Fuck It Dog, Life`s A Risk
by Geoff Padmore
My phone buzzes. It’s Seattle calling for the third time in 10 minutes. “Dude. I see BMO Field… and some water…”.
“You’re too far. Way too far. You’re in Parkdale,” I tell Seattle. On the other end of the phone is Joel - FIDLAR’s on-duty tour manager, frustrated and lost, struggling to find the Docklands for tonight’s Toronto show. Sound check will be happening 10 minutes ago.
Some furious Google mapping takes place and I manage to turn them around 180 degrees in the right direction. A haggard van eventually roles through the gate. An even more haggard driver emerges who proclaims himself to be just that haggard. Joel scratches a scraggly ZZ Top beard. He’s a big guy, disarmingly charming, yet I can tell he knows how to handle himself in a two-bit bar when things go south. He’s seen a few late nights, and these days it’s thanks to the guys he’s rolling with.
FIDLAR, the four piece garage-punk band based out of LA (by way of Hawaii), have been working hard over the last few months, leaving a long trail of empties behind them. In the age of synth-laden, internet-anonymous basement producers and weirded-out electro-dance rock, FIDLAR are curating the grit and grime of good old garage noise and loving every minute of it. As the band loads in, I catch Zac Carper, frontman and guitarist. He gives me a sideways “who the fuck are you” look, then lights up and asks, “Wait…were you on the phone?” My reply ignites high-fives and bro-hugs. He’s a comfortable guy, laid back and easy going as you’d expect a guy that grew up on the North Shore of Hawaii to be. At least off stage. When the music starts, he goes all Jekyll and Hyde crawling, spinning and spitting his way across the crowd, possessed and raw. But for now, the conversation inevitably and naturally meanders into surfing, the possibility of lake surfing in Toronto and the even greater possibility of swallowing a used condom while lake surfing in Toronto. The interview is almost over before it starts. Luckily I hit record.
So the name FIDLAR: Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk. What’s that all about? Are you guys taking on Drake and his Yolo shit?
Brandon – Yeah, pretty much. At least on Twitter it seems like that. There’s always people saying FIDLAR’s better than Yolo, but it’s not really about our band, it’s more about the lifestyle or whatever. But bring him on dude. Our first headlining tour will be the Yolo Sucks Tour.
Zac – I just kept hearing it from these skater kids in LA… “FIDLAR, FIDLAR.” We were originally going to be called Fuck The Clock, but this was better. One night we just got really wasted and ended up tattooing it (FIDLAR) on ourselves, so we have to keep it now.
You guys have been together for about two years. How did it all start?
Zac – Me and Elvis were working together at a recording studio in LA. We were hungover one day and jammed for like four hours straight, then got drunk again and jammed. Max and Elvis are brothers and me and Brandon have been friends for years, so it all just came together pretty naturally.
When did you start taking the band really seriously?
Brandon – It kinda just kept progressing, just making songs, then we got our first show. And then that was fun to play the show, so we just played more, played house parties and shit.
Zac – Yeah, we stuck to playing house parties for a while just because it was more fun and that’s what it was about - the partying, the good times.
Elivs – When it started it was always fun to go in the studio and finish a song, but at the same time we were always working pretty hard and taking it seriously. But we didn’t have a motive or agenda to make the band popular, it was just to play.
Zac – We were partying a lot, and all the songs were about partying! It made sense. But we work hard and we’d still be doing this either way. We love going in the studio and recording and we have that luxury living in LA.
How long have you been on the road?
Brandon – On this tour, only about a week and a half. The first four days were just driving from LA to DC, but we have a lot coming up.
Elivis – We have about three weeks left right now on this tour. The whole thing is about 30 days. But then we’re going back to New York, then back to LA again. We have Lollapalooza at the end of July and then a few festivals in Europe and the UK at the end of August lined up.
What’s the tour life like? A bunch of sweaty dudes in a van?
Zac – Yeah dude…it’s just fart smell and cheeseburger wrappers for hundreds and hundreds of miles.
Elivs – It’s just a lot of driving, especially when you’re doing a van tour. It’s a lot of time to kill. You get car sick for sure and tired of every song on your playlist.
Surf/Garage Rock has gotten a lot of press in the last couple of years with popular bands like Wavves. But you guys actually surf…
Zac – We get Wavves a lot. I think because it’s the first thing people think of, but yeah, I surf.
Max – I can’t surf, I just fucking suck at it. I haven’t tried in a while. It’s a lot of work getting out there and I’m not getting up that early. But yeah, we’re definitely beach going individuals and I guess that comes through in our music
Elvis – But as far as our style of music, it’s not like we really rep that either. It’s not like we say we’re a surf band. We’re not really a surf band. Maybe there’s some of that influence, but I think there’s a lot of word association. We have a song called “No Waves,” so it’s like,“Oh…they’re a surf band.” But personally, we don’t really see ourselves as that. It’s just how people categorize us.
