Friday, December 20, 2013
By Ray Routhier email@example.com
Sometimes, a very simple song can strike a very strong reaction.
The pop band fun. plays the State Theatre on Wednesday.
Lyndsey Byrnes photo
The band's latest album, “Some Nights.”
IF YOU GO:
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: Sold out
INFO: (800) 745-3000; statetheatreportland.com
WHAT ELSE: Miniature Tigers open
Such is the case with the smash hit that put the pop band fun. on the musical map this year, "We Are Young."
"Tonight, we are young/ So let's set the world on fire/ We can burn brighter/ Than the sun."
"When we wrote that, we thought it might be a single, but not a hit song by any means," said Andrew Dost, keyboard player for the New York City-based band. "We try to develop an album like it's a work of art. We sort of viewed that song as our mission statement, using all the elements we wanted on the album."
"We Are Young" (featuring guest vocalist Janelle Monae) has a rich sound, a catchy refrain and a youthful message, and it's easy to sing along to. All those things combined made it a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
Partly on the strength of that song, the members of fun. are headlining shows around the country, performing on national TV and lending their clout to causes.
When fun. plays Portland's State Theatre to a full house on Wednesday, it will be a benefit for Mainers United for Marriage, which supports same-sex marriage. Dost said the band has lent its name to the legalization of same-sex marriage in other states as well.
No one in the band is in a same-sex relationship; they just all feel strongly that people should be allowed to marry who they want, Dost said.
"I love my wife, and I just can't imagine anyone telling me I couldn't marry her," he said. "I just don't think it's fair that some couples don't have the same rights as we do."
Although the band's name is fun., Dost says the members take their ability to speak out on causes seriously. He understands that some people involved in politics might want musicians to stay out of politics or social causes, but he and his bandmates want to use their platform to impact causes.
"A lot of bands in our position aren't very vocal, and I know some people probably don't think it's ideal for us to be speaking out," said Dost. "But we really want to use our music to make an impact on things we believe in."
Fun. is certainly having an impact on the music scene. "We Are Young" is the only song to receive 300,000-plus digital downloads each week for six weeks straight. The follow-up single, "Some Nights," reached No. 3, as did the album of the same name.
The band is scheduled to be the musical guest on the Nov. 3 episode of "Saturday Night Live" on NBC. The host that night will be comedian Louis C.K., who is doing a show at Portland's Merrill Auditorium on Nov. 7.
Dost, 29, grew up in northern Michigan, and says his parents "forced" him into piano lessons. When he was 10 or 11, he discovered The Beatles, and became enthralled. He says he's always amazed that music made more than 40 years ago can still inspire people his age or younger.
"I have a friend whose 15-year-old son just discovered The Beatles," said Dost. "I think in the age of Twitter, for young people to become obsessed with something like that is pretty interesting."
Dost went to college to study advertising, and though he didn't end up working in the field, he thinks advertising classes that taught him how get out a message helps him as a songwriter and musician.
After moving to New York, he joined a band called Anathallo. His band played on the same bill as The Format, which featured vocalist Nate Ruess.
"Nate and I hit it off, and we found we had a lot in common -- Beatles songs, Harry Nilsson songs, things like that," said Dost.
Guitarist and drummer Jack Antonoff then joined Dost and Ruess, and fun. was formed.
Dost says he and his bandmates grew up at a time when efforts like "Rock the Vote" were showing that young people, pop culture and civic-mindedness could merge. He remembers seeing Sinead O'Connor tearing up a picture of Pope John Paul II on "Saturday Night Live" to prove her conviction to her beliefs.
"But at some point, musicians stopped doing that, and it became uncool to care," said Dost. "But we think it is cool to care."
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: