It’s only 4 months away from being 2 years old, yet ‘We Are Young’ remains a sing along staple at bars and alternative club nights. fun. (lowercase and punctuation intentional) is far from being a one hit wonder though. Not many knew that Some Nights was actually their sophomore – the band had a promising debut in Aim and Ignite. Even beyond that, their second album consists of authoritative big rock’n’roll choruses with bubble pop tenderness, all anchored in vocalist Nate Ruess’ doubtful, self-effacing lyrics. JUICE put the frontman himself on the hot seat and asked him everything from his hip hop inspiration to the burden of having such a huge hit in a single.
How does it feel performing for Future Music Festival here in Malaysia?
It feels great! We’ve been doing Future Music Festival for… oh jeez, 3 weeks now. Which is so strange, I was looking at a map today and just looking where we’ve been for the last 3 weeks and then comparing it on how far away we’ve been from all of them. We’ve been miles far away from home but it does not feel like we’ve been far away from home. That’s a testament to the fans that had showed up for all these shows.
Nate, you were initially with The Format although it wasn’t until fun. that you achieved more success. What do you think made the difference this time around?
I think that it’s just years of learning the whole thing and as far as there are the 3 of us – not to discredit The Format – but it’s just the dynamic in fun. is that we’ve found in each other at the right time, creatively and as friends.
Prior to Some Nights, you listened to a lot of hip hop which inspired you to the point that you got Jeff Bhasker, who had produced for Kanye West, Jay-Z and Drake. What specifically about hip hop inspired you to craft Some Nights?
I remember that before we go and make an album I like to sit and kind of conceptualise and think stylistically what the album would be and I think that could be inspiring and most of the stuff [I had done] was always about like, “How do I take the music from the past and kind of modernise it a little bit?” There never was a thought like, “Wow, there’s great music now how do I use that as an inspiration?” With hip hop, instrumentally, there’s so much forward movement and it’s just the way that I write songs… because I don’t play instruments, it’s all in my head. It ebbs and flows so much that I think that for this album I really wanted to just have a beat and then just write over the beat, which is essentially how hip hop songs are created. So there was a lot of that [on Some Nights], I’m proud of it. I was just listening to a hip hop album today and I’m thinking about how it could stylistically fit for the next album.
Oh yeah? What was the hip hop album that you just listened to?
I was listening to Pusha T’s Fear of God II.
Dope album. After winning the Grammy Awards for Best New Artist and Song of The Year, what’s your next goal?
The Grammy’s were never a goal, maybe it was when I was a little kid it was a goal. I’ve learnt that early on in my old group. I mean, I’ve been signed to a label when I was 19 and I’m 31 now. So, I’ve given up the thought of having a massive hit. For me, it’s all about making the art and being completely focused on the art that you’re making and going out, putting a great show. Fortunately, since 19 I was able to make a living just doing that. So for now suddenly to have songs on the radio, winning the Grammy’s, and things like that, it’s interesting because it changes your perspective a little bit as far as what is in the realm of possibilities. But it doesn’t change the fact that Some Nights was made specifically as a piece of art and never as a collection of singles. So, for me the next goal is to make another album that is just about the art, not about the singles. And if people catch on to it, that’s fantastic and if they don’t, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that as an artiste, we’re happy.
You mentioned that Some Nights is not a collection of singles. Does it bother you that a lot of people seem to associate fun. with just ‘We Are Young’? Does that single feel like a burden now?
No. Because it has opened the door to a lot of people, probably more people than what we could ever possibly imagine. It’s more their loss, in my mind, to not listen to the rest of the album. Especially in the States, ‘Some Nights’ is barely behind it as far as how big of a song it is, and ‘Carry On’ is moving its way up too right now too. That [fear of being a one hit wonder] is like… meh.
Interesting that you know how your other singles are doing. Do you keep your eye on the charts every week?
It’s a weird thing, I would never ever check out charts before and now I find myself… well, I’m a competitive person, all things aside, the only thing I do on the internet is look at basketball and check basketball statistics. So, looking at the charts is kind of the same exact thing (laughs). If it keeps me busy and keeps me away from social media then it’s all good.