story /LOGAN BRENDT photography / FREY + MARTIN
“If only I gambled,” says Nate Ruess, frontman for Fun., referring to the lucky year the band has been having. After all, everything Fun. has done so far has been magic. Having become the first rock band in a decade to quickly ascend to number one after their debut on the Billboard charts, they have also reached TV audiences from LETTERMAN to the MTV MOVIE AWARDS and live audiences all over the world while touring. However, gambling? “It’s a little risky; it’s one of the only vices that I don’t adhere to,” Ruess concludes.
For Ruess and the other band members, Andrew Dost and Jack Antonoff, it became a dream come true for them when they found out that their first single “We Are Young” off their sophomore album Some Nights had achieved number one status. “It was something that we thought would probably never happen,” Ruess says. However, on the day that they all found out, Ruess wasn’t able to celebrate the achievement as much as he would have liked to. “I was really, really sick. Getting sick is the worst part about tour. I was too busy thinking ‘Get me to [a drugstore]’”, he laughs. But for Fun., there has been so much more to celebrate. “This whole year has been a celebration,” he says.
Fun. has been on an impressive journey, with a never-ending press junket and show dates that are constantly accumulating. Sometimes overwhelming, they try to take it day by day. “I would have a nervous breakdown if I knew anything beyond what was happening that day,” Ruess lightheartedly comments. Upbeat and charismatic, Ruess seems to be the right frontman for a band that is confidently named Fun. Therefore, you would never guess that he was someone that had once given up on ever feeling comfortable about performing.
Thinking back to the first half of the year when Fun. started making more public appearances, for example, opening the MTV MOVIE AWARDS, Ruess remembers feeling anxious for months prior to the performance, only for the feeling to have subsided ten minutes before they went on. “The nerves went away and were taken over by excitement. That’s how it’s been with all of these new experiences.” Referring to performing on JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE! the next day, he remembers not being nervous at all, for a change. “That’s pretty amazing for me because I used to be nervous about just playing [small venues]. It’s been incredible to see how after ten years, I was able to enjoy myself.”
Ruess remains humble about his success and still finds family most important. As his thoughts often go back to his family, sometimes incorporating them into his song lyrics, his family is also on his mind while on tour. Just after he receives a text mid-interview from his mom, he mentions how music had always been a part of his life and how he always used to listen to his dad’s albums growing up. In fact, when Ruess was in the fifth grade and Bruce Springsteen was coming through town, he remembers, “I demanded that [my dad and I] wake up one early Saturday and go to the mall and stand in line for three hours to get tickets to go see Springsteen. I didn’t even know why. I just thought it would be cool, so we got tickets and I fell asleep two songs in.” Looking back at it, he’s disappointed that he missed that moment in time. However, while attending his second concert which was for Weezer, he decided that one day he was going to start a band of his own. It was definitely the right move.
Not having ever allowed to get caught up in the worry of being a “one hit wonder”, Ruess has been confident in everything that Fun. has to offer. “There’s a lot to be proud of on this album and that’s why I hold it so dear to me,” he says. Referring to their first number one single, he continues, “I’m really competitive. [Writing a number one hit] is not something I would intend to do as a songwriter for the band, but when it did go number one, I thought, ‘Now I want it to be number one forever and when that’s not number one, I want another number one.’ It’s funny how my brain gets into that super hyper competitive mode of more, more, more.”
Having had achieved yet another goal, Fun.’s second single and title track has already reached number one on the Alternative charts in the US. It has also been the second single to reach platinum status. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised especially with a song like ‘Some Nights’ and the fact that it can do so well,” Ruess delights.
So what else could a band who seems to have everything want? In a fantasy world, where time isn’t something that heartbreakingly slips away, Ruess mentions how he would love to perform on stage with the Beatles. “Musically, for us, it all starts with the Beatles,” he says. “That is our most common ground as a band. We could probably sit around and geek out about the Beatles for hours on end. The three of us would say that we owe everything to them.” He jokes, “Maybe with holograms, one day it’ll happen.”
But what about collaborating with Paul McCartney? Ruess replies, “That’s right! People constantly ask who we’d want to collaborate with and I never think to say Paul McCartney, who is one of my biggest inspirations.” Maybe if he sets his sights on the collaboration, it will come true. After all, with the year Fun. has had, it’s a definite possibility. “Yeah, I’m going to put my people in touch with his people,” he quietly laughs.