So you’re not protective of that sound?
Elvis – Not really. I mean Zac surfs a shit ton and that’s cool, but for us it’s kind of whatever.
Zac – I think we’re more of a rock band, you know? Or garage punk…whatever you want to call it. But to me surf music is like, the Deltones, Dick Dale, The Trashmen and that shit. I don’t even think Wavves is surf music. But you know, we sing about surfing a lot, so I guess we get thrown in there.
And if you heard “No Waves” playing in Hollister?
Zac – Man, as long as we got paid I guess. Maybe grab a pukha shell necklace or something on the way out...real hardcore, you know?
You guys have some awesome family connections. Elvis and Max, your old man played in the legendary Long Beach punk band TSOL. You guys are very DIY, but has he been a guiding hand along the way?
Max – Yeah, he helps out a lot and he’s super supportive and cool and everything. When me and Elvis were in a band together, when we were younger, he definitely helped out a lot more with that. So this one we were just taking the reins, doing it more so ourselves, but he obviously still helps with studio space and stuff. I think more so with this band, though. We worked not having his fall back support.
Zac – And Brandon’s dad is a fucking Navy Captain! Of a fucking submarine, dude. He just retired and he’s just kicking it in San Diego, you know?
That’s pretty badass. So, your other ride is a submarine?
Brandon - I’ve been on so many submarines, dude…so over it. It’s really not cool. They’re super small and shit. Cause every time there’s family in San Diego, my dad’s like, “Lets go on a sub tour!” And I’m all like, “Fuck, again?” I’m done with it.
And Zac, your dad (John Carper) is a legend shaper in Hawaii?
Zac – Yeah…he’s an asshole. I’m kidding…
He must hook you up.
Zac – [Laughs] No. You’d think he’d be hooking me up, but I had to shape my own boards. I remember when I moved to California, he gave me a job shaping boards and paid me $12 per board, but it took like three hours for me to finish a board so I was getting paid like $4 an hour and he was just like, “Sorry, dude. Better learn to shape faster!” But things have gotten expensive. Foam is expensive. Now it’s all CNC and robots. I mean, all Al Merrick boards are laser cut. My dad was doing the CNC thing and programming, but he’s over it and right now he’s back to doing the backyard thing.
How long has he been shaping?
Zac – Man, I don’t know… 50 years? He started when he was about 15, shaping Balsa wood boards in Hawaii. Old school.
When people think of music from Hawaii, they automatically think of Jack Johnson.
Zac – Yeah! That guy used to fuckin’ snake my waves. He went to the same high school as us, so everyone was always like, “Ohhh, Jack Johnson, Jack Johnson. He’s so cool…” But you know, I didn’t care about Jack Johnson.
So he was banging all the cheerleaders?
Zac – Haha, exactly. But yeah, that’s Hawaiian music and what people think of. Other than that, bands are pretty slim pickings. There’s Girlfriends - this band full of drug addicts. They’re from the South Shore. But there’s really no music scene on the islands. There’s sort of this pop punk scene in Hawaii and this band called The Substitutes that just sing songs about beer and pizza. Todd’s Sea is really big in Hawaii, too. It was cool though growing up. My sister would put on shows on the island and it would be at these small venues… Beck came over and played this super small club. A bunch of bands would come over to play these super small shows and we’d get to meet all these people and hang out with them, which was tight. But especially on the North Shore - a one road town… here’s not much.
Best waves in the world. What made you leave Hawaii for LA?
Zac – Just getting into too much trouble in Hawaii. I don’t get in as much trouble in LA, but Hawaii is a weird place for me. It was one of those situations where I was just bumming everyone out, I was getting too fucked up. I had a really good friend that said, “You gotta get out of Hawaii man.” And he actually bought a plane ticket for me and I got out of Hawaii and got sober for a little bit…and then got unsober when I met these guys. Now I just don’t get too fucked up. You grow up.
How are you liking SoCal?
Zac – It doesn’t really compare. I mean, Hawaii is just so much better, cleaner, nicer. But I still surf a lot in LA and I like it too. I always go to the kook spots cause I can just catch as many waves as possible and just jet around people. It’s way more mellow. Hawaii - especially North Shore - gets a little hairy in the winter time, which is most of the time, and it gets fucking huge.
Did you surf Pipe a lot?
Zac - Yeah! I got really hurt at Pipe once actually. I was at Alligator Rock, and the biggest wave was like 16 feet. And that’s measured from the back, Hawaiian size. I got really hurt on that one. I broke my board and got smashed up on the rocks pretty bad…it was way out there.
Was that one of the biggest days you’ve had?
Zac – Yeah…I actually quit surfing for a little bit…almost a year, cause it scared the shit out of me. I got back into surfing when I moved to LA.
