Wouldn’t you fucking know it? After a year that saw The Fontaines sell out the Troubadour, wow at SXSW and get some major radio play, just as they appear to be on the brink of something genuinely special, they’re splitting up. Right as we’re about to interview them for this very feature.
Thanks a bunch, guys.
We kid, of course. But really, what possesses a band to work their butts off trying to catch a break, burning themselves out in cramped vans and performing in spit ’n’ sawdust rooms around this fair nation and beyond, and then, when it looks like the hard work might finally be paying off, call it quits?
“I’m very proud of what we did within the band, and I feel that we outgrew the sound in a way,” says singer Charlotte Fontaine, who, along with her brother and guitarist Hank Fontaine, formed and named the band. “I know Hank wants to work on other things, and I want to work on other things, so this felt healthiest. And it feels like such a great show to end things on. Teragram is such a massive venue that’s becoming more iconic by the day, becoming a modern staple of L.A. culture.”
Yeah, there’s a big send-off show this week at the Teragram, and it was already going to be an awesome event — a celebration of a band on the rise. A “catch them in a venue of this size while you still can” deal. Now, the context has changed. It’s still a party, but now it’s about “catch them while you can, AT ALL.” It’s all a far cry from four years ago, when the siblings put the band together with a couple of friends.
“The mission was always to make music that combines our loves of ’50s music and ’80s rock, and also find a way to update it and do something that sounds like siblings,” Hank says.
One might imagine that the brother and sister have been playing music together since they could walk and talk — that their family home was alive with the sound of harmonious music. Not the case.
“We get asked that a lot, but it was much more competitive when we were kids,” Charlotte says. “It was way less collaborative. It became more collaborative when I graduated from high school and we formed a band. But growing up, we weren’t the Osmonds. It was more, ‘I’m going to do my thing, Hank’s gonna be playing guitar in the room next door, and I’m gonna complain that he’s doing it too loudly.’”
We’re really going to miss The Fontaines, and yet we barely got to know them. The electro-pop sound, blended, as Hank said, with era-spanning rock & roll, made for a quirky, hooky treat. The guitarist is particularly proud of the fact that they always used live instrumentation, a crucial component of their sound.
While Charlotte and Hank are the core members of the band, Xrys Kaplan and Daniel Zuker were brought in on bass and drums two years ago. Initially, they came in to complete the touring lineup, but they stuck around. Now, of course, they need to find something else to do, too. The lineup changes are one part of the evolution of The Fontaines; Charlotte says that she and Hank fight a lot less now.
“I’ve become much more comfortable onstage,” she says. “I was really timid for probably the first two years, just going behind a mic stand and I wouldn’t interact with people — I was very introverted. I feel really proud of how far I’ve come as far as feeling like I love performing, and I love interacting with people from the stage. Afterward, getting to meet people, who have been following us for a while. It’s been a great experience.”
“We’ve tried a lot of different approaches to songwriting,” Hank adds. “The band has gone in many different directions sonically. I think that’s what’s been most interesting and also most frustrating — that we have always tried to change gears pretty frequently. We’ve written a lot of different styles of music over the past couple of years, and I’m proud of all of them in different ways.”
It’s entirely appropriate that the final Fontaines show will be at the Teragram. This band love Los Angeles, and consider that venue to be one of the best in town right now.
“I think that this is a great place to be,” Hank says. “The place we’re playing, the Teragram, I’ve seen some great bands there. And we have friends that play these places every week, which is an incredible feeling. If you can make a name for yourself in L.A., you can impress people anywhere because it’s like the most jaded population in the world.”
The Fontaines will go out with a bang. The song “Freaks” just dropped, and it’s typically gorgeous. Lush, catchy and emotional, it’s a genuinely beautiful track. We’ll hear that, and more, at the Teragram.
“We’re going to be playing a set that expands through our entire career and whole catalog,” Hank says.
They have every right to be proud of what they’ve achieved over the past four years and, even if we’re still a little raw about the fact that they won’t be with us for much longer, there’s surely much to look forward to from Hank and Charlotte individually.
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“I’m really proud of everything that we’ve accomplished within the band, especially recently,” Charlotte says. “To be invited back to SXSW for the second year in a row, we’ve played two sold-out Troubadour shows — it’s amazing. It really exceeded all of my expectations for when we started making music together.”
So look, we all know what will happen as soon as The Fontaines cease to be as a band. The calls will start, almost immediately, for a reunion. So we’re going to start now. When are The Fontaines getting back together?
“Coachella 2025,” Hank says with a chuckle. “I’ll get you backstage.”
The Fontaines play with SWIMM and The Honeysticks at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 21, at the Teragram.