The origins of Fun.

24. November 2014 14:35 by Julie Merar in Music   //  Tags:   //   Comments ()


Fun., the band that has taken the world by storm with hits such as "We Are Young" and "Some Nights," would never have come to be without the mutual musical aspirations of bandmates Nate Ruess, Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost. All three members paved their respective roads in the music industry with different bands, and even since collaborating on Fun., they have also dedicated themselves to successful side projects. Ruess's signature voice has landed him appearances on songs by artists such as Eminem and Pink, while Antonoff has gained acclaim for his group Bleachers. Interestingly enough, though the trio have a mutual affinity for vintage pop music and hip hop, each member comes from a distinctly different band.

According to Allmusic, Ruess recruited Antonoff and Dost after his previous band, The Format, broke up in 2008. The threesome began collaborating with producer Steve McDonald who also provided bass for the group. The fledgling band then had Robert Joseph Manning, Jr., former keyboardist of the band Jellyfish, arrange several tracks. All of this collaboration resulted in Fun.'s inaugural album, Aim and Ignite, which was released in 2009. However, it was the band's sophomore album, Some Nights, that truly brought Fun. fame and fortune. The single on the album, "We Are Young," topped the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 with the help of vocals provided by Janelle Monae. While Some Nights still had the tremendous, nostalgic pop sound found on the band's first album, it also drew inspiration from Kanye West and hip hop in general.

Now having garnered critical acclaim and commercial appeal, the trio seemingly has an open door to continue creating the style of music that brought them all together. Yet, it's worth taking a look at the musical endeavors of these artists prior to Fun. to understand how the group ultimately came together. 

Nate Ruess - The Format 
In the early 2000s, Ruess combined his vocals with the numerous instrumental talents of Sam Means to create The Format. The indie pop duo from Arizona began creating self-proclaimed "desert pop" and quickly found success with their first EP. The single which lead the album, accurately titled "The First Song," became a local hit and The Format inked a record deal with Elektra. However, Atlantic purchased the label, which would prove somewhat of a setback for Ruess and Means. The Format's debut full-length album, Interventions and Lullabies, was slated to release in the fall of 2003, but disappeared as Atlantic absorbed Elektra. 

In the end this seemed of little consequence as the duo began gaining a national reputation and toured alongside Yellowcard and Something Corporate. After releasing another EP, The Format left Atlantic in the mid-2000s due to creative differences. Despite numerous offers from other labels, The Format released its next album, Dog Problems, independently in 2006. This was followed by touring with bands such as Anathallo, which is likely where Ruess and Dost first formed the connection that would later make them bandmates in Fun.

Jack Antonoff - Steel Train 
Steel Train, named after a Bob Marley song, formed in New Jersey in 2002. Similar to Fun., Steel Train came together due to the dissolution of two bands. Antonoff joined after his high school band, Outline, dissolved so that several members could attend college. Steel Train released its debut EP, For You My Dear, in 2003 with Antonoff taking on the role of lead singer. This was quickly followed by the EP 1969, and the band's debut full-length album would arrive two years later. Steel Train toured with The Format, which is where Ruess and Antonoff connected. Antonoff stayed with Steel Train until the band's hiatus in early 2013, working with Fun. simultaneously. His newest project, Bleachers, which released a freshman album titled Strange Desires in summer 2014, has found much success fueled by the single "I Wanna Get Better." 

Andrew Dost - Anathallo 
The seven-piece band Anathallo formed in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, in 2000. Anathallo underwent numerous lineup changes throughout its nine-year existence, before ultimately dissolving in 2009. Conceived by the musician Matt Joynt, the band released a string of EPs and albums that garnered them local and regional popularity. However, it was Floating World, released in 2006, that earned Anathallo a spot performing at the 2007 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Dost, having joined the band in 2003, left a few years later, while Anathallo recorded the follow-up to Floating World titled Canopy Glow. Dost says that when the band moved to Chicago he opted to remain in Michigan, ultimately leading to his decision to quit. Canopy Glow was released by the California label Anticon in 2008.  Dost pursued solo projects before joining what would become Fun. that same year. During the recording of Aim and Ignite, he remained in Michigan.

Darius Rucker then and now

22. November 2014 12:29 by Julie Merar in Music   //  Tags:   //   Comments ()


Darius Rucker has come a long way since co-founding the 1990s sensation that was Hootie & the Blowfish. The musician, now having been in the national spotlight for over two decades, has proven himself an extremely versatile musician that can cross over from rock to country. The father of three now tries to balance a lifestyle on the road with time to be a dedicated father, which is likely no easy feat considering his superstar status. Though Hootie & the Blowfish went on hiatus in 2008, Rucker has continued to shine as a solo artist, and his cover of the hit "Wagon Wheel" has made him a monumental presence in the realm of country music. Let's take a look at Darius Rucker then and now. 

Then: Hootie & The Blowfish 
It's hard to say what will ultimately come of Hootie & the Blowfish in the long term. Rucker, along with Mark Bryan, Dean Felber, and Jim Sonefeld, formed Hootie & the Blowfish in 1986 while attending the University of South Carolina. Bryan approached Rucker after hearing him singing in the dorm room showers and the two soon began playing music together. After forming Hootie & the Blowfish, the quartet self-released two cassette EPs in 1991 and 1992, and then independently circulated another EP in 1993. 

In 1994, the band released its first studio album, Cracked Rear View, under Atlantic Records. The album has ultimately been the group's most successful, going platinum 16 times in the U.S., while also gaining huge international acclaim in Canada and New Zealand. During this era of grunge rock, Hootie & the Blowfish provided a bluesy juxtaposition that was both commercially and critically embraced. Though the album itself was not considered innovative, the consistently catchy hooks and earworm singles pushed the album to the top of the U.S. Billboard 200. Singles on the album included "Hold My Hand," "Time" and "Only Wanna Be with You." 

