Jason Bentley has been all over the new single from Fun., which features KCRW favorite Janelle Monae. I decided to reach out to the band’s guitarist/ co-frontman Jack Antonoff (also of Steel Train) and find out a bit more about them, including how the excellent “We Are Young” came about. First, the song:
fun.: We Are Young ft. Janelle Monáe by Fueled By Ramen
1) OK, simple but obvious question first: How did this band come about?
Nate (Ruess, formerly of The Format). and I met on tour in 2004. We hated each other for about 48 hours upon meeting…. and then something shifted on day 3 and we became incredibly close. Just like that. Which makes sense being that my most successful and important relationships often start this way.
Then about two years later I met Andrew Dost through Nate. Similar situation minus the 48 hours of disdain (yet still a massively important relationship. A rare exception to rule. ha!). The three of us kept up with each other through the years and when The Format broke up, Nate called the two of us and Fun. began almost immediately. A few days later, we met at my parents house in New Jersey and started writing.
2) I’m a fan of both Steel Train and The Format – which elements from each of those bands made it into Fun.?
For me, the biggest qualities of the two bands that work well in Fun. would be the grand production and melodies that The Format had, mixed with the over the top energy of Steel Train. Nate comes from a place that is hyper-focused on melody and beautiful production, and I come from a place that is motivated by some kind of unhinged energy in the performance of things. Those qualities are the most inportant for me when drawing from the other bands.
3) Janelle Monae is a KCRW favorite, but not someone you necessarily associate with “indie rock.” How did you meet her and how did this collaboration come about?
It was all extremely random. We are big fans and had a part on “We Are Young” that we wanted to be performed by a female vocalist. We made a wish list with her at the top, asked her, she said yes, a few weeks later she asked us to come on tour … etc etc. It’s rarely that easy, but for some reason thinks just lined up nicely with her. It’s really exciting to collaborate with artists that inspire you to write in the first place. Full circle.
4) Where/when was the new album recorded?
It feels like we worked on this album everywhere.
We were laughing the other day trying to figure out how many studios and how many people worked on it. That was all a new experience for the three of us. In the past, it’s always been about one producer, one engineer and then one studio that we would set up shop in for two months.
This album was the exact opposite— tons of back and forth from New York to Los Angeles in like 20 different studios. We just kept jumping around doing parts here and there. That was all an important part of the process for this album, never getting married to one place or one sound. Sometimes being in one studio with the same people can create a misleading experience. Moving around and hearing the songs and production hold up in different cities and on different speakers added a confidence that we’ve never experienced.
5) When are y’all playing LA next?
11/11 – dear jack benefit show @ El Rey and 11/14 @ Troubadour
6) What’s your favorite thing to do in LA when you’re here?
Eat at the Pacific Dining Car as much as possible… and as late as possible.
Thanks Jack! Looking forward to hearing more soon.