got them kicked out of their communal house. Too saw them venture down a darker and more introspective path with noticeable differences in sound and tone. Is this a different FIDLAR since they were here last or are they still shouting ‘Fuck the clock’? We had the honour of a chat about it all with frontman Zac Carper.
Hey Zac how’s it going?
I’m good man, just in Greensborough in Melbourne at the moment. How are you?
Sweating it up in my car doing this interview but I’m good. I can see from FIDLAR’s Facebook that you’ve been catching a bit of surf while you’ve been here, how’s it been?
Yeah it’s amazing. I tried surfing here last time and it wasn’t great surf then but it’s been so good this time. I rented this thing called a Wicked van which is apparently a huge thing for tourists down here and I went surfing at all these different spots. I just went on the Great Ocean Road and just stopped by places with surf and slept in the van.
Living the summer dream. Speaking of surfing, has Max (Kuehn, drums) learned how to yet?
(Laughs) No way! You know what though, if someone asks him he’ll be like ‘Oh yeah I can’ and totally lie about it but he can’t. No way.
It’s on the record here, Max Still Can’t Surf. I also know this trip isn’t entirely a surfing vacation for you though, you’re with our local heroes Dune Rats at the moment helping out with their next album, how’s that going?
Australia’s finest right there. Yeah yeah I’m recording and producing their new record and it’s fucking awesome, I’m super stoked on it. It’s gonna be a good one for them.
Definitely. It was just good to see you working with them. I know you guys have a pretty good friendship and I hope that’ll come across in the next album. What’s it like to work with those guys.
They’re one of the only like, it’s a rare thing I’ve found in bands in that they’re an actual unit you know? It’s not just one dude calling the shots or anything like that, it’s like all three of them working together. It’s pretty amazing.
And you just got back from what looked like a pretty massive tour with them.
Yeah man that was a long one. That was like a two month tour or something like that! Yeah. It just kind of worked out like I heard some of their new demos and I was just like ‘Oh God these are amazing songs’ and we went to the Joshua Tree to hang out and talk about the record and stuff like that and we just kind of did it. I came out here and we’re in Melbourne recording and it’s fun. A lot of work but it’s super fun.
You’re also down under at the moment and your FIDLAR bandmates will be joining you quite soon for a little festival we put on here called Laneway. Second time out here for a festival, last one was Splendour In The Grass back in 2013, what can people expect? I mean there’s probably going to be a fair few people in that crowd who may not have caught you out here the last time and never seen a live FIDLAR show. What can they expect from it?
Loud and obnoxious (laughs)
Are they letting you bring the R. Kelly dolls on the plane over or do you need to buy an extra seat for them?
I hope they do. I’m leaving that one up to Brandon (Schwartzel, bass). We gotta figure out something to do for these Laneway shows though.
We can only hope he makes the trip. Well I very vaguely remember seeing you at Splendour that year and wondering how there were no fatalities in the moshpit for songs like Cheap Beer and Wake Bake Skate, how have your newer songs transferred into that live environment as far as that pure intensity I can remember goes?
It’s definitely… the new record definitely has this new weird production stuff and these weird effects and stuff like that but behind it is just still all these songs that I just wrote on guitar. That’s usually how it works out anyway so there’s always this good foundation of it being just a rock song.
I guess they’re a little bit slower on this record but I noticed on this tour with Dune Rats in America that by the end of the tour the kids started going off you know. I think we were starting to get tighter and they were just getting to know the songs.
The pace might have slowed but they all still go really hard. I read an interview where you said the follow-up to your first record was terrifying. Did you find it a big relief once you’d finished recording initially or was then having to follow that up playing these songs in a live environment as daunting a task too?
Ehhh, not really. At first I thought it would be, you know, but you can’t really over-think these things. It’s more like, what I’m trying to learn is the longevity of stuff. How do we do a two month tour without cancelling shows or not going crazy? You know what I mean? I think we’re working that out and we’re getting there.
Talking of longevity, I thought it was really interesting the way you approached the writing and recording of Too, how you decided that exploring different sounds and genres of music to what you put out for the FIDLAR LP. You were sort of saying that people might think you were selling out by making such a different record but that your idea of selling out would be to just continue to be comfortable making the same record.
With me, I’ve gotta keep challenging myself. It got to the point where for me I’d just written songs about getting fucked up (laughs). Like I’ve done it myself with the first album at my house by myself so it was like, I’ve already done that side of it, what haven’t I done? I had to challenge myself to learn from this experience and that’s when the whole thing came about of like, what if we change the sound?
