Music Meter Monday: Meet FIDLAR, A Punk Band With A Tumblr Twist

Posted January 14

In many ways, FIDLAR (F**k It Dog Life’s A Risk) is your average punk band — they’re loud, fun, and their live shows come with copious free bruises. But when it comes to the way they choose to get their music out there, they’re punk with a Tumblr twist. That Web savvy — along with a much anticipated debut LP — recently scored FIDLAR a top spot on MTV’s Music Meter and feature here on Music Meter Monday.

FIDLAR’s debut, self-titled album doesn’t drop until January 22, but if you’re a fan of boozy garage rock, it’s likely that you’ve already heard a good portion of those tracks (and more) via the band’s Tumblr and SoundCloud accounts. The band — composed of lead singer Zac Carper, brothers Elvis and Max Kuehn, and bassist Brandon Schwartzel — linked up in 2010 and in the ensuing years have been garnering buzz the DIY way: playing tons and tons of house parties, as well as releasing videos and music online.

In a sense, the band’s strategy — although they wouldn’t label it as such — is a healthy mix of old-school pavement beating and mixtape culture. Like Lil B and The Weeknd before them, FIDLAR isn’t afraid to drop content — for free, even — on the Interwebs and watch the new fans roll in.

We talked with Schwartzel about the band’s love of the Web — as well as some memorable moments from a recent tour — below.

So last time I saw you all — when you came in to do a WTF Wednesday — you were on tour with JEFF The Brotherhood. Any memorable moments from that experience?

One of the most memorable nights we had with JEFF The Brotherhood — we played in Silver Springs, Maryland, which is right outside of DC. We played the show and then everyone got pretty wasted and then we were like, ‘Let’s go to a bar!’ We all wanted to hang out because we hadn’t had a chance to go out after the show. So we were trying to find a bar in DC, but everything was closed because it was Sunday or something.

We ended up finding one bar, but it was kind of this lounge — it had all these really smooth-looking people in it. So it was a weird vibe, because we walked in all drunk and grungy and stuff. They patted up down for knives. It was this weird bar — hip-hop looking dudes and bottle service. So we ended up getting wasted and we ordered pizza to the bar. And then, eventually, they had a DJ and they started playing that ‘Shots’ song — like, ‘Shots, shots, shots, shots’ — then the bartender jumped up on the bar and started pouring vodka in everyone’s mouths. And then the DJ over the mic was like, ‘White boys get f**ked up, too!’ — pointing at us. And then we ended up wrestling in the hotel we were staying in.

So I always like to ask this at the beginning of interviews: What’s your earliest musical memory?

I took music lessons when I was in elementary school — general piano, guitar, learning how to read music or whatever. And then kind of just like did it half-assed until junior high and started bands and stuff with my friends. But I pretty much played in bands with my friends until now. I just kind of kept going. It got more fun.

So what was your first band like?

It was in sixth grade and it was me and my two friends and we were called Elmerz Glue, but with a ‘Z’ instead of an ‘S.’ We played two shows and — it was like a sixth grade graduation party and a talent show that wasn’t for our school. It was a random school’s talent show.

Wait, how did that happen?

I don’t know! We just signed up and they didn’t catch that we weren’t part of the school.

What did you play?

We had a couple of songs. I think we played ‘Dammit’ by Blink-182, which FILDAR currently plays every now and then. And then we had one original song and then we played ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’

Were you a punk band back then, too?

It was just like — I don’t know, shitty junior high kids trying to play cool songs. I remember we all dyed our hair because we thought that was cool. I had blue [hair].

So how did FIDLAR come together?

I had known Zac — we kind of moved to LA around the same time and he was working at a studio that Elvis was interning at. Zac was living at the studio because he was working there all the time — so he would stay late and clean everything up and just sleep there and wake up the next morning and start everything back up again. So we started just going in late night — Zac would be like, ‘OK, the session is done, you guys want to go record some stuff?’ So we’d pick up a case of beer and go mess around in the studio — that was where the first recordings [were made].

I was part of it from the very beginning, but it didn’t really get started full time. I was touring with other bands at the time, so it was like whenever everyone was in town we’d try to record or play a show. Then it ended up getting busy enough to where we could quit everything else and just do it full-time. It’s pretty sweet.

So when it comes to taking off and getting attention, I’ve noticed you guys are a lot more into the Web than most punk bands. You use Tumblr and SoundCloud etc to put out tracks for free quite often. How did you guys end up doing that?

Because the band started out as us hanging out in the studio making songs, it wasn’t like a vision of, ‘We should start a band and do this!’ We just started making songs and posting them for fun. And then we’d make a little YouTube video to go with the songs. So we started posting them right away. We probably posted like 10 songs online before we played a show.

The Internet is such a good tool to use — so many people can find out about your band without you having to hang fliers up around town or do the classic grass-rooty kind of [thing]. I always hated those guys at shows who had the fliers like, ‘Check my band out!’ They’re annoying and you never check them out. So we were just like, ‘Let’s just post all our shit online and see how it goes.’ It wasn’t like a real thing we thought about. It just made sense.

Was there one video or song or something that just kind of took off?

It wasn’t one song in particular. It started growing and growing — we’d get more and more views and then we’d play a house party in LA and there’d be like 10 kids there. And then we’d post more videos and then we’d play another house party and there’d be 30 kids there. It just kept going. I don’t think there was one song in particular. Maybe ‘Max Can’t Surf.’

It seems like your fans like that song in particular — they feel like they know Max because of that song.

Oh, yeah. It’s all very true stuff. There was one time where Elvis just wrote on a chalkboard from some reason — we were just drunk, hanging out — wrote, ‘Max can’t surf.’ We thought that was kind of funny so we wrote a song about Max.

Is that how songwriting happens?

Yeah, a lot of times someone will have a demo — will come up with a basic idea — and then we’ll play it for each other. The next time we practice we’ll try it out. It’s very collaborative. We’re all very involved in every part of the band. But we have no forumla for writing.

Is there always a chalkboard around?

[laughs] No. We have Power Point presentations dissecting our songs. Clipboards.

So I noticed that you guys started selling your debut LP on vinyl at shows before the release date. Why did you all choose to do that?

We had recorded the record in early 2012. And then we mixed some of it. So basically the record was pretty much done in June. And then we went on tour and toured all summer. So we were trying to figure out how to finish the record and put it out if we were gone all the time. We had it done and we really wanted to put out, but it wasn’t a good time to put out a record.

Our label mom+pop wanted to put it out in January, but we’re so used to putting stuff out right away. So we made a compromise so that we could sell the vinyl at shows at least. We thought it would be cool for the kids that come to our shows — something they could get before everyone else. Incentive to bring people out to shows, too.

Image credit: David Black