According to Rolling Stone, "Only Wanna Be with You" used five lines verbatim from Bob Dylan's classic song "Idiot Wind." Rumor has it Hootie & the Blowfish settled with the folk icon quietly, but this incident perhaps hinted at Rucker's future musical connection to Dylan. The song "Wagon Wheel," which would ultimately help Rucker build up a head of steam in country music, was a Dylan song readapted by the band Old Crow Medicine Show

As Hootie & the Blowfish became loved within the U.S., Rucker's signature voice also became a hot commodity. Though the band's name was intended to refer to the nicknames of two college friends, news outlets started designated Rucker as Hootie, misinterpreting the meaning. In 1996, the band released its second album, Fairweather Johnson, and followed it with Musical Chairs in 1998. Neither of these albums saw the same overwhelming success as Cracked Rear View. 

After Musical Chairs, the band decided to go on a temporary hiatus. They would return to the studio in 2003 and release a self-titled album. This five-year gap potentially hints at Rucker's current run as a solo artist. 

In late 2011, Rucker explained to CBS News, "I don't think we'll ever break up totally. We're Hootie & the Blowfish ... We'll make another record and do another tour someday. I don't know when, but it will happen. There's one more in us." 

Now: 'Wagon Wheel' and beyond 
After releasing a total of five studio albums with Hootie & the Blowfish, Rucker chose to pursue a solo career in the mid-to-late 2000s. He quickly found success with Learn to Live, an album that included three singles that would reach No. 1 on the Billboard country music charts. It was the first album that marketed Rucker as a country musician and repositioned the famed vocalist to a new audience. This would be followed in 2010 by Charleston, SC 1966, which refers to Rucker's year of birth and the city in which he was raised. Rucker again saw success and had established himself in the big leagues of country music.

Rucker released a cover of "Wagon Wheel" in 2012, a song for which he has become known in the country music community. The song was originally written by Bob Dylan to accompany the 1973 film "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid." Old Crow Medicine Show rewrote the song, which was unfinished and untitled, and provided Dylan with half the royalties. Rucker's version of the song, featuring Lady Antebellum, reached No. 1 on the Country Airplay charts in the spring of 2013. 

The artist's latest album, Home for the Holidays, is Christmas-themed and released on Oct. 27, 2014. When fans will see another album from Hootie & the Blowfish is unclear. However, when he's not busy being a stand-up father, avid sports fan or palling around with friends Brad Paisley and Tiger Woods, we'll surely see a lot more from Darius Rucker.

What goes into a Skrillex show?

19. November 2014 13:23 by Julie Merar in Music   //  Tags:   //   Comments ()


At first glance, Sonny More, better known by his stage name Skrillex, may appear to be more of a hard rocker than an EDM deejaying sensation. This artist of many talents has created an international reputation based on his musical acumen, indefatigable work ethic and incomparable live shows. Moore has surpassed simply performing as an electronic musician and become an orchestrator of all aspects of unbelievable shows that utilize precise lighting, seemingly magical special effects, pyrotechnics and surreal video. The result? Skrillex has become one of the most respected and adored deejays in the world, and people flock to his performances like moths to a light bulb.  

Of course, performing these sensory and experiential shows takes a significant amount of work. A new documentary from Red Bull dives directly into this process. The film, "Let's Make A Spaceship," follows Skrillex backstage and delves into the making of one of his iconic performances on the Mothership Tour. During the show, Skrillex actually deejays in a spaceship on stage. The show premiered at Austin City Limits and was followed by a 90-minute set from the artist. 

"Skrillex is a band when it comes to performing live these days," Moore told MTV. "Whatever room or arena we are in everyone is fully in the moment. My lighting and video guys are all working in real time while I'm onstage and the best compliment I get after a set is when someone asks about how I pre-program my set or use midi to get the audio/visual experience so tight. I love what we create because at any given moment everything could change. The people I have working with me are all so musical, we just create a vibe and feed off​ it along with everyone else in the club. It feels like a band jamming together most nights, but instead of the typical instruments we have lights, decks, LED, cryogenics and fire."

A rocker at heart 
Moore grew up on rock and roll, playing guitar and experimenting with music. This influence reveals itself in both his music and his performances, which many have nostalgically compared to the heavy metal concerts and light-heavy rock shows of the past. Moore dropped out of high school to pursue music, and contacted Matt Good about playing guitar for the band From First to Last. He was offered a spot in the band, and after several record producers heard him singing, he was assigned to sing lead when he was only 15 years old. The band released its debut album, Dear Diary, My Teen Angst Has a Bodycount​, in 2004. The record saw high sales and was quickly followed by touring with bands such as Story of the Year and Bad Religion. 

In 2006, From First to Last reentered the studio to produce their sophomore album, Heroine. The band had gained mainstream notoriety in the alternative music genre, and went on the road with major acts such as Fall Out Boy and The All-American Rejects. Moore had vocal problems that ultimately resulted in the need for minor surgery. When he recovered, he was focused on new material and opted to leave the band in pursuit of becoming a solo performer.

Having adopted the name Skrillex, Moore brought his instrumental abilities and rock showmanship to the world of EDM. As the genre became more popular, Skrillex became a loved anomaly. His dubstep beats and rock influence made his work inherently different from his contemporaries. Today, his work ethic and passion have paid off, making him one of the most renowned in the business, and likely the only one who can boast owning a spaceship.

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