Where: Fox Theatre
Opener: Sleeper Agent
The Scene: Hours before the sold-out show, a line of eager fun. fans already stretched halfway around the block of The Fox Theatre. After mingling with a few of these die-hards (many of which had seen them perform at The Ogden Theatre the previous night) Swaager’s hopes for the show were high to say the least.
The Opener: Kentucky-based Sleeper Agent opened the set around 9:00pm. Tracing their roots to the likes of Nirvana and the Ramones, Sleeper Agent got the crowd pumped up with their unique fast-paced pop-rock. After the set, Swaager sat down at a diner across the street with female lead singer Alex Kandel to get the scoop on how Sleeper Agent got to where they are today (check out Swaager's interview with them below).
Funny Fan Story: A slight quarrel broke out in the audience, to which Ruess quickly stepped in: “We don’t fight at shows! Not a fun. show. You just look at the guy next to you and eventually you hug them!”
The Frontman: Led by Nate Ruess (formerly of The Format), fun. is versatile; the “indie-pop” label is simply too small an umbrella to cover their sound. Just listen to “Be Calm” (soundcloud link) and you’ll understand. Ruess’ voice is powerful and pitch-perfect. With Andrew Dost and Jack Antonoff backing him up, fun. is a group of musical chameleons, capable of playing almost any style with grace. Dressed head-to-toe in denim, Ruess went on to describe the band’s experience in CO, which included some indoor skydiving adventures. He also astutely noted the they’ve "noticed there is a lot of weed in Colorado."
Overall: It is quite clear that fun. genuinely enjoys what they do, and it comes out in their live shows. The energy and sense of community was palpable, and fans left The Fox Theater sweaty and exhausted from the wonderful performance.
SWAAGER: How did you guys meet fun. and get hooked up with this tour? Alex: The first time we ever met them was when we played a massive radio show in Florida with tons of different bands. They were on the same stage as us, and I met and talked to them briefly because I have a photographer friend who's also done work for them. Then through booking agents and things, we just ended up going on tour with them.
How has the tour been? It's been great. Really, really great. We've been gaining so many new fans from it, and it's been a really good experience for us. Our first album came out in September, so we're still a new band and not that many people have heard of us yet.
How long has Sleeper Agent been together as a band? I joined the band in 2010, and we released the record in 2011. This is our second year as an official touring band.
So, the rest of the guys were together as a band before you joined? Yes. Tony and Justin, the guitar player and the drummer, started the band back in 2008 and Justin was singing. It has always been around, but it went through some evolution and it's a totally different band now that I've joined.
Different in what way? They were playing, like, drunken, sloppy cock-rock music. I added one less cock.
Is it weird to tour with a bunch of guys all the time? No, they're family. We lived together for a while, so it's nothing. I know everything about them. It's not a gender thing at all, I'm just one of them and they're one of me. I make them more girly, and they make me more manly.
You guys are going to be playing Coachella in about a week. Are you excited? I'm really excited. It's going to be so much fun. We've got some really cool things lined up, and I'm just excited for the whole Coachella experience. I'm partnering with this new company called MATE Vintage. It's just these two girls who started it, and they go and collect these really cool, unique vintage shirts. They're gonna try to dress me for at least one of the shows.
Are there any bands you're looking forward to seeing? I know a couple of the guys are really excited to see Refused and At the Drive-In. I'm really excited to see James, because I grew up withLaid as my favorite record ever since I was, like, 3. I'm really excited to see them live. (Alex begins to sing a snippet from "Laid")
How do you feel about the fact that there are two weekends of Coachella this year? I think it's a really cool idea. Instead of trying to expand on their grounds, it's better to do it that way. The only thing that sucks for us is having to find something to do in-between those two weekends. We're driving all the way to Texas and playing some shows with Ben Kweller, and then driving all the way back to Coachella.
So you just recorded a music video, right? Yeah, we just recorded one in Bowling Green for the song "Get Burned." We did it with our friend Matt from Cage the Elephant. We're from the same town and grew up with the guys. Our first show on tour ever was with them, and it was in Boulder. They have a nice fan base here.
