By now you’ve probably heard of a band called Fun. and heard their new single all “We Are Young” all over the radio every 3-5 minutes ad nauseum. But what you may not know is that Fun., while still a relatively young band, and their rise to success was in fact, a long time coming. I spent many years wondering whether whatever project singer Nate Ruess was in, would actually cross over and now it looks like I’ll have to eat crow for ever pondering such a notion. I’m not saying the answers to success lie in my following essay, but I do think there is something we can all take from their career-path and hopefully apply to ours.
What you may or may not know is that Fun. actually springs from the ashes of another group that briefly flirted with mainstream success before disbanding. This band was from Arizona and called The Format. The band formed in 2001, had some good radio push locally and recorded a few albums. The first album was nothing special in my opinion, except for the first single ironically entitled “The First Single” with a hook a mile long, and the acoustic ballad “On Your Porch” which showcased Ruess’ vocal range as well as story-telling ability.
Through hard work and perseverance they were eventually signed to Elektra records and then eventually Atlantic. During the recording of the 2nd album the label dropped them, and left the band to finish recording on their own. BIG mistake. The band released their second album in 2006, entitled Dog Problem’s (inspired by how everytime Ruess and his longtime girlfriend would break up and get back together they would adopt a new dog).
This album, while unconventional for mainstream radio at the time took all of the band’s past influences and built upon them, making a bigger, bolder, and catchier album but with more theatrical ornamentation. It was then that Nate Reuse’s true gift came out, not only as a vocalist and lyricist but as a grown up type of cheerleader captain to his squad of eager and emotional rock’n’rollers. If you don’t believe me fast forward to about 3:20 in the video below.
The band and their management released the album themselves, and even sold 2,000 copies within the first week with no real label push. The Format kept on touring, growing their fanbase steadily and then the unexpected happened, the band decided to disband in 2007. Both Nate and Sam said the split was amicable, but no one really dished any inside dirt.
Almost immediately after Ruess decided to start a new project, aptly entitled fun. This band carried on in the same direction Dog Problems left off, which makes me speculate it was a difference in direction that drove The Format apart. But rather than carry on and make another broadway influenced rock/pop album, fun. went on to create an album that had more in common than Vaudeville than any other mainstream album in the last 10 years. After completing several smaller to mid-size tours opening for acts like Motion City Soundtrack the band’s momentum began to build as word of mouth about their live shows and the bands knack for embracing grandiose production and melody. Many people praised fun.’s debut album Aim and Ignite as a modern pop masterpiece. After completing bigger tours with other bigger acts like Panic! At The Disco and multi-platinum selling Paramore it was announced that the band had signed to indie-rock giant Fueled By Ramen.
In 2011 the band began working on their follow up, Some Night’s, which had this writer worried. As a fan of the band I was afraid to how they would follow up their near perfect debut, and was afraid of an exact duplicate and that the band would play it safe. Earlier this year my fears disbanded as I heard the new album and realized they kept everything people and I loved about them, the big production, Nathan’s huge vocal hooks, and knack for the expanding on the overblown.
However, instead of keeping the same ornamentation made up of steel drums, woodwinds and brass, the band went with a more modern and digital sound with new producer Jeff Bhasker most famous for working with Kanye West and Beyonce Knowles. Sometimes this backfires in my opinion, with excessive vocoder and auto-tune on songs that really don’t need them, but they’re the ones blowing up and not me so I could and am probably wrong as usual.
So what point am I getting at through all of this rambling? I think it’s this: trust your instincts, work hard, stick with it and you might could be featured on Glee also…I think!