Punk isn’t what it used to be. Back in the day, the Sex Pistols and the Ramones may have been mostly harmless, but each band did as best as it could to at least affect an air of menace. That edge is decidedly absent in FIDLAR- one of its members even works at a vegan restaurant- but that doesn’t make its music any less punk, or immediately infectious. FIDLAR’s songs are punk in the way that Jay Reatard and the Pixies fit in the genre: spare and loud, but at the same time steeped in pop sensibilities. The L.A.-based band has the musical goods to hit the next level, even with the low intimidation factor. The only question mark is whether the very ethic that drives FIDLAR will damn it to obscurity and toting platters of hummus two nights a week.
Just so we’re clear, how do you pronounce your band name?
The proper pronunciation is FID-lar.
Where does the name come from?
It comes from skater kids, who kept saying, “Fuck it dog, life’s a risk.” We essentially shortened it to FIDLAR.
How did the band come together?
Elvis and Max grew up in Los Angeles, and Brandon and Zac moved out here at about the same time.. It wasn’t like they came out here with the idea of starting a band or anything, but we all just met each other. When Zac met Elvis, the band started coming together. The official story is that one day they got together at the recording studio, got super drunk, and jammed for about four hours straight. They decided that they needed to start a band. Everybody else was added later.
Did you discuss any other names?
Our first name was Fuck the Clock, but we decided that FIDLAR was a better name. It also had resonance in the skater community already, and, really, it’s just better.
Your MySpace, where all the kids go to find out about music, lists your music as “Punk, Gospel, and Other.” Explain this to me. How would you characterize the type of music that you play?
FIDLAR plays high-octane, good time rock and roll music. We just like good songs. We’re pretty garage-rocky, but we also write some pop tunes. It’s just rock and roll music.
That doesn’t say much. You don’t sound anything like Tom Petty, for instance.
No. Absolutely not. Yet.
It’s going to happen at some time in the future?
We’ll get old eventually. The reason that we have trouble characterizing is that we came up in the punk scene, but we like all types of music. A lot of songs are really short and have that kind of energy. We’re always totally exhausted at the end of our shows. That’s where the punk influence is really apparent in our music.
Who are some artists that you have found inspiring?
Growing up, we were inspired by the classic West Coast punk stuff, The Germs and Black Flag and the Cramps. As we’ve gotten older, our musical tastes have changed, and we’ve added a lot of different layers to our sound. We all like to rock out to CCR and the Stones, but we also like stuff like Ty Segall and Pangea too. There are also a bunch of bands coming out of L.A. that are just phenomenal. We try to keep up with all of them too.
Is there anyone out there working today who you see as having a template for your own career?
Not really. We’re at the stage right now where we just want to get out there and play as many shows as possible. The idea is to get our shows to be as great as possible. We just saw the Flaming Lips live, and that’s what we want to have eventually. They are visually stunning and have the best live show, but they also have invested a lot of their success back into other bands. There are a lot of acts that owe their success to bands that have come before them
Where are you at in the business part of your career?
We’re currently unsigned, so we’re figuring out our options. We did a one-off with White Iris, but mostly we’re playing as much as we can and getting the FIDLAR name out there. The idea is to live really cheaply. Our rents are basically nothing, Brandon works at a vegan restaurant every now and then, Zac works at a pizza place and Elvis is in school. Max doesn’t really do shit with his life. He plays a lot of NBA Live. People have been e-mailing us to book shows, and Elvis has been really good about putting all that together. We’re connected to the music scene in L.A., because Max and Elvis have been in lots of bands.
Do you have band meetings where you discuss the next move?
All the time. Actually no, not really. We went to New York recently. And we just tried to play as many shows as possible. We still try to hang out as much as possible. We’re all really good friends. That came before the band, really.
Do you think about making yourself marketable?
It doesn’t really. We just write what we want to write. We like pop songs and some darker, garage-y songs, so we write them. Really the whole point of the band was just to say, “Fuck it.” Everybody tries to be a part of a scene, but we love all kinds of all music. We have the freedom to write whatever kind of songs we want. It’s kind of fun that way; it gives the band endless ways to go.
Where do you think your band will be in five years?
We’ll be selling out Madison Square Garden for a month straight, and then the Hollywood Bowl. Actually we’re going to play them on the same night. Actually, we just want to be able to still be playing and hopefully make some money off of our shit. It’s not up to us; it’s up to people who like music to buy our shit. We really don’t think that far ahead. We try to take life as it goes and hopefully we’ll keep having fun and eventually make a living. If we can make money that will be tight, but we’re just in it to play music. We’re not in it to save the dolphins or anything, although if you’re interested in saving the dolphins there are lots of excellent articles available online.