Are there any other bands from back home that you're friends with? Yeah, there's a nice tight-knit little Bowling Green scene. There'sMorning Teleportation, which is a great band. Then through touring the past year, we've become friends with Manchester Orchestra, andMargot & the Nuclear So and So's. A lot of great bands that we've loved, we've gotten to meet and make friends with. We got to go on The Weezer Cruise with Wavves, which is one of my favorite bands ever.
So, we noticed you guys talking about food during the show... Yeah, we're all into good food. The last time we were here, the guys found this rib house and went without me, so they took me there this time. The Rib House, it's called. It's really good Kansas City-style barbecue. It's funny, because we ate Kansas City-style barbecue today in Boulder and we're going to Kansas City tonight and we're planning on eating at this taco place in Kansas City. That makes no sense whatsoever.
Wow, you already have a planned taco place? Yeah! We're playing at the same venue we played last time, and there's a little taco shop that sells, like, street tacos. It's right across from where we're playing and we went there last time. We're like, "we have to go there again." It's so good.
What's the best food in Bowling Green? Actually, an article just came out in AP that I did where I wrote about all the places to go in Bowling Green, but they didn't let me list all the food places. I had to pick one. There's one called Greener Groundz, and it's awesome. It's, like, a locally-owned pizza/Irish pub place. They have the best pesto pizza. Then there's Thai Thai, which is an amazing Thai restaurant. It's not too expensive, and you can get a ton of food that will last you forever. Bowling Green has more chain restaurants than like, anywhere, though. It's ridiculous. I can tell you one of the best things that we look forward to on the road is when we go to the West coast and there's In-n-Out Burger. That is my one weakness.
What's your favorite thing at In-n-Out? Animal Style. Apparently they do another thing, Protein Style, without the bun. I'm trying to eat healthier on tour, so I'm thinking about doing that. Animal-Protein-Style.
Back to band-related stuff, are you all recording any new music right now? Demoing a lot of stuff, writing a lot of stuff. We have probably 28-30 songs, just bare-bones ideas ready to go. There are probably about five of them that we've taken to full-band.
Do each of you contribute to the writing process? Tony writes pretty much all of it, but we've been collaborating a bit more this time. He just spits out songs. In the mornings he'll just be sitting there watching E! News or some trash TV, with his guitar, like a crazy person, just mumbling. Then an hour later he'll be like, "hey, listen to this song I wrote!" I'm like, "how did you do that?!" That's how our records are written.
Does he write the lyrics too? We collaborate a little bit on that. I think on the first record I was a lot more shy about it, because we recorded it when I was 17 years old.
How old are you now? I'm 19.
How does it feel touring as a 19-year-old? Do you feel like people make a big deal about your age? Sometimes. Most of the time, no. Especially with other bands and other crew members, no one treats me any differently because I'm here to do my job. I'm road-worn enough to be professional. I'm not, like, a 19-year-old girl on spring break. I feel like I've earned the respect of people that way, but some of them still treat me like I'm just here to get wasted or treat me like a criminal before I even do anything. There are some places that won't even let me in the club until we play and I have to fight them about it. My tour manager and I will be trying to negotiate with them so I can at least have a dressing room.
What genre would you classify Sleeper Agent as? My parents are a lot younger and they grew up when Nirvana was huge, so I grew up with all grunge music and stuff. We love really old pop-rock, like The Ronettes. I would say we, as a band, are pop-rock in that sense, not like the Simple Plan connotation that pop-punk has. We just write really fast pop songs, like the Ramones-ish kind of pop-punk.
We know you love touring with fun. and Ben Kweller, but if you had to pick one dream band to tour with, who would it be? I think it'd be really fun to do a super rowdy tour with Cloud Nothings and Wavves and us. Maybe Fucked Up too, because Fucked Up is awesome. We listen to their record a lot. I've also been listening to a lot of EMA, too, Past Life Martyred Saints. It's a really great record. Wait until you're in a syrupy state of mind and just lay in bed and put it on your headphones. It'll make you want to conquer the world.
Last question. Do you have any messages you'd like to send to your up-and-coming fans? Why should people come out to see and support your band? We're just really honest people. I hang out after the show at the merch table and try to meet everyone, because for me, it still doesn't make sense that people pay to see me. I always love just hanging out, and I've met some of my best friends on the road through doing that. I think we're really personal; there's no charade like we're rock stars.