Class Of 2013: FIDLAR

The noisiest band in the class? That would be FIDLAR, of course. Emma Swann finds out why they’re not just a party band.

FIDLAR really want you to know where they’re from. Like, really. It’s there: in their Twitter handle, song titles, even the band’s name itself. Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk – for that’s the long-form - is, we’re informed, an old skater adage from the city. And where else could a band reside and get away with a track called ‘Max Can’t Surf’? It’s no wonder. Los Angeles has a long and celebrated history of DIY punk bands, from the Punk Palace of late 70s Hollywood through to The Smell of today. But it’s the softer side of guitars that’s seen a resurgence of late. The past few years has seen the world gush at the suitably sun-kissed vibes of Best Coast, Local Natives, Dum Dum Girls and current crush, HAIM. Hardly noise central. Of FIDLAR’s neighbours, it’s only really Wavves at his most immediate – and recent – that comes close to the jubilant, scuffed-knee garage punk of their debut album.
“It’s a lot of work and still people think it’s about partying.”
The foursome came together after “Zac and Elvis met at a recording studio.” That’s Zac Carper, vocalist, and Elvis – yes, Elvis – Kuehn, guitarist. The other half comprises of bassist Brandon Schwartzel and Max Kuehn (Elvis’ brother and non-surfer) on drums. In another nod to their city’s past, Max and Elvis’ dad is T.S.O.L synth player and film composer Greg Kuehn. DIY is in their blood. “We just hung out and started jamming together, and it was super fun,” they explain. The city’s recent musical output seems to have affected those looking for a band, as their connection was based on finally finding others in to similar stuff. “We all like the same kind of music,” they continue, “that’s what was cool, especially living in LA, there’s a lot of indie rock going off. All of us like rock ‘n roll which was kinda hard to find in that area.”

The band have spent most of 2012 on the road, which is where they caught first the attention of American label Mom + Pop, and later our own Wichita Recordings. “The owner saw us play somewhere, they’re a really good label, so we signed up with them.” But having a label seems almost an anomaly in FIDLAR’s story. The band’s reputation was (bar a tour with The Hives in the States, who they describe as “the best band in the world. Of all time. Ever.”) built on performances at house parties. They’ve even made merchandise from their own (dirty, worn) t-shirts, painting over what was there. They made the record at home. “Yeah, we recorded it in our room,” they tell us. “It’s a place in Highland Park that used to be a recording studio, and we just put some gear in it and recorded our album.”
“We just kinda make whatever music we like.”
Living somewhere that’s already a recording studio? That’s cheating. A bit. But they are keen to point out, while yes, having played many a party, they aren’t ‘a party band’. “We also work hard,” they assure us, “it’s a lot of work and still people think it’s about partying. But it’s not! Being in a band is great. But it’s a lot of work, you know, if you want to be in a band, just do it! It’s really fun. It doesn’t take much, really.” And when the results of their hard work do come off, it’s all sorted out simply and fairly. “Everything we do, it doesn’t matter who writes the songs or what, everything is split between the band, equally.”

That debut record, while not released here until early February, is, in suitably do-it-yourself style, already for sale at the band’s gigs: it seems they couldn’t wait to get it out. And it’s no surprise, it’s a beast: immediate and full-throttle at all the right moments, it’s as if the Ramones had grown up on the ‘other coast’ with the 90s trappings of skateboards and branded baseball boots. And it’s all instinctive. “We just kinda make whatever music we like. Sometimes it’s classic, fast and loud, and other times it’s more groovy. I don’t know, we didn’t really think about it.”

Taken from the December 2012 / January 2013 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.