It’s no big secret that punk rock has changed quite a bit over the years. The once-edgy, anti-authoritative sounds of The Clash and Ramones now ring loud across karaoke bars in America. The breakneck speed and snarl of Reagan-era punk bands like Bad Brains and Minor Threat gave way to the more melodic, poppy sounds of 90s and 2000s bands like Green Day and The Offspring. And for the last several years, there seems to be a feeling of a general plateau in quality. As a former angst-ridden/annoying teen and lover of the genre, it pains me to see “traditional” punk rock fall out of the public conscious. However, underneath the EDM and trap rap sound waves, there remains a lawless spirit and energy ready to creep back into the music landscape. And lucky for us, there are still plenty of bands ready to harness that for our listening pleasure. Despite what the haters may say, the genre certainly is far from dead – especially when there are bands like FIDLAR floating around out there set to put it back on the right track.
FIDLAR (an acronym of the band’s motto – “fuck it dog, life’s a risk”) has deep roots in the game. Lead guitarist Elvis and his brother/drummer Max are sons of Greg Kuehn, famed keyboard player in legendary LA-punk band, T.S.O.L. The two grew up playing in prepubescent punk bands, sometimes even opening for their dad on West coast tours. The duo eventually linked up with Zac Carper, a troubled but talented singer/guitarist and son of a distinguished surf board designer. The trio quickly added bass player Brandon Schwartzel to complete the lineup, and started making records in a dingy SoCal duplex they all shared. The resulting collection of songs comprised their debut album – a 39-minute ode to skating, surfing and general debauchery. The group’s sophomore release, Too, saw more of the blink-182 lyrics-meet-Black Flag music aesthetic we heard on Fildar, with even more references to partying and personal issues.
Punk rock has always been, at its core, about non-conformity. What I find so fascinating about this group is their prideful grittiness in the face of a world where most young people are laser-focused on crafting pristine self-images on social media sites. Most songs in the FIDLAR discography feature Carper openly detailing his disdain for drug rehab and/or being sober. The group almost prides itself on having no money and drinking cheap beer (check out the song – “Cheap Beer” for reference). Obviously I’m not saying it’s cool to be broke and hooked on drugs, but there is an earnest beauty in therapeutically owning up to that and airing it out for the world to hear. These guys can be heavy, but still strangely fun. Oh, and unlike some of their punk predecessors, they have legit musical chops. Carper basically grew up in the recording studio and can play the shit out of the ukulele, and lead ax-man Elvis dished out one of the more impressive live guitar performances I’ve seen in a while during their Coachella set a couple months ago.
So, next time you’re feeling down and want to feel better about your situation or just want to break something – throw on a FIDLAR playlist. The guys announced their North American tour dates today, and you best believe I’ll be
in the back away from the crowd front and center for the Chicago show at the Vic. See everyone there, bring your skateboards and beer bongs!
Suggested Tracks: “No Waves” “West Coast” “40oz. On Repeat”
Oddities: The band recruited Nick Offerman (aka Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec) to direct one of their videos. Offerman picked their song “Cocaine”, which turned into a very NSFW video also featuring the actor in a starring role.
Photo Credits – Upsetmagazine.com, Blair Magazine