After waking up from a nap in his band’s van, Andrew Dost, 27, of the indie-pop trio, fun., took time to chat with the CUI before a concert performance in Brooklyn, New York Thursday evening.
fun., originally started by 28-year-old Nate Ruess, former front-man to the now defunct band, The Format, features energetic vocals and large theatrical elements. Dost said Ruess called him shortly after leaving The Format to take on the new music endeavor.
“He called me a day or two after The Format broke up,” Dost said. “I was working on a children’s record and a musical but hadn’t been doing much else.”
Previously, Dost had been one of seven members in the band Anathallo, noteworthy for its poetic lyrics and beautifully pieced together orchestrations.
Dost left Anathallo in 2006 shortly after their first full-length album, “Floating World,” had come out, but said he thinks back fondly on the experience.
“It was a really, really interesting time,” Dost said. “It was the first time I ever toured, and the first time I ever tried writing music with other people. It was a mind-blowing experience as far as learning to compromise and knowing when it’s important to not compromise and put your foot down and even just learning how songs are constructed and how parts work together. It was all a really great time, realizing how much fun it is being on the road and playing music with your best friends.”
Dost explained his reasoning behind leaving Anathallo, quickly pointing out that there was no animosity between him and his former band mates.
“It was a very complicated situation,” he said. “But basically they all moved and I wasn’t really able to. We tried for a long time to make it work but it hit the point where it just wasn’t working anymore and they kind of gave me an ultimatum to either move or not be in the band. It had just run its course, but there are no hard feelings on either side.”
Dost said Ruess asked him if he’d like to start a new band with him and a member of Steel Train, Jack Antonoff, 25. The band would be called—simply enough—fun.
“It was kind of sad to hear the news about The Format, but at the same time it was very, very exciting to have the prospect of working with these guys because they’re both really, really talented and brilliant,” Dost said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for both of them.”
Dost said he knew Ruess and Antonoff long before fun. because they had toured together on numerous occasions.
“The Format’s album, ‘Dog Problems,’ had quite a bit of heavy orchestration, so they asked [Anathallo] to learn some of the parts and we thought that would be cool because we love the songs,” he said. “We played with them and after I left Anathallo I went on a tour with [The Format] and played some keyboardist parts by myself and that was a really great time. Steel Train was on that tour as well.”
Dost said the band’s name, which is not capitalized and uses a period at the end, did not come from the idea of simply having an enjoyable time while listening to the music.
“It’s not necessarily supposed to be like ‘Fun! We’re gonna have a great time and party!’” Dost said. “When I see the period and the lower case I almost think of that as being sarcastic. Some of our songs are kind of sad.”
In making the band’s first and current album, “Aim and Ignite,” Dost said there was a great deal of traveling involved. Ruess was living in Phoenix, Ariz., while Dost was living in Michigan and Antonoff was living in New York.
“We worked and flew to meet each other and hung out,” Dost said.
Now that fun. is on tour, Dost said it’s changed from his days of touring with Anathallo.
“It’s definitely different,” he said. “With Anathallo we tried to stay more at people’s houses. We didn’t really make time during the day to take care of ourselves and rarely focused on getting a good meal. And I guess returning home we realized those things were important and you have to do things to keep yourself healthy.”
Now, Dost said, he and his band focus on staying refreshed and healthy during their current tour.
“Getting a nice dinner or staying in a hotel and sleeping and showering and giving yourself these normal parts of life are going to make the show better and make you happier—not that we weren’t happy in Anathallo—but this is a different lifestyle that’s more agreeable with the way I like to do things,” he said.
Dost said touring with fun. has produced a number of memorable shows.
“It sounds corny, but really every show has its moments that are special and memorable,” Dost said. “One of my favorite times ever on stage was just this summer. We didn’t tour all summer and just played one show and it was like a street fair in Chicago, a big festival that we headlined, which is strange enough, but a lot of people there knew the lyrics and sang along and were really, really excited that we were there. It was just this weird, outdoor summer moment of magic and I’ve never felt anything like that. It was really cool.”
