The name FIDLAR is an acronym for a truism West Coast skate-punks quote immediately before executing some astonishingly dumbass feat of derring-do: “fuck it, dog, life’s a risk.” The L.A. quartet are literally second-generation punk rockers — brothers Elvis and Max Kuehn’s father is T.S.O.L. keyboardist Greg Kuehn. And for a band that makes a big deal of being hedonistic slackers (song titles: “Cheap Beer,” “Wake Bake Skate”), they’re amazingly productive. Over the past three years or so, they’ve been responsible for a steady stream of two-minute pop-punk blowouts in the forms of YouTube videos, EPs and live shows. They played more than 100 gigs last year alone, and they’re gearing up to spend most of 2013 on the road.
Shortly before the release of FIDLAR’s self-titled debut album, Douglas Wolk talked to bassist Brandon Schwartzel about the perils of playing more than a dozen songs in a single show, the state of the L.A. punk scene, their audience’s dangerous stunts, and their surprising connection to nu-metal band Trapt.
On the house and studio Schwartzel shares with singer/guitarist Zac Carper:
Me and Zac were both living in our cars, and we were trying to find a place where we could have a studio or make noise. Then we found this place on Craigslist that doubled as an apartment and a studio, so it worked out perfectly. We found out later that Trapt actually built the studio. They had left some gear here, like this big 412 guitar cabinet that had a giant T on it — some of the guys from Trapt actually came by and picked up their stuff.
On a live FIDLAR show’s typical audience:
We try to get the crowd into it as much as possible — loud, energetic, probably pretty drunk. There was this one house party where we were playing in the back yard, and all of a sudden we hear everyone go “whooooaaaa” — and this guy had jumped off the roof of the house we were playing into the crowd. He stagedived off the roof. There’s actually an awesome picture of this guy flying in the air. The crowd totally caught him, it’s all good…We love that shit.
On the band’s infamous “found footage” music videos:
Those we just do on iMovie — we get stoned and make a video. That’s something we’ve done since we started the band: record a song, post it online, make a video for it. The good-looking ones, like “Cheap Beer” and “No Wave,” are by our friend Ryan, who’s actually Zac’s brother-in-law. He’s kind of like our fifth member — he’s been very involved from the beginning. The CCR thing [the video for "Gimme Something," which is synched up with old performance footage of Creedence Clearwater Revival] — that was Ryan. He just did that for fun, too. It’s amazing.
On what it means to be an L.A. band:
One of the reasons we started is that there was such an indie take-themselves-too-seriously scene in Silverlake, where Zac and I were living at the time. We said, “There’s no fucking rock bands any more that just play and have fun.” And then we started finding bands in L.A. that were similar, and now there’s a cool, garage-y, DIY scene — all the Burger Records bands, there’s this band called the Shrine that we play with a bunch, this band Pangaea… The older L.A. bands we feel connected to are the ’70s and ’80s punk bands: Fear, Black Flag, Circle Jerks. X is a band we all love a lot.
On the making of the album:
We did it all at our house. It was set up as a studio, but there wasn’t any gear. So we found some shitty stuff, and borrowed some stuff — a lot of the production was us trying to make the most interesting thing possible with what we had. We’re all super into recording — Zac and Elvis met at a studio where they were both working. The album sounds pretty straightforward, but if you really listen to it, there’s a lot of weird shit and background textures. I really like the sound of “Gimmie Something” — we had all of our friends do group vocals and yell. Elvis played the guitar solo slightly out of tune, but I think it turned out really cool.
On the biggest risk FIDLAR have ever taken as a band:
I think, for us, it was just signing to a label. That was a pretty long process. We started the band as completely DIY, and we never thought about making a record — we just thought, “Let’s make songs and put ‘em out and give everything away for free.” When the idea of signing with [Mom + Pop Music] came up, we thought: Is it going to change anything? That was definitely something that we discussed quite a bit. But they gave us 100 percent creative control — we can do whatever we want and they will put it out.
On getting used to playing headlining shows:
Physically, with how we play, we could probably play for, like, an hour before we all passed out. We kind of give it our all when we play. It gets pretty exhausting. It’s tough now, because we’re used to playing 12 songs, which is half an hour for us, and now we’re playing like 17 songs. We gotta start jamming more. Or have 10 minutes of feedback.