FIDLAR blew up in 2012 and 2013, with an acclaimed self-titled debut album and tours opening for The Hives and The Black Lips. But last year was one that FIDLAR are glad is over.
While sonically they’ve emerged as a more complete band, 2014 was fraught with personal and logistical problems that had nothing to do with the group. Only when they traveled to Nashville to record Too with producer Jay Joyce did FIDLAR find refuge in their music.
As they sit and snack on chips and tacos at Escuela Taqueria on Beverly, the quartet reflects on the difficult year that’s now behind them, and why they’ve emerged as a better band in 2015.
You guys have a pretty strong social media presence. Why did you all but disappear from it and the public in 2014?
Brandon Schwartzel: We had finished touring our first record and we wanted to take a break from everything. That was kind of the idea. We were stoked to be home a for a bit.
Max Kuehn: We were writing songs separately and together, trying to figure things out. Also, this is so fucked. We tried to build a studio after we stopped touring at the Church on York in the basement. We straight up did construction on the whole thing, built it out, and that took two or three months to do. The week it finished, the place got shut down. We lost a bunch of time, and it was pretty shitty. It ended up being OK, but it was a lot of time and work put into this thing. It's probably still there.
How did that affect your songwriting?
Zac Carper: This was a very strange record to make, and a strange one to write. As cliche as it is, everyone grew up and it happens out of getting older. I was 21 and it was a very different time. Coming back home was a huge adjustment, almost like PTSD. We somehow managed to make a record and that’s what really matters.
Were the topics tackled in the lyrics a bit deeper than singing about surfing and cheap beer?
ZC: I think the best way to describe it is that the first record, a lot of it was about partying. Whether it was the good side or bad side of it, we were just stoked on life. Lyrically, for me, I was this crazy person on drugs for seven years. I quit doing heroin and meth, so if you take all the medicine away, I was still a crazy person, so that was what this new record was about. It was trying to figure things out, I guess.
How did that impact the rest of you guys?
Elvis Kuehn: It was pretty shitty to go through that whole thing. There was time off to just think about life and everything. It’s weird when you’re going so fast and once you get back home, it all just kind of hits you. We had enough time to reset and it was heavy.
BS: I think Zac working on what he was working on made me look at myself and see what’s going on with me. The past three years have been crazy and we went from zero to 3,000. When you stop, it’s like, what do we do now? Zac getting sober was pretty crazy, and then what happened with that studio getting built, there was just a lot of shit happening at once. There was a lot of stuff to sort out as a band together, like what are we doing and what am I doing as an individual.
How did working with a producer and recording outside of L.A. in Nashville change your process?
EK: The first one wasn’t done in as condensed amount of time. This one was done in 14 days, where the one before was spread out because we had access to a studio.
ZC: It was good to change things up a little bit and to go outside of what we’re used to. Brad from Cage the Elephant gave [Jay Joyce] our first record and told him we were looking for a producer, so he reached out to our manager and we went out there. It gave me a chance to not turn knobs and obsess over details. It was like, “Dude, produce us!”
BS: It was different, but cool. We worked in his studio with his engineer and interns and assistants. We let him do his thing, and he had some really cool ideas.
MK: Because it was in a different city, and it was in this guy’s studio and he had other shit going on, it wasn’t the same level of freaking out about stuff, because we only had a certain amount of time to make the album. We did a song a day and we were focused on what we were going to do. We didn’t have three days to figure out if the hi-hat was too loud.
ZC: The worst thing we could have done was make another first record. And I’m not even saying sound-wise. I’m talking concept-wise. What were we going to do, write another record about getting fucked up? But that’s exactly what people probably expect from us. That’s the curveball we’re trying to throw on people, because we’re not those crazy, party kids doing molly. We’re just a little bit different now.
So, without the drugs, are the live shows going to have the same raw chaos and intensity? Or does that energy manifest itself in a different way now?
EK: Regardless of whether anyone’s fucked up or not, the energy is always still there. It seems like most shows that we play, there’s pretty good energy with the audience and they’re always crazy no matter what. I’ve played a good amount of shows sober and the adrenaline is still pretty crazy no matter what.
ZC: It’s a lot better tightness-wise. I just read an interview with Robert Plant where he said that there’s nothing cool about seeing old dudes fucked up playing music. We’re not old dudes or anything close, but I recently ran into this dude who told me that he watched our band in high school and told me we sound a lot tighter.
MK: It’s also a lot easier to get fucked up in front of 75 people at a house show. When you actually have to play an hour-long set, I can’t get super drunk and make it through the set. I do sometimes, but it’s easier once you figure out that balance of how to get things right.
BS: It’s not just about partying anymore … it’s about playing music for people. We worked really hard to get to where we are and it didn’t just happen overnight, and we want to keep doing this.
ZC: Bands go one way or another with the whole partying thing. We realized maybe a little bit earlier that you could burn yourself out earlier if you drink or drugs every night. Now we’re just a band and are better off for it.