FIDLAR, an acronym for "Fuck it Dog Life's a Risk," are far and away one of the most exciting bands breaking out of Southern California right now. With that grimey skater punk je ne sais quoi and enough musical know-how to run circles around most musicians and producers alike, they're the best kind of hooligans. We caught up with the band at their second South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, where they were playing non-stop and causing mayhem all over town. Before doing this interview, which took place in their hotel bed in downtown Austin, we saw the band play for a packed house at the Black Iris showcase at Parkside, where the slightly more upscale venue didn't stop anyone from crowd surfing, dancing, and generally getting just as crazy as they would at any basement show back home in LA.
FIDLAR recently signed to independent powerhouse label Mom & Pop, with whom they will be releasing their upcoming full-length. We climbed in bed with them to ask some questions about how they got this far, and what they see as the future of their band.
So basically, PureVolume is about DIY artists, so I wanted to ask you guys some questions about how you made it as a band. First of all, what were your expectations? Did you decide that you wanted this band to be a real thing or did it just happen?
Elvis: I think it just happened kind of naturally. We were playing a bunch and there wasn’t any sort of preconceived idea of what it should be, but it just started progressing Zac: We really believe in the Internet -- at least, I do -- and before it was a band we made a shit ton of videos. We have over 40 videos on Youtube or something. We’d write songs that night and then download Youtube videos and put them together, and make stupid shit out of that. It’s so tight being a band and having the Internet to be your tool.
Were there other things besides Youtube that you used?
Zac: Tumblr, twitter, Facebook a little -- well, we didn’t really have a lot of fans on Facebook until recently, but we would just post stupid shit on the Tumblr, just funny pictures or little things we would make in Photoshop, and then finally people started seeing it, and liking it, and we finally had an audience.
Zac: I mean we’d be doing this shit even if we didn’t have a band.
Elvis: We had like, 15 followers for like, 6 months and we still posted pictures multiple times a day.
Brandon: It was mainly for us to be like, ‘oh shit, good one dude’ just crack each other up. Growing up in Hawaii, we didn’t have many things but the Internet was always there. I used PV, our bands growing up used PV and stuff like that. We haven’t done it as much for FIDLAR but we should.
And what about now that you do have more followers, and people are paying attention to what you’re doing on the Internet? How has that changed the band?
Elvis: It hasn’t really changed, it’s just more now that we have fans.
Zac: The difference is now people talk shit about what we post [laughs]
Elvis: I guess the thing is now that we play more shows so we use it also as a tool just to tell people about the shows.
Brandon: You kind of have to keep up on it. We all think it’s a pretty important tool to keep updated and alot of bands don’t want to do that. They’re against having a Facebook or something.
Zac: It’s all about having a presence on the Internet. I mean, that’s how most people find music now -- even A&R people. If you have an image or a thing on the internet, that’s a good thing.
How has signing with Mom & Pop changed things for you?
Zac: It’s super tight, they’re like ‘keep doing whatever the fuck you guys are doing, we don’t want to change a thing, just keep doing what you want.’ Even the marketing guy was like, ‘I don’t even know what to do with you guys, you already got it covered, what else could I do’?
Brandon: Just like ‘let me know if you need anything’ [laughs]
Is that what you thought having a bigger label would be like?
Zac: No, that’s why we scared about any label to tell you the truth --even if it was a small one -- or somebody telling us like, ‘oh you shouldn’t do this, or that.’ But you know we talked to them, and hung out with them a lot, and they were pretty much just like ‘keep doing what you’re doing. you have full creative control over whatever you do.’
Brandon: That was like, the big selling point. It was just like, ‘you can do whatever you want and we’ll put your shit out to a lot of people’Alright, Chill.
Did you meet with other labels that weren’t quite so chilled out?
Zac: Yeah -- I mean, everybody was chilled out, we just went with them because they were nice. They were really nice -- they came to like, every single show at CMJ and definitely showed the most interest
Brandon: They came to almost every show here
Zac: They showed the most interest, and pretty much every band on their label is pretty successful so that’s a good sign. And the guy Craig who works there is awesome -- they’re all awesome.
Elvis: Yeah, they’re all just good people. It’s like an honest thing, it’s all very fair and artist friendly
Zac: They’re backed by some people, but they’re very independent, and that’s tight. We like that a lot.
How has being a part of the LA scene helped you?
Elvis: I think people know us an LA band now, and that’s kind of a good thing to have since it’s so hard to stand out in LA. We have a lot of friends at LA Weekly, and LA Record, and The Echo all like us and have been helping us, and that’s huge. Once you can get people to recognize you in LA, since there are so many bands, that’s a huge part of being -- I mean, I don’t think we’re that big right now, but probably a lot of the people that know about us, know about us because we’re a band from LA
Max: Everything that’s been written about us is like, LA garage punk guys.’ so that’s kind of a foundation.
Zac: Yeah, we always wanted to rep LA
Brandon: It’s cool to just rep it super hard and be from LA, and not be a band that moved to LA just to make it.
Zac: Somebody wrote about us and said that we were from OC and I just wanted to write in and be like, ‘dude, what the fuck! Not from OC!’
Do you guys find now that bands that are smaller look to you for help? Or do you feel like you can help people?
Brandon: I mean, not a ton, but we have helped people.
Elvis: We like to play with a lot -- the funny thing is that we didn’t really have a scene of bands. We have our friends -- this band The Shrine -- who we played a lot of shows with them. And then we’ve recently gotten to know a lot of the Burger Records bands like Pangea, we play a lot with them. The cool thing is that a lot of those bands are already established. We haven’t seen many smaller bands that have really asked us for guidance or anything but, I don’t know
Zac: Especially with the whole LA scene, we really just played wherever we wanted to play. We kind of stayed away from venues for a little while, and just played house parties, so it was really hard getting involved with a specific music scene. Now I feel like it’s starting to get there a little bit, but we’re not punky enough for the punk crowd, we’re not garage enough for the garage crowd.
Elvis: Even here, we played an all-ages show about two nights ago at Spider House, and these kids knew about us and Pangea, and were like, “yeah you’re like our favorite LA bands,” so it’s kind of like we mix well with them. You kind of have to listen to a lot of bands -- I listen to bands all the time from the area, but personally, it’s hard to find bands I like. Like the show we played at The Echo was all bands that we like a lot, so we kind of just built the show around that. There were friends from my high school that opened and then the other two bands were Burger Records. We like Burger Records, they have some good bands.
Did working at a recording studio affect you when you were thinking about making a record
Zac: Totally. We enjoy doing that, that’s actually how the band started. We enjoyed making records and making songs -- like, the studio process and writing, and using the studio as a tool to write and as an instrument. We like that process.Yeah, definitely with this record we did it all at our house with some janky-ass gear, but it works.
Elvis: It started with being in the studio, so we’d had a bunch of recordings before we even played. So I think that was a big part of kind of, i don’t know, people hearing those songs early on.
Brandon: It was like a studio project before it was a band.
Do you think that now that you guys are a band that it’s going to change the recording process?
Zac: That stresses me out the most because the way we play live is different than the recordings, and people want what’s on the recordings to play live, but a lot of bands did that. They had different live and they had different recordings.
To hear more from FIDLAR, check out their PureVolume page, and watch the video for "Max Can't Surf" below.