“In the late 90s there was just a brilliant punk world happening in legion halls and fire houses. I was immediately taken with Nate’s voice but everything else – no.” Years later, Nate, who was the lead singer of The Format at the time and Jack, Steel Train’s front man, wound up on tour together. Impressions hadn’t changed much. “It was just like an, ‘Oh God, this guy,’ vibe from both of us right off the bat. But 24 hours into that tour, Nate and I became inseparable.”
When The Format broke up, Nate’s first call was to Jack.
Though not a “meet-cute” tale, it’s indicative of who fun. is as a band. You hear them and think, “Are they really going to pull off this sound, this arrangement, and create a moving, catchy, memorable rock song?” It’s become their signature. So long as that signature has one last element: Nate’s second call was to Andrew Dost, the force behind all the literal bells and whistles of fun.
With a trail of accolades behind them, fun. knew they had to step up their game in an unexpected way when it came to producing their second record. “I got really got into hip-hop,” says Nate, “I mean really into it. Songs started coming to me in the middle of the night, and I would hear them with breakbeats and samples, and it all made sense… I told everyone I wanted the next record to sound like a hip-hop album, and I don’t think they were unsupportive, but
they were definitely confused.” Then, a few hours before a show in Phoenix, the band snuck into a music room at Arizona State University. Nate doesn’t play any instruments, but by now Jack and Andrew have learned to “crack the code.”
This time the code was for the track that would become “Some Nights.” Andrew pounded out the chords out on a piano, while Nate sang, and Jack stomped his feet and clapped as hard as he could to establish the pulse of the song. “That moment really brought us together as the band that was going to be making this album….I just had to explain how the MPC (Music Production Center) would be our new best friend.”
Jack is a whip-smart horn-rimmed glasses-wearing guitarist whose influences are Tom Waits, Jack White, and Neil Young. Andrew counts the flugelhorn and glockenspiel among his conquered instruments. (Influences: Weezer, ELO, and Claude Debussy.) And here they were, jumping out of their skin, listening to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Drake in a concrete building in the middle of the desert.
“What can I say? Eventually they fell victim to Drizzy,” laughs Nate. When pressed by their label and management for a list of potential producers, Nate consulted the albums he loved most. The name that appeared time and time again was "Jeff Bhasker.”
The legendary Grammy-winning producer for Alicia Keys and Kanye West had his hands full at the time, working with Beyoncé, and the band worried that they might not have a chance to meet him. Finally, one night late at The Bowery Hotel, Nate got his chance. Their relationship was one that fit nicely into the grand tradition of fun. “Jeff wasn’t very, shall we say, warm. He had been working on Beyoncé all day, and he really gave the vibe that he didn’t want to be meeting
with me...but thank God for alcohol. We ended up hitting it off, and since I was drunk and lacking self-awareness, I decided to sing him something I had been working on. I remember singing the chorus for "We Are Young" kind of loud and out of key. That’s when I learned that Jeff does this thing when he’s excited where his eyes perk up and somehow his ears move all the way to the top of his head. He told me we had to work together.”
fun. was on their way to becoming the band that would — that could — produce Some Nights.