It’s just constantly trying to push yourself creatively, you know? With some people though it’s cool that they don’t do that. Like I wouldn’t want, let’s see, who’s a good example… I don’t know. Oh, you wouldn’t want a band like Blink-182 to come out with a record that sounds like fucking U2 or something like that. You want Blink-182 to be Blink-182.
God help us if Blink-182 start sounding like U2.
Yeah. Also I think that singing songs about doing speed and heroin can only get you so far.
Before people start to wonder if you’re going to be around to make a next record?
Yeah exactly. And I’m just like, I got fed up with thinking about… no I’m not fed up with thinking about drugs but I just got fed up with writing about getting fucked up. And now I’ve been writing songs about being fed up with that and that’s just the way it is, I go through phases.
As far as FIDLAR the band goes, how much has changed for you guys? I know you were talking about Dune Rats being a tight unit and that was actually the vibe I got from your first record, like I was a fly on the wall of a big fucked up road trip with the four of you. Is there still the same unity for you all as a band now?
Yeah it’s definitely crazy but you don’t realise, when you’re playing all these tours and stuff, you don’t realise by the end of the tour how tight you guys are and stuff like that.
Stuff like our live shows coming along too. I’m probably the least technically skilled musician in the band, the other three of them are just such shredders (laughs), so we definitely lucked out with that and we’re getting to a good place there.
But we don’t have a spot anymore. A big chunk of what happened with our second record was me and Brandon got kicked out of our house which was also our recording studio. Our house was like the central hub and then when that went away we just didn’t have anywhere to hang out. And everybody got girlfriends so we’re just like ‘oh shit, what do we do?’
Hopefully they’re not all Yokos at the very least.
So Too was a whole lot darker and more introspective, which I guess would be a natural result of some of the circumstances you’ve just mentioned. As far as your progression goes, FIDLAR was like the wild party and Too felt kind of like the hangover and the aftermath of the first record, for me at least. I just wanted to know where you go next from here?
Yeah definitely. I mean I know that I go back and forth really. I want to get another space, I want to get like the hub again instead of just going into a studio and recording an album I want a central space for FIDLAR-related stuff. I don’t want to make another record like… this new record was a fucking hard record to make, it was just a lot of emotions and a lot of bullshit and I don’t want to make another record like that, I’ve done that now. This new record that just came out it just needed to happen the way it happened. It was a tough record to make, like we just went into a studio and kind of just made an emotional record which was different for us but it needed to happen that way.
Oh, a kangaroo!
Yeah I saw Dune Rats posted a video of some of the wildlife they had hanging outside of the house you’re all staying in, I guess that’s a brand new experience for you?
(Laughs) Yeah it’s crazy. What was I saying? Oh yeah, I think I just want to write about being in FIDLAR again instead of just Sad Zac (laughs).
There was a lot of frustration that you could feel coming through in those songs, was it cathartic in the end for you or just painful?
Well a lot of it was kind of making fun of myself for just like being this emotional dude. The other side of it was just, yeah, I was in a lot of pain at that time both physically and emotionally and a bunch of crazy unfortunate events happened so the way I just dealt with it was by locking myself in my room and writing a bunch of songs.
Not a bad way to deal with it at all, if you can go through all that and come out the other side with a hit record then you’re doing ok. After you’re done here playing Laneway what are your plans? Is there more touring for you guys, have you got any time off planned?
Not really sure yet. Me and Brandon are going to Bali for five days after which is gonna be siiiiick! (laughs)
You’ll be rubbing elbows with some more of Australia’s finest over there.
(Laughs) Yeah. I’m also working on this brand new t-shirt line I’m starting up called ‘Shred Aloha’ and I just bought the trademark for Australia so I’m gonna be doing that and then I’m also looking for a space to do the new FIDLAR record. Somewhere we can spraypaint the walls and put a halfpipe in and I can just write some new FIDLAR songs with the boys!
Da boiz! Hey good to see you keeping your foot on the pedal heading into 2016. Cheers for the chat this morning Zac, we’ll see you and the rest of FIDLAR at Laneway!
Right on man, thanks so much.
You can catch FIDLAR live at all stops on the Laneway Festival this year as well as the official Laneway after parties at:
Sun, Feb 7th: Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney
Sat, Feb 13th: Max Watt’s, Melbourne
(Photo from Pitchfork)