The indie-pop trio goes next-level.
By Abby Schreiber
For a trio who spent years chasing after music industry success, you might imagine any number of bacchanalian ways that fun.'s Nate Ruess, Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost celebrated when they heard that their single "We Are Young," featuring Outkast protegée Janelle Monáe, reached number one on the Billboard charts. Instead, they didn't celebrate at all. "We had just gotten off a flight and Jack and I were so sick," Ruess explains. "Our radio guy told us the song had gone to number one and it was exciting but at the same time we were like, 'We have to get to the nearest Walgreens!'" Once medicated, the band processed the news and vowed not to let their first bona fide hit make them complacent. "It's like someone gave us a big tool and now we have to use it," Antonoff says. "We have to bring everything to the next level."
It was this shared desire to keep pushing the limit that brought a former member of the Format (Ruess), a current member of Steel Train (Antonoff) and a former member of Anathallo (Dost) together in the first place back in 2008. The three, who had met over the years when their respective bands shared bills, formed fun. in New York City and quickly realized that, as Antonoff puts it, "We never disagree about trying everything we can to be great." Indeed, this idea of greatness -- or the quest for it anyway -- pops up everywhere: in their anthemic lyrics, in their sweeping melodies and in their soaring, power pop-rock instrumentals that recall heights once scaled by Queen.
And, while "We Are Young" might be getting all of the fanfare -- especially after it was featured on Glee and in a Chevy Super Bowl ad -- it's the titular track off their sophomore album Some Nights that seems to best exemplify what they're getting at. The whole thing just feels so epic: the pulsating drumbeats, Ruess' layered voice rousing a nameless crowd and even the appearance of an effect more at home in hip-hop: Auto-Tune. The Auto-Tune isn't incidental, however: The band's members have frequently cited Kanye West and Jay-Z as influences, admiring their unabashed bravado. "Indie rock became this big self-deprecation festival," Antonoff says, "and that urge to be the greatest, to be the best artist, to challenge your fears and yourself has been adopted by hip-hop." He adds, "The truth is, we idolize this idea that a band can bring generations of people together. That's what we really want."