Dost said he finds different shows are great for different reasons, including a concert fun. performed in Colorado.
“We played a show in Colorado Springs and there weren’t that many people there but just the general atmosphere of the ones that were there really cared and it was neat,” Dost said, adding: “Things like that are neat—when you don’t expect people to be there and to love what you do, and it turns out that they do—they do care about it.”
Andrew Dost described the song writing process for the band, which he said mostly involves lead-singer Nate Ruess writing out a general sketch.
“It’s usually a lot of trial and error in trying to crack the code of what Nate has put together,” he said.
Of course, not all songs have been originally mapped out by Ruess, like the song “Walking the Dog,” which Dost said Jack Antonoff began with a few simple guitar chords.
“We were goofing around and [Jack Antonoff] played that and so we just built the song from the ground up, and in that case the lyrics were actually the last thing to come,” he said.
Dost said fun.’s musical influences include everything from Queen and The Beatles to Drake and Weezer.
“Wilco also gets referenced a lot when we’re writing songs,” he said.
Dost certainly has an eclectic taste in music, giving a rundown of all the current albums he’s been listening to.
“The new Sufjan Stevens record, ‘The Age of Adz,’ is really great,” he said. “I listen to a lot of Weezer, but it’s hard for me to stomach a lot of their newer stuff. I’m more of a ‘Blue’ or ‘Pinkerton’ kind of guy. I’ve been listening to a lot of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s ‘Monster’—it’s really awesome.”
Andrew Dost, who plays a diverse array of instruments including the piano, guitar, trumpet, flugelhorn and glockenspiel, has also found time as a solo artist, coming out with the album “Colombus,” which features some vocals by Nate Ruess, and working on a new, yet-to-be-released project, “Wasted Miracle.”
“It’s actually being mixed right now,” he said. “I haven’t decided how I’m going to release it yet, if it’s going to be a full length or as a series of EPs, but I’ve got about 15 songs right now, at least 10 of which would make it onto a full length.”
When asked if he planned on releasing his new songs in album format, Dost said he was unsure.
“It’s hard to think about making an album because I don’t really know if people care about albums—I don’t know if I care about albums—or if people just care about the songs,” he said. “It’s hard to know what to do with music these days. It’s fun to write it and fun to record it but when it comes down to getting it in people’s hands, I don’t know what the best method is anymore.”
While Dost works on “Wasted Miracle,” Jack Antonoff continues to write, record and tour as front-man to Steel Train. Dost said working on separate projects while also working and touring with fun. can certainly cause stress.
“I just try to not waste time,” Dost said. “When I’m home and I’m watching TV I just feel an intense sense of guilt about how I could be better spending my time. I try to make sure that when I’m watching TV I’m not just turning my brain off, I’m actually getting something from it.”
fun. has been known for incorporating The Format songs into their live performances, but Dost said he doesn’t see “Wasted Miracle” being played live anytime soon.
“We’ve never really thought about it,” he said. “I guess it would be kind of weird for people who wouldn’t recognize it. I think some would be pretty psyched, but those who aren’t aware might be put off by it. For now, we probably won’t be playing any of them. I wouldn’t rule it out, but definitely not on this tour.”
Despite all the work, Dost said he wouldn’t have it any other way, enjoying every moment with his band-mates.
“We treat each other like any friends would,” he said. “We give each other a hard time and ‘zing’ each other. We have a pretty good relationship. We talk about music a lot, and very often when we’re listening to a track that we all like, it evolves or devolves—depending on how you look at it—into a discussion on how it’s produced or what the snare drum sounds like or if the symbols are really compressed. We like each other and we like to talk about everything.”
Dost said fun. hopes to release a second album early next year.
“We’ve got a couple songs now, but we’ll be getting more serious in writing and recording after the tour.”
fun. plays with Steel Train and Jarrod Gorbel at The Fox Oct. 15.
Contact CU Independent Entertainment Editor Sebastian Murdock at Sebastian.firstname.lastname@example.org.