With the band taking off, would you move up a few spots in the lineup?
Zac – Haha, no. Everyone just knows who I am in the North Shore because of how much I fucked up, and they know my dad. I don’t know if they’ve bought the record yet.
At the start of the track “Got No Money,” you have the “So Pitted” YouTube clip. Is that dude joking or just totally sun spun?
Zac – Oh shit, he’s for real! For sure…I mean that’s Huntington Beach man. That’s Southern California.
Elivs – Yeah, I mean that’s the extreme for sure. It’s like when you make fun of a surfer, that’s what you say.
Zac – But definitely, we know way too many people like that, that just talk like that. There’s this really good band in Orange County called The Tremors…good surfers and they all work for Volcom or something and that’s them exactly.
Being on tour, how often do you get in the water now?
Brandon – We try to get down to the beach as much as we can. We’re heading to New York soon and we’ll hit it up.
Zac – I really want to surf the East Coast. I’ve never surfed it and I’m jonesing. All my friends say it’s gonna be flat, but I don’t care. Even if the waves are bad, I’ll go out. I need to get in the water at least a couple of times a week or I get grumpy. But surfing is one of those things…it becomes therapeutic for me to just be out. It’s like, instead of going to AA meetings or a therapy session, I just get in the water and get it out of my system,
Lefts or Rights?
Zac – I like rights…
Max – I don’t even know what that means.
Brandon – Both!
Johnny Utah or Bodhi?
All – Ooohhh shit. That’s hard…
Brandon – Bodhi, dude.
Zac – Yeah, Bodhi’s pretty badass. He’s rad,and he’s the fucking criminal…gets the money. I bet you for Point Break 2 he washes up to shore in New Zealand.
If you weren’t playing music, what would you be doing?
Zac – Drugs…good drugs. If it’s a toss up between surfing and music though, I’d pick music…way more. Just being honest.
Max – That’s tough, because me and Elvis grew up playing music. We’ve had it engrained in our minds since such a young age that there’s no other thing. There’s not really a Plan B. It is what it is.
Brandon – Yeah, if it wasn’t playing it would be something else musically involved. Other than that, probably wait tables and be terribly depressed. Or do paint jobs with our buddy Milo. He started this Garden To The Stars company in LA, doing high end gardens. He does Liv Tyler’s house like three times a week.
Brandon – Yeah, totally.
You guys have a rep for partying. Best cure for a hangover?
Brandon – My own recipe Bloody Marry. It’s pretty much my breakfast. It’s not top secret, but the key is Sriracha sauce - that rooster hot sauce with the green cap on the bottle that is in every Chinese restaurant on the planet. But I pretty much just put that on everything…grilled cheese and Sriracha, French fries and Sriracha, Ice cream and Sriracha…
So, tell me about the guest you had after your party last week.
Brandon – It just happened on the way out here. We were in Memphis and the short side of it is that this crackhead hooker barged into our hotel room and pretty much molested all of us. She grabbed all of our dicks at one point and was like “Let me get some, come on! You like what you see?”
Max – Yeah, and we’re all like, “Just get the fuck out, we’re not interested!” Then she started taking her clothes off…
Zac – She just busted in the door! She immediately took off her pants and started booty shaking, making it clap…down on her hands and knees.
Brandon – And I was asleep at the time, so I woke up to her grabbing my junk, just freaking out. Then we found out the next morning she stole my wallet. So I got molested and robbed by this crackhead hooker.
She didn’t charge you for anything?
Brandon – Well, she did…took my driver’s license and $17, so yeah! I mean, I would gladly wire her money or something if I could just have my driver’s license back.
West Coast or East Coast rap?
Brandon - If it was Biggie or Pac, I would say Biggie.
Elvis – NWA is pretty much my favorite. But there’s so much, like Tribe Called Quest or Ice Cube. Dr. Dre – The Chronic 2001 can’t be beat.
Zac – Generally, I’m into everything. I’m big into Space Ghost Purp right now.
Are you into the A$AP movement?
Zac – Haha, Yeeeaaah. About that…
Max – OK, I was a huge fan, I was super into the mixtape and a huge Clams Casino fan. So we played a VICE party with them at SXSW and we were on at 3am. He was on at 2am. Earlier in the night, this band called Trashtalk played and they’re a hardcore punk band from LA that’s notorious for getting crowds super riled up. The leader from Trashtalk was just going ape shit, telling everyone to rage, so the vibe was super revved. The venue was also giving away free 24oz. beers the whole night, so everyone was throwing them cause they didn’t buy them and didn’t give a shit. But then A$AP comes on and gets all butt hurt about the beer being thrown. He ended up getting hit with one and, you know, he had to go fight someone in the audience. So after that, it was a lot of bullshit. It’s been kind of hard for me to listen to him again. That’s not what music is about. That’s not what